For a time after his reputation expanded to include Beast alongside dealmaker, he flattered himself thinking that being the Dark One carried with it the natural and contiguous implication of other famed Beings, that darkness breeds darkness and that these things tend to pool and coalesce, multiply in close quarters. In retrospect it seems such a presumption as to make Mr. Gold raise his eyebrows, but only slightly.
Some things, admittedly, precede him.
Henry has been so preoccupied with the Book that he has not yet discovered D'Aulaires, and Mr. Gold thinks of how long it will be before bright sheepskin rugs and smooth, mirrored platters the size of shields hanging in dark corners—fine acquisitions all—become less of vague exotica and instead pregnant with meaning and the realization that Europe didn't have a monopoly on morality warnings woven through bedtime stories.
Gold could place a loop of spun chain on Twenty-One Red for the Greeks to be first. The raw power and violence of the Nords won't be intriguing for a young mind until later; it's yet a small miracle that age nine hasn't propelled the boy firmly out of his interest. But he is the only thing that grows here, and so the gods came down from Olympus and then from Asgard to roost in Storybrooke, he thinks, and they make themselves known through the boy's eyes.
He has never met them himself—too much of a time gap between he and the last vestiges of their followers—and there are just enough minor members of the nobility and peasantry in Storybrooke to make the notion of identifying and categorizing everyone something he'd rather leave to more stodgy and plodding minds: good rainy-day-empty-docket activity for Sheriff Swan, say.
But he suspects; certainly now entertains the notion. After all, gods and monsters are suckers for attention; without someone to worship and fear them, what is left?
He is sitting in a curved plastic bucket chair across from the reception desk, and every time he moves it crackles with remnants of static electricity. It doesn't quite feel like magic, a bit colder and less conclusive; silly, almost, coming from this ugly harvest orange, with a bitter aftertaste to boot.
Mr. Gold is waiting to see Moe French, to offer a warning disguised as an apology and to get Swan off his case. Overtures at civility will be enough; she, like the rest of the town, is overly consumed with the latest sexual intrigue to whip everyone into a spray-paint-and-whispers mood.
And standing at the desk is a young woman who by all rights should be glaring at him for having beaten her employer into some wheeled conveyance around here, whether bed or chair, but she is preoccupied with filling out a delivery slip for the hospital secretary; the girl is new at this and is taking too long. It doesn't help that the pen chained to the desk isn't working. She is small and curving, with glossy brown hair, and she is too much from the back like someone else.
"She's off from a term at university," murmurs a soothing voice over his shoulder, and Belle tucks one leg beneath her as she takes the seat next to him. "What a pretty girl." He hmms, noncommittal, and they watch this courier continue to struggle with the chaos of pen theory in an uncaring universe while the secretary answers three phone calls and an orderly whisks off the gardenias she's brought.
This girl, this woman, has a face like a child, but she is well past adolescence; it is a strange juxtaposition. Being slender and young is what others would deal away a pound of flesh or more for. She will be suspect in the eyes of every liquor store clerk for at least another fifteen-to-twenty, but whether that is a boon or a—
"Curse," Belle nudges him,
—he can't tell that just from looking. A lifetime of child's treatment for a child's face. The nurse can't see the bouncy curve of this girl's backside, and he can feel Belle laugh and swat his shoulder gently for looking. He relaxes into amusement with her reassurances against jealousy, and then wonders if there is a magic that can keep bloom on the rose, sweet blossoms on the vine through second frost, if anyone has ever tried to pluck her with red-hot-tipped fingers. Her name is something cloyingly symbolic like Wainwright or Whiterose, the curse does that, he's thinking of Grace and of Jefferson and how eye-rollingly obvious—
"Waitrose," says Belle patiently, smoothing the hair at the back of his collar,
—and it is with an angry, childish scribbling sound of patience ripped off short that the delivery girl finally sighs sharply, looking up to see that the secretary has turned her back and moved on to actual work. She heaves, pushes herself up onto the side of the desk and delves down for a pen amongst private charts and HIPAA-protected patient information when there is pushed into the slit of her curled, elastic pink young fist anchored to the desk a fountain pen with a platinum band and clip.
Gold nearly bursts out giggling—Belle does it for him, and it is a far pleasanter sound—the symbolism is a joy in motion.
The girl Waitrose turns to look up at one of the white coats infesting this place, and she drops back to the tile, her shoulders relaxing out of politeness but not necessarily ease.
His white lab coat is open over a standard dark suit and tie, and the doctor is wearing thick-rimmed glasses that slingshot several decades into the past and come around to modernity in a flash. Waitrose does not move. His hair is pale but not quite silver; he is in that stage of being indeterminately older but not elderly, and Belle is thinking of words like distinguished and Roman nose as she looks him over. He is eyeing Miss Waitrose in an unwavering gaze that only avoids lechery by being so stately and calm.
"Thank you," the girl replies. The secretary has seen them and the doctor does not come closer.
"Who's that?" asks Belle, as she should, because this is where this gets interesting. Stories about princesses are well to a point, but beyond that point one stops cheering for the destined obvious pairs and begins to look around for a nice juicy scandal or a tragedy. This will be both: a psychosexual analysis, but Mr. Gold thinks he might do well for one. There are too many predictably happy endings anyway.
