Desperate Souls

Chapter 4: Ruined

Breakfast

Mr Gold smiled as he limped down the stairs, expecting her to follow when she saw fit. And by the sound of her footsteps she was eager to leave the dreaded place called bedroom. As he descended he spoke to her. "I just said I won't poison you. Besides, even if it doesn't want to go through that thick skull of yours, I am very fond of you too. I think hurting you more than I already did is impossible to happen."

Emma couldn't prevent the sneer that curled her lip at his words. To her, saying one thing wasn't the same as doing, so she was naturally quite reluctant to accept any of his promises.

She was now a good foot behind him - always far enough so that she could turn and bolt, if she so desired - but his words still reached her quite effectively. Emma just so happened to halt in her tracks at the same time Gold did, so she wasn't able to remove the deer in the headlights look before he turned to look at her.

"Despite what you may think of me I have a heart for you." He said, brown eyes piercing hers.

Gripping tightly at the balustrade, she found it very hard to believe that he could have any sort of affection for her... Although it was very true, he couldn't hurt her any more than he had. Unless, of course, he decided to steal Henry right from under her very nose. If that were to happen, there would be bloodshed, no questions asked. She was finally beginning to understand what it was truly like to be a mother, and with it came the feral motherly instinct to protect her child.

He continued his way down the stairs and led her through the hallway back to the kitchen. The dining table was clean and there were no traces whatsoever of a fight, a drugging, an indecent event. Nothing. The table cloth was clean, the floor polished, the plates in the dishwasher which was showing a red flickering light to signal it was done, and occasionally gave an unpleasant beep.

Following him into the kitchen, Emma instinctively cringed at the sight of the dining room, but was shocked to discover it was completely spotless. She wanted to ask how he'd managed to get everything so clean on his own, but decided better against it. The less they discussed their prior entanglement, the better.

Mr Gold hobbled to the counter and started pulling open the cupboards. Gold was now digging in a cupboard, and she hurriedly rushed after him since she was afraid he might've had the chance to drug her food. Perhaps her fear was irrational - doing the same thing twice was foolish and unlikely - but she still didn't want to take any chances.

"I don't know how you managed," Mr Gold said, "but after I turned away from my past I was convinced I could never love again." He grimaced sourly. The word 'love' seemed misplaced, mostly because he disliked the term. He'd seen himself as cruel for so many years he had started to believe it himself. A heartless monster. Rich, wealthy, a man with taste and influence. Cold. He thought he had lost all senses to feel, but Henry had reminded him of his emotions: pride, joy, fatherly instinct. And somehow no matter how vile Emma had acted towards him he still wanted to own her body and soul. And if that would be impossible he wanted her to have Henry and he would cease life without a doubt.

After all, that had been his plan for a long time now that Emma had arrived. He would help her back to their son and he would die, taking away with him the shame of his past deeds and by his death setting right so many things he had set wrong. But Emma's arrival also had sparked that bit of hope that his ancient wish for a family could become reality. And now it seemed that this selfish and unrealistic wish was taking the overhand and that he actually preferred it over redemption and a heroic death. Suddenly the fate of the town had become less important and the possibility of a family had grown on him. He took a knife and butter and started to sweep the butter across the bread.

Hearing Gold's remark, Emma quirked a brow and shrugged. "Love? What the heck are you talking about? Whoever said anything about love? I can honestly say I've never been in love before...in lust? Yes, most definitely. But love? No way." With a shrug, she added, "Living without a lover honestly isn't as bad as it sounds...I've done it my whole life. I suppose it feels similar to what I feel for Henry, but only a different kind of love."

Immediately irritated that she'd opened up to her rapist, Emma clamped her lips firmly shut and sulked as Gold began to butter a piece of bread.

"But there's something about you I can't deny. You've a hold over me, Emma, a power you should not underestimate. You're the only.." he said, thinking that Henry would in a way have some power over him too. If the boy needed as much as protection Mr Gold would jump up for him. But it was different. It felt as if Emma was the one who could squeeze his heart.

Listening to him speak of her as though she were some powerful, ethereal being, she was tempted to scoff, but knew better than to do so. Gold had a knife, and she often tried to be respectful of those with a potential weapon.

"What would you like?" He asked Emma absent-mindedly, informing her about breakfast.

Having a seat at the kitchen table, she crossed her legs and shrugged. "I'll have anything without arsenic, thanks."

He smiled amused by her words and made her a slice of bread with jam and one with cheese, then handed the plate to her and limped to prepare her some fresh orange juice. He was well aware of her watching eyes as he made her meal, and wasn't at all bothered by it. After all he had meant what he had said. No 'arsenic' would be added.

