Desperate Souls

Chapter 3: Disintegration

Water

Emma had to laugh. "A 'special' guest? Well that's certainly a new one...usually when I'm invited to something, men run in the other direction. Er...well, mainly the ones who can't handle a tough broad wearing the pants in the situation." She had to smile as she picked up her fork, because being tougher than most men was something she had often prided herself in. If she couldn't have a normal life and a family, she damn well wanted to be viewed with respect. She had to admit she was surprised by the effort Gold had put into their dinner, because in all honesty, if she were in charge of preparing the meal, she would've just thrown a Stove Top dish into the oven and pray it wouldn't burn. She'd never been a very good cook (undoubtedly the understatement of the year), so it was always a nice change to eat something edible .

"Where did you learn to do all this?" she asked, wide-eyed as she stared at her plate in disbelief. "Seriously, I'm lucky if I can make frozen fish sticks properly. And in case you're wondering, yes, I am fully capable of burning water. I'm quite the talent when it comes to botching anything in the culinary department."

Embarrassed that she was babbling (especially since Gold might be scornful of her lack of cooking skills), Emma quickly took a bite of the dish in order to silence herself. It was honestly unlike anything she'd had - or seen , for that matter - but whatever it was, she found she actually liked it.

"It's very good," she assured him, still feeling foolish as she took a sip of wine. Good God, was it suddenly hot in there, or was it just her?

Tugging at the neckline of her dress, Emma released a breath and continued to eat with her eyes directed at her plate. She was afraid to see if Gold was still staring at her, because knowing her luck, she'd probably choke to death from nerves.

Fumbling for conversation, Emma glanced around her as if the walls held all the answers - which they sadly did not - and she naturally came up short. With a weak smile, she decided on a feeble, "Thanks again for agreeing to this. I'm sure Henry would say thank you too, if he even knew what was going on. Ironically, he's told me you're worse than Regina, so we'll see if he changes his mind after all this."

That last comment hurt him and changed the look in his eyes. Henry. What would he say if he found out about his parents like this? Now he had to assure his plan would work for any failure of it would be disastrous. He nervously nipped from his wine and placed the glass in front of him, engaging in a little chit-chat just to make her feel at ease. He would wait between each bite he took until the substance had gone down his throat and his mouth was empty but for words. All the while his smile showed kindness as he put on his mask and acted as well as a Hollywood star. Emma naturally hadn't noticed the hurt in Gold's eyes, for her gaze was glued to her plate as though she couldn't look away. She'd always been told it was "impolite" to avoid eye contact, but in all honesty, Gold had very disconcerting eyes. Sometimes she felt as though he could see right through her, and this was one of those moments that she very much wished to remain an enigma.

"Well, I guess Henry has never tasted my food, then." Mr Gold's accent was evident as he joked. His crooked teeth showed when he smiled at her from the other side of the table.

"Thank you, Emma, for your kind compliments. To be honest I never really have the chance to prepare a good meal for anyone but myself. Occasionally I have Regina and Kathryn visiting, and at times Sydney is there too. It depends. But mostly they come for business or to talk about the 'finer things' in life. I can't call it taste they have. As long as the food is expensive they say it tastes nice and that shows no appreciation for my hard work." He toyed with his knife.

The sheriff made sure to listen to his rant about his guests, her face pinching in disgust when she heard the mention of Regina. Although Gold claimed her company was undesirable and mostly about business, Emma found that her suspicious mind wondered how many of their little get-togethers were "underhanded soirees." But since Emma had agreed to hold her tongue until she could prove Gold was guilty, she merely forced a smile to her lips and nodded her agreement. Although she honestly couldn't attest to anything that he was saying. She, after all, had never had the displeasure of feeding Regina, or anyone, for that matter. And if she had, they most certainly wouldn't have paid her a compliment.

"They probably think you hired a cook," Emma offered, deciding that she could at least try to add to the conversation. "Spoiled snobs like Regina must have at least ten servants to wait on her every whim and fancy. I doubt she even knows what a pot or pan is."

"At least with you I'm always assured of your honest opinion. As we both know you won't hide any remarks or flatteries. But I think I have told you before that is what I admire about you. You're straightforward and headstrong. You know what you want. And you will be prepared to fight for it." For a moment they had eye-contact, then it broke as Mr Gold looked down at his plate to take another bite.

Eyes clouding over at the thought of her rival, Emma sourly took another bite and sighed. Glancing up at Gold as he spoke, she nearly jumped when she realized he was returning her gaze. It shouldn't have startled her - she was behaving rather childishly - but she'd grown accustomed to shielding herself during their conversation.

"I would," Emma softly agreed, gripping at her wine glass as though it were an anchor. "I know it's probably stupid, but I really think I would do anything to get him back. Anything within reason, of course. I mean, I'd like to think I'm not that crazy."

"As to Henry, it isn't just the food we've come to. And the food isn't intended to lessen the pain of this current issue. You've found back the boy and you regret having given him away. I can fully understand." Mr Gold nipped the food from his fork, munched on it and swallowed before turning his head to her again and flipping his hair out of his face. The brown strands kept sliding back like a curtain, teasingly wanting to obscure the object of his desire from his view.

"A parent acting for their child would do anything, would go to any lengths. It is quite a rare opportunity you have working with me. After all, like you said, I don't do anything for free, usually." He smiled mysteriously at her after that last line. Hands open in front of him, palms up to the ceiling.

Emma eyed him sharply. What had he meant by that? She was aware that he had another unknown child, but she wasn't under the impression that he'd given him up. It had sounded more like the mother had taken custody and left Gold high and dry.

