For Henry Mills his world had ended the moment he was finally able to open his eyes again. It was only a few moments of joy and tearful reunion hugs with his mother and grandparents before he realized the other person that was supposed to be there—that promised he'd always be there...wasn't.
He couldn't even cry. He was in a blind haze when they went to his father's funeral and all he knew was his Dad was dead; the man he had never met...the one that left his mother. He felt detatched, but he also had the ache of grief from losing a parent, even if you didn't know them.
His Mom took him back to the grave when he woke up and he just gazed hollowly at the headstone, resting his hand against it. His eyes were dry and he hated himself for it. He hated that he couldn't cry for his father. His mother told him he didn't have to, but he knew he should. His Dad was dead and his eyes weren't supposed to be dry.
When his Mom took him home his grandparents embraced him and he let them. They told him they were sorry and that they loved him. His grandmother had tears in her eyes when she said "I know how sad you must be..." The worst thing to Henry was that he wasn't sad. He felt nothing. There was a dark void in his heart where the grief should be.
"I know you're sad.." is all everyone said to him as redundantly as a broken record, and yet, Henry wasn't. Henry wasn't anything...
He crawled out in the dead of the night through the fire escape he always used to climb out of before and walked through the dark, vacant streets. It was raining and his jacket was already soaked before he reached his destination. He pushed through the door to his grandfather's shop and heard distant footsteps. With the bell having broken recently, nothing alerted his grandfather that he was there.
Pure desperation and determination was what gave Henry the impulse to snatch the book he saw still opened up on the desk. He stuffed the stolen item into his jacket and was gone before his grandfather came back out to the main room.
Henry raced though the streets to Storybrooke cemetery and fell to his knees in front of the headstone his Mom spent days shedding tears over. He gripped the wet granite as he slammed the soggy book onto the soaked grass and flipped it open. The heavy rain made some of the ink run together so Henry launched himself over the book to try and protect the pages.
He didn't even know what the spell was and the rational part of his brain chastised him and pleaded with him not to do it, an ominous feeling twisting in his gut at the unknown...but for once Henry Mills didn't care. He threw caution to the wind and only listened to his foolish, desperate heart.
Henry started chanting the incantation on the pages and the storm seemed to pause and silence. He focused all of heart into the spell and his blue-green eyes widened as the headstone lit up with an unearthly glow. Henry froze rigid but he kept chanting, vaguely hearing a shout of desperation through the wind. The headstone continued to glow and suddenly, it felt like there was a fist tightening around his heart. It made it hard to get the rest of the words out and his throat suddenly closed as he felt himself grow weak.
"Henry! Henry, stop it!"
He gasped out another verse and that's when the pair of arms grabbed him from behind and yanked him back. Something inside the boy snapped as he suddenly went wild in the man's arms, grief giving him a violent shock of adrenaline. "LET GO OF ME!" he screamed, fighting and kicking in the man's grip. He screamed in rage and reached out desperately to the open book. Rumplestiltskin kicked it away with his boot and that's when Henry's struggles became savage.
"NO! LET ME GO! I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! I HAVE TO SAVE HIM!"
"HENRY!" The man finally shouted to be heard above the child's screams. He gripped both his grandson's wrists and held them together in one hand. "You can't!" He gave the boy one shake and the smouldering eyes glared up at him. "You can't... He's gone, Henry..." Rumplestiltskin's voice broke. "He's gone, my boy..."
It was all his mother had repeated to soothe her denial and all Henry told himself...and yet it was only now that he truly seemed to hear it. Wide, unblinking eyes stared up at the man in bewilderment. Then he slowly turned his head towards his father's grave. Rumplestiltskin's grip on the child's hands loosened, but he didn't let go.
"...Dad?" Henry whispered to the headstone, begging for a response. His voice sounded so young, tiny, and lost. "Dad?" he whispered in a hushed tone. "He's not answering me." He gazed up at his grandfather's anguished face. "Why isn't he answering me?" He shook his head in a pained denial. "He always answers me. He's—he's there to answer me!"
His grandfather said nothing and only pressed the boy to his chest and cradled the back of his head. It's only then did Henry finally lose it in a surge of repressed grief, breaking down all at once, his weak stoic façade shattered. "DAD!"