"You keep strong despite what happens to you. I find that a remarkable capacity, Emma." He handed her the glass and made some for himself.

Emma shrugged at his words. "What's so remarkable about it? I have a naturally thick shell because of all that shit I've had to endure, so it's not like there's anything special behind my perseverance." With a sigh, she softly added, "And before you say you envy me, just know that you shouldn't. Mary Margaret was right about me...I'm a fake."

Annoyed with herself for once again speaking her mind a little too freely, Emma rubbed at the bridge of her nose and groaned. Her heart throbbing hollowly, she accepted the glass Gold handed her and took an absent sip.

"Love for a child is different than that felt for a lover." He smiled wryly. "I find it hard to explain. But the difference is there. It's like Henry is a part of me that needs protection. He needs to get the chances I never had, the love-" He eyed her and swallowed. "Everything I would wish for I'd want for him. Nothing bad, never something bad. You may doubt me all you want but it will not change my feelings for him or for you." He sipped from his own glass.

Emma stared in front of her. The thought of him loving her and her son was too much to stomach at the moment. Thankfully, however, she no longer felt the desire to purge her stress into the toilet.

"Living without a lover will make you lonely and defensive. It will make you sour and shield out all forms of love offered to you. It makes you ruthless and violent." He was talking more about himself now than about her, falling back on his own past experiences. The difference between them might be the fact he had a family before and lost it, he had known love. He glanced at Emma and suddenly realized she might not ever have known true love. Something in his eyes changed at this realization. Something made them soften and the whole tenseness of his muscles disappeared too. His voice had become almost like a whisper, low and silky.

Picking sulkily at her food, Emma mistook Gold's ramblings to be directed at herself, and inwardly felt a pang since she knew he was right. She was lonely and defensive, and she was sour and ruthless... Mary Margaret once commented on the "wall" she had that kept people out, and at the time Emma hadn't wanted to accept such a ridiculous idea. But now, she was somehow more willing to understand what her friend had been trying to say, and her gaze grew despondent as she suddenly stopped eating.

Her life was a complete fucking mess.

"You will know how it feels. Something about you tells me you already do. Even if you did not get the chance to love me in the past you've always loved the father you imagined Henry to have." His eyes widened and pupils dilated. He'd been defeated by a mental image.

Head jerking up upon Gold's declaration, Emma felt her chest tighten as she narrowed her eyes. "How do you know how I felt about the idea of Henry's father?" she shot back. "How do you know I loved him?"

In a sense, however, she knew there was some truth to his accusation. The moment she'd been reunited with Henry, the idea of a father had seemed pleasant and charming. She could envision them laughing and playing in the park together, but all of that had been shattered upon her newfound realization. Now it just seemed completely ridiculous.

Afraid to ruin her appetite Mr Gold quickly stumbled past her and gestured for her to take a seat.

"I'm sorry. I should not keep ruining your appetite so. You need to eat, be healthy. I keep depriving you of all pleasures in life while I just said not to do so anymore. I will keep my wisdom locked away until you ask."

With a snort, Emma shrugged and returned, "No, why bother? You've already made me throw up twice, so it's not like you can garner a worse bodily reaction than that..." A wry smile quirked her lips at the thought, and somehow the action was painful. Her bottom lip felt sore to the touch, and a distinct chill ran down her spine. What if he'd ravaged her mouth after she'd fallen into the state of unconsciousness? He very well could've bitten and sucked at her lips to the point of pain...

Shaking the thought from her mind (if she was going to work with Gold, she'd have to forget as much as possible), Emma took a deep breath and urged, "No...sit. I need you to tell me everything you can remember about Henry. I wasn't there for him for ten years of his life, and I regret that now - I need to know everything I've missed." With shining earnest eyes, she begged, " Please ...if nothing else, do this one thing for me."

He sat down hesitatingly and placed his plate in front of him. His appetite had left so instead of eating the last remainders of his bread he started sipping from his orange juice. It was odd to start the morning like this, instead of a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Not that he'd eat last said thing, but he had a tendency to skip breakfast and eat a dry rusk down at the shop.

Mr Gold's behavior seemed to have changed, to have become more timid and his eyes and demeanor were more shy now and ashamed. "Henry was an adorable little baby. He learnt about as quick as most children do. One thing though, he would cry often in the mornings. Regina called me a few times because somehow he didn't want to stop unless I was there to cradle him. He was very energetic as a toddler and loved stories. I heard Regina had Sydney over to tell him bedtime stories whenever she could not, whenever she was too busy with work. And of course Graham, but Henry didn't like his tales so he was dismissed." He smirked, remembering and feeling warm at the many memories of his son, though most had been from a distance.