"Dr. Tombaugh," he tells her, and moves his thumb in a soft circle around the soft warm close flesh between Belle's thumb and forefinger. He can't quite articulate a theory to himself yet, because this all conflicts with his ancient assumptions, so he is willing to twirl around the edges, but he wants to be sure, because it would be painful, he thinks, to have something that he thought belonged to him taken away when he hadn't started the day with that in mind.
There is so much between the doctor and the young woman, a chain of gold in height and a life's length in years.
"And what does he do?"
"He owes me two thousand dollars." He can feel Belle frown at this. "That's not very much, comparatively speaking. He keeps his things in order." Thankfully her concern for the fact that he is fleecing everyone in town so expertly is muted by her curiosity, which is convenient.
"But what does he do," she urges, fidgeting while the chair sparks beneath him.
"Emergency room trauma," replies Gold mildly, "Triage, snap decisions, someone else does the rest."
"He never hears what happens to people?" she guesses, and is correct. Tombaugh and what is within him is a being of absolutes, of black and white and very little else, and that his existence here is entirely within a realm of uncertainty and vague hazy outcomes ultimately determined by others must be an exquisite torture laser-guided by the universe itself. Pediatrics would be laughable; the morgue would only vulcanize him. He is caught between these bookends, and he must struggle.
Waitrose unscrews the cap from the pen after briefly wiggling her nose and begins to fill out a new receipt. The doctor regards her with dignified surprise—he has expected the pen to confuse her in that way that older people do, arrogant in their assumptions that the youthful don't know how to wind back a rotary dial or which side of a pen nib should face the sky, that no one of a certain age knows what a party line could possibly be, or how to drive stick shift. From the call of her stance, she is determined to prove him wrong. As if the gap of ages is by default too far for fresh minds to leap.
Belle tenses and he can tell that her eyes have gone wide as the girl carefully screws the top back onto the pen and offers it to the doctor, brushing her gaze over him from his forehead to his chin and then back again, and next to Gold there is a breathing in of dreamy satisfaction. Waitrose's bottom lip is the color of a clouded sunset in June, and it pouts perfectly. She is artlessly beguiling the doctor with a hand nevertheless so expert.
Gold says so quietly that only she can hear, "You looked at me that way," and she sighs, he can feel it over his cheek and in her breast.
"Keep it," is the first thing that Dr. Tombaugh says, and it is arresting to hear him, a deliberate low velvet fog draped in aristocracy. Here is an existence ancient and powerful, here is a god stuffed and pummeled down into a mortality until he has submitted. He's back to an unblinking and important gaze directly down into this girl, who to her credit is stolid and receptive, and the shift has happened so fast that the arrowhead's crumbled tip must still be lodged in his back with the slightest of scars bending over it.
How far will this go? How much of an age gap will the town look away from before they are seduced back into murmuring and pointing their fingers at the gold-digger cradle-robber grave-digger don't say anything do you see I told you so
"Oh," says Belle in a sudden realization at the sifting miasma of his train of thought. And this is what Rumpelstiltskin had thought he'd laid claim to this whole time, a name for an unyielding lord over the fears and inevitabilities of mankind, the cruel and cold one whom the world laughed at to see so passionate of abrupt, wide-eyed innocence, a dark unfeeling monster with a heart after all.
Hades did not love much, but he loved Persephone awfully. He wonders how these creatures managed to be fooled into such a trap.
"Gods become addled after being alone for too long," says the voice next to him, and Gold is so startled that he actually turns to find Regina sitting next to him in a structured dress with an origami collar. Her fuchsia smile looks delightedly surprised at his horror, and she puts her knees primly together and leans closer like a gossip. "Not every lighthouse lamp is real, you know. Some are lies meant to throw ships off course and dash them into the rocks."
Gold can't bring himself to answer her, give her more to work with down the road.
"Powerful, concentrated magic is a feast for beggars," she says in her self-satisfied voice, "It's not my fault they got caught in a net too small." She looks at Mr. Gold carefully. "It'll be interesting to see how this one turns out. Hades was tricked, after all—maybe instead of flattering yourself with overconfident comparisons you should be vigilant."
But Hades—Dr. Tombaugh—does not look ambushed at all, gazing with a glowing but pale warmth, a sad longing at soft curved young Persephone and asking after her job at the florist's, making small talk while the secretary pushes papers into passing nurses' hands around and between them. Persephone is a sympathetic goddess of the garden, unafraid and untested, but she was made for this sort of thing, this bravery, and she smiles, kind and curious. He remembers that no one really knows if she had been accomplice to her own abduction, and it's just a theory, but if Persephone had a choice between remaining sheltered in her mother's house or choosing her own fate and ascending to queenhood atop a throne in a terrifyingly empty hall—
"I know which I'd pick." Belle is back next to him, and Mr. Gold exhales his anxiety while she traces her fingertips up his throat and along his cheek, turning him red as she goes. "I can see where he'd be a bit scary at first, but love is mysterious."
When the nurse comes to retrieve Mr. Gold for his appointment, he walks slowly and alone along the hall and thinks of Persephone's reputation for injecting a quality of mercy into the works and doings of the Underworld. She awakened her stone-faced husband's sympathy for Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice; he considers whether, if when the time for remembrance and war come and he has spent his favor from Sheriff Swan in a last ditch effort, Persephone will let Belle sing for permission to lead him out of the Underworld.