Rumplestiltskin picked up the boy as he wailed in anguish, the cries of a truly grieving child mourning over his father's death. Somehow the unsentimental, cold man found it so easy to hold and comfort the child as they both connected over grief for the very first time. He sat back in the wet grass with the boy cradled in his arms...and just let Henry cry, because he knew he needed it. He ran a weathered hand softly down the boy's back and his mumbles of reassurance fell apart as he just wound up crying with him. The teen sobbed loud, messy sobs, and whimpers for his father to come back kept tearing from his throat. Every cry tore a deeper lesion into the man's heart.
In a few intervals Henry wound up sobbing so hard he stopped breathing and Rumplestiltskin had to slap his back lightly until he did again. He carded trembling fingers through the boy's hair and even as Henry's hysterics finally calmed down, neither said a word. Where the impulse to hold the boy came from, Rumplestiltskin didn't know. Perhaps in this moment Henry reminded him of Bae when he was a young boy and grieved for his mother, or perhaps the man knew with the passing of his child it was time to step up and be there for Henry. His young, brave grandson...that had endured so much pain in such a young life.
The rain had stopped as the final tears slipped down their stained faces. Rumplestiltskin waited for Henry to push him away but the boy only deflated against his chest and laid there with his head rested against him.
They both gazed up at the sky as the clouds dissipated and unveiled a starry night. "...We used to look at the stars," Rumplestiltskin murmured. Henry sniffled and looked at him. "What?"
"We used to look at the stars on clear nights, me and your father," the man murmured mournfully. "And make up constellations..." He reached down and cupped the boy's chin. "Henry," he whispered; his tone was quiet and careful but Henry still knew there was anger beneath the surface. "What were you thinking?"
"I..." His throat closed up as he gazed over at the drenched book. "I..I just wanted him back," he whispered. "I thought if he brought you back...I could find a way to bring him back."
"Henry..." Rumplestiltskin's voice was soft and calm because he knew never to scold or punish a child acting out of grief. "That spell would have killed you if I hadn't gotten here in time." He softened as he watched the child's face screw up, but he didn't stop gently scolding him. "What would your mother have done Lad, if she lost you? What would your entire family say?"
Still vulnerable and fragile from what had just happened, Henry cried quietly under his grandfather's disappointed frown. "I just want my family back together again. It's not supposed to be broken like this. We're all supposed to be together." He shut his eyes as he thought of the green-skinned witch. She had haunted his dreams since he had his memories back.
Rumplestltskin felt what remained of his heart splinter into pieces. All the child wanted was his ideal family picture—everyone happy and to be together ...and that had been taken from him. "Your father," he said softly to the boy in his lap, "Died for you. His sacrifice was for you Henry, so that he could save you and you could live on. If you lost your life trying to bring him back his sacrifice would be for nothing."
The teenager threw a look over his grandfather's shoulder and saw the open spell book in the grass. Guilt twisted up his stomach and he looked away from his grandfather in shame. "I-I'm sorry I stole from you."
From a man that had sought out to viciously torture and kill those who stole from him he waved it off. But it was hard to be angry at a desperate, grieving boy. "Henry I'm not angry you took the book, I'm angry you put yourself in danger." The sentimental moment having passed, his hand slid off the child's back and Henry instead just crouched in front of him. "But I know you're hurting. I...I want to help with that."
Tear filled eyes gazed up at him in curiosity.
"I can't replace your father and I'd never try, but I can be there for you and help you through this. "Calloused, bony hands held smaller soft ones and pressed them there to his heart. Tears filled his eyes and he smiled sadly through them. "We only have each other. No one else can understand what we're feeling..."
Henry knew he was right. They had support from the family, but no one was feeling the loss they were. One lost his little boy; the other had lost his father. He sniffled as he looked up at his grandfather. "I'm sorry you lost your son, Mr. Gold."
Rumplestiltskin's mouth creased and he wiped away the tears from the child's face. "And I'm sorry you lost your father. I know the pain of that."
Henry was finally beginning to calm down and his breathing wasn't as choppy and erratic. "I never..." He looked shyly away. "I never used to think you really cared about me." The wave of pain hit Rumplestiltskin harder than he thought it would and now he was the one to look away in shame.
"Oh Lad...I always have." He thought back to all the cold brush-offs he gave the lad, how indifferent he had been,...and what he had almost done to him. "I'm sorry I made you think I didn't." He wish he had more to say—a reason as to why he had been so cruel with him, but every justification felt stale on his tongue.