Emma began to absently rotate her glass in her hands, her eyes on anything but Gold as she listened to him speak. To hear Henry was a fussy baby made her smile, because she'd often been told she was a handful at that age, as well. And to discover he loved stories was no genuine surprise either, but it amused her to think that poor Graham hadn't been sufficient in the story-telling department.

Graham...

Emma's heart clenched. She'd admittedly once entertained the idea that he could be Henry's father, but fate had cruelly snatched him away before any such thing could blossom. She knew she wasn't in love with him - they'd barely gotten the chance to have a relationship - but she had certainly been fond of him.

"I can still see him play among the sand, building castles and making warriors out of wooden twigs to defend the castle. He has great fantasy, always have had." His eyes had turned dreamy and his meal had been forgotten. The glass of juice was left thoughtless in his hand.

"The little thingsā€¦" He murmured, "the way he would walk by on his way to school, the way he would wear blue jeans - always the same pair because he liked them so -, the way he would run up the stairs to brush his teeth-" He broke off with a need to explain. "I would sometimes visit Regina just before Henry's bedtime and the boy was so proud that he could brush his own teeth, whenever she told him to he would rush off happily. I think he thought Regina's method was too harsh, that he liked it more when he did it himself. You've seen him, you've seen his teeth. He's done a very good job." Mr Gold actually sounded as proud as his son.

Snapping back to reality, a warm smile gradually drifted across her lips as Gold spoke of Henry's little idiosyncrasies. It almost seemed ... bizarre that he had such an excellent account of the boy, and with such great detail. Even though she loved her son with all her heart, she honestly wasn't sure if she could've recalled everything - including her son's favorite jeans - so vividly.

The toothbrush story actually elicited somewhat of a laugh from her, and somehow the musical sound seemed foreign to her ears. When was the last time she'd actually laughed? And really laughed, at that?

"He always claimed dolls were for girls but even till today he has a soft puppet he likes to sleep with." Mr Gold closed his eyes. "Mr Man," He let out a breath, "Regina suggested the name as a replacement for the father he never had. 'Call him father', she had told him. But Henry had defied her and had simply called him 'man'." He smiled at Emma, his voice sounded thick. "I think it was a blow to my face to hear I was being replaced by a dummy. Then again the doll will do a much better job for the boy. At least he's always there to comfort him."

Absently rubbing at the tabletop with her thumb, Emma paused at the "Mr. Man" story and cringed. "I never realized how lonely he was...that almost seemed cruel of Regina to try and replace his father figure with a sock puppet. Children need their families, and...ugh, who am I kidding? I'm the biggest hypocrite on the face of the planet."

Mr Gold looked away, palms flat on the table now, and took a deep breath. His lips were parted, searching for something to say because he realized he was drifting off to his own feelings and experiences instead of keeping to what she would want to hear.

"The boy is a good boy, Emma," he peered at her as if measuring her reaction. "He has his heart in the right place. He only punched another boy once before, never has he caused trouble. He didn't engage in soccer with the other kids, he wanted to sit in a corner and read instead. He's been lonely, searching for you. Not because Regina can't care for him, but because he misses these parts of him in which he can recognize himself. Regina is alien to him. She has odd quirks and traits he doesn't recognize in himself.

Brushing back a lock of hair, she sighed and shook her head. The remark about Henry punching another boy oddly brought another smile to her lips, but only because she figured that was her coming out of the child. As a young girl, she wasn't your average "sugar and spice" doll that mothers doted on. When provoked, she'd attack...and quite fiercely.

Although Gold's explanation on why Henry sought her out made sense, a sudden thought began nagging at Emma's mind until she had to address it. "Gold," she hesitantly began, "I, uh...don't mean to sound like a class-less tramp or anything, but how do you know Henry's yours? I'm 99% positive I slept with several men after you that week, so...what makes you so certain?"


Au: a thank you to the readers :)

Twyla Mercedes: I apologize for the way Emma reacts to it all. I (the uploader) am only the Rumple part in this and must admit I didn't really do a proper job editing it all. I was too afraid of deleting or changing the texts, and thus edited as little as possible, making the story hard to follow (I think). It is still a role play and therefore tricky to shape into a readable fanfic. I know it can be done, perhaps Emma will one day ;D?

ParanormalMoonlight: Whoot! Thank you :) I hope this chapter didn't let you down ;D