"Mary was right when she told you to accept the offer. I would not have committed myself to anyone else and yesterday evening I was on the verge of retreat. "

Pausing mid-bite at his next words, she quirked a brow and eyed him oddly. Committed himself to anyone else? What was he talking about?

Afraid that she'd sound foolish for asking for an explanation, she instead nodded and agreed, "Yeah, well...hopefully Mary's right about this. She tends to have a pretty good intuition."

'Except when it comes to her own love life,' Emma mentally added.

"Is your child here in Storybrooke?" Emma asked, immediately kicking herself since he probably didn't wish to answer that. "I-I mean, it's ok if the kid is, because I doubt I even know them... I'm only acquainted with a handful because of Mary."

For a moment Mr Gold choose to remain silent before he set his wine aside. Overcome by a sudden distaste for his food and drink, he wiped his lips with his napkin and shove his plate aside, ready for the next dish. He helped Emma to a new plate, and then himself, and as he sat down he mumbled something incoherent and nodded his head.

"I have a different wine to go along with this." He said, ignoring her comment about Mary. "But I doubt it'd be wise for you to take another glass. Not that you're not fun when you get drunk." He said with a grin. "But yesterday you must have had your fill of it. I was truly amazed you came to visit me this morning. You must have suffered from a headache still, or did it not affect you like that? I know from my own experience too much drink can be like a nasty blow to the head."

Surprised when Gold placed yet another plate down in front of her, Emma reluctantly handed over her plate and mumbled her thanks. She didn't have a tremendous appetite that evening (thanks mostly to her nerves), but she didn't have the heart to say she wasn't hungry.

Nibbling at the new dish, Emma looked up at Gold's remark and smirked. "Ok, now that was below the belt... I promise I can usually hold my own when it comes to alcohol, but I guess it went right to my head since I was drinking on an empty stomach. Not the wisest decision in the world, but what can I say? I'm not exactly known for my "genius" tactics." Sending him an odd look, she asked, "What, are you saying someone has to be suffering from an ailment to come to your shop? Although in most cases I'd agree with you, I can promise I wasn't still drunk. A little hungover, sure, but that's what aspirin's for."

Mr Gold could feel Emma's prying gaze as he figured she must be wondering why he had ignored almost all of her previous questions and comments, and with a sigh placed his napkin aside. He had been absentmindedly toying with it, and only realized so now.

"My son? You're asking about my past? You're asking personal questions about me, Emma. And with that look," Mr Gold said.

Taken aback by Gold's assumptions, she stammered, "This is my normal face! I can't help how I'm looking at you." With a slight pout, she nudged her food with her fork and cringed.

Mr Gold shook his head and returned with a crooked smile. "You give me a look as if I am a serial killer devoid of wife or perhaps never have been married. Well, I was married, Emma, long ago. We were childhood friends, lovers even. I lost my wife and son many years ago, before I became who I am now." He hadn't spoken about his other son yet and found it was hard for him to do so. He tried to muster the words but they were stuck I his throat and he had to drink the last of his wine before he could speak again. He set the glass down with a clink and decided to stare at it.

His serial killer remark should've put her at ease, but instead it made her think of her conversation with Mary. It was almost as if the man was constantly inside her head, and it unnerved her.

"I'd never say that. At least, not to your face," Emma muttered. She had stopped poking at her food when he mentioned his wife. It was honestly quite hard to envision him in marital bliss - hell, let alone having a child - but now his bitterness made far more sense. To have loved and lost was one thing, but to lose a child was the ultimate blow to the heart. It was every being's worst fear, and Emma was by far no exception.

Mr Gold had gotten up to refill his glass and refill hers. "What would you like?" He asked, gesturing at a bottle of white wine and one containing simple pure water from some mountain source in Germany.

Brows furrowed in thought, she hardly even realized Gold was beside her until she heard him speak. Brushing the hair back from her eyes, she muttered, "At this rate? I'd better stick with the water."

That was probably the smartest move she'd made all week, she decided.

With a pleased grin Mr Gold limped to fill her glass with water, easily slipping in a small white tablet of his own devising, a drug he had used ten years ago when an eighteen year old girl who had a little bit too much alcohol downed asked him for a glass of water. The trick had worked back then, and as the drug swirled easily into transparency he handed her the glass and set to his own end of the table with an elegant sweep of the leg and a smug smile to accompany it.

Taking a sip of the water, Emma made a face and asked, "This was German, was it? It's kind of bitter-tasting, but I suppose they have different palettes over there...oh well, I'll live." Waving it off, she watched Gold return to his seat and anxiously fiddled with the stem of her glass.

As luck would have it, Emma was a compulsive drinker when she was nervous. If there was a drink in front of her, she'd keep taking sips of it until it was completely gone, and since she now had water instead of wine, she wasn't nearly as hesitant to undergo her traditional binge drinking.

"Yes, Emma," Mr Gold said with a sigh, returning to her former question, "my son is in town. I brought him here."

With a despondent look on her face, Emma only lifted her gaze when Gold spoke. And although she'd braced herself for the option, she was admittedly shocked to find out that his son was, indeed there in Storybrooke. "You brought him here? Well, why can't you have him, then? Is the mother preventing you from having partial custody?"

Racking her brain for something - anything - that could possibly indicate the identity of Gold's son, Emma was frustrated to find she couldn't remember a single time he'd been seen with a child.

"Unfortunately that seems to be the case. Just like you I feared I couldn't take care of the child. I didn't want for my son to be completely out of my life so I had him adopted by someone I was certain of I could see him as often as I pleased. Of course," He smiled ironically, "I never told anyone I was the father of the child."

He refilled his own glass. He took the white wine, abandoning the red and not at all ready for something less strong like water. He brought the glass to his lips, eyes lingering on Emma's face as his lips touched the brim of the glass, tasting the liquid inside.