They were both silent for a moment and the only sounds was the dripping water off the headstones and the wind billowing through the leaves on the tree. Then Rumplestiltskin gazed down to the soggy boy at his side. "Come on my boy," he sighed, sounding absolutely exhausted and defeated. "Let's get you home."
"I don't want to go home," Henry murmured hollowly, his voice hoarse from his sobs. He took his grandfather's hand anyway as they left the cemetery side by side. Rather than turn down the street to the apartments, Rumpelstiltskin walked until they reached a large manor. Henry recognized the old place to be his grandfather's house.
He twisted a key into the lock and the first thing he did inside was find Henry some dry clothes. The child changed into pajamas that practically flooded on him and curled up to the back of the couch while Rumplestiltskin dialled Emma.
"Hello Miss Swan, I'm just calling to let you know I found Henry wandering the streets." There was no need to go into detail that would just wind up in Henry receiving a tongue lashing when he got home. "I'm going to keep him with me tonight, but I thought I should let you know in case you woke up and thought him kidnapped." Well it wouldn't be the first time, he thought grimly as he remembered his father and Neverland.
Flipping the phone shut (in the middle of Emma's ranting), he turned back to the melancholic boy on the couch. "Bedtime, Lad." The teenager didn't put up a fuss and just nodded resolutely, following the man to one of the many spare rooms in the manor.
Rumplestiltskin pulled back the covers for Henry and the boy crawled into the bed, resting on the pillow. The grandfather placed a hand on his grandson's head, his finger tips slightly glowing a bright lavender. "So you don't have nightmares," he explained. If Henry was anything like him, nightmares were probably a routine thing through out this ordeal.
Heavy wet eyes gazed up at him and the man gave a sad smile. "Try to sleep, Henry. I know you don't want to...but after what happened you must. Your body needs to recover from the effects of the spell." He moved to turn out the light and Henry sat up in a panic.
"W-wait!" Rumplestiltskin turned back to him. The twelve year old had flushed and looked away, whatever he was going to say dying on his tongue. Somehow Rumplestiltskin read it and he smiled lightly, moving to take a seat on the chair. "I can stay until you fall asleep if you'd like."
Henry fiddled with the blankets in his hands and seemed to be loathing whatever he was thinking, his face flushing in shame. When it dawned on Rumplestiltskin he gave a small nod of acknowledgement to spare the boy's embarrassment. It was surprising coming from the normally proud child, but not unwelcome. "I'm sure Belle won't mind sleeping alone for just a night."
Whisking aside the blankets, Rumplestiltskin laid down beside the boy and clapped off the lights. They gazed at the ceiling as their eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness; just two broken souls searching for an answer and a will to stay strong.
"What do we do now?" Henry asked helplessly and Rumplestiltskin knew he wasn't talking about just tonight.
"We live, Henry. We live our life and try to do it happily... It's all we can do. It may take a while, but we can be happy. It's just the matter of how long it will take until we believe it." He turned so he was facing the boy and he could faintly see his outline in the dark. "We find other reasons to live than the ones that were taken from us. You have a lot of those."
"What are yours?" Henry asked honestly. "What do you live for now?"
He wished he could list off as many reasons as the boy could, but he couldn't. "I live because my son wanted me to. I live for Belle..." He paused. "And for you." He couldn't see it, but Henry smiled in the dark.
"You've come a long way, from The Dark One and from being evil... You never used to do much more than hurt people." Rumple winced. "But now you help people. You helped us all defeat Zelena and protected us. You're not...a really good person, but you're getting there. I think you'll reach it eventually," he finished with a lopsided smile.
"It's what Bae would have wanted," he told the boy.
"Dad would be so proud of you..." Rumplestiltskin's breath hitched in his throat and he trembled with a silent sob of mourning and happiness. "Thank you, Henry," he whispered. There was a shift in the dark and Henry pressed against his side.
"Goodnight Grandpa..." The boy was already starting to drift of, exhausted from the night's events.
Rumplestiltskin brushed his hand over his grandson's bangs . "Sleep well, Henry." With the child sleeping against his side, Rumplestiltskin gazed over to the window, where moonlight was spilling in. He looked resolutely at a twinkling star. "And may you sleep well too, Bae..."