Desperate Souls

Chapter 1:Rabbit Heart

28 Years

Emma was a little unnerved by Gold's silence, because she was accustomed to him having an answer for everything. Had she genuinely surprised him by her frankness, or had she caught him in a lie? It truly bugged her that she couldn't figure out which it was, because in most cases she was quite good at reading people.

"Aren't you going to answer me?" She fished, her eyes narrowing slightly as she observed his demeanor. He almost seemed to be in another world, his gaze soft and pensive as he continuously blew at his coffee.

Crossing and un-crossing her legs, Emma began to tap her fingers against her thigh as she searched for the right words. Surely there was a way to coax Gold out of his sudden fog? A nice "earth to Gold" more than likely would just earn her more ridicule about being a "youngster," so instead she pressed, "Have you ever had a family, Mr. Gold? Because if you know anything about the meaning of having a child, you'll understand where I'm coming from. It's almost like having an actual purpose when otherwise you had none...like life's that much brighter. I need him, but I want to get him back without any funny business. That stunt with the fire was completely unacceptable."

His large brown eyes rolled back to her and held so many emotions at once that had it been a sea she would have drowned in it. As soon as his emotions had shone through, as soon as they had gone and his face hardened until he wore his usual shopkeeper's mask of indifference.

"I know how it is to value life, Emma. And if anything I know not to underestimate someone who acts for their child."

His gaze returned to his hands and the cup in it and like a small, tiny old man he sipped from it. Mr Gold seemed to blend into the background, shrouding into a corner, disappearing as he was becoming none. And for a moment he silently remained that way.

Then, with a wet click of the lips, he smiled tiredly at her again and was back fully the way he was. He redeemed himself, he became Mr Gold again; a powerful man of wealth and taste.

"I'm not a great one for conversation, am I? I am reluctant to talk about the past."

"Fair enough... I won't ask any more questions," Emma agreed, setting her cup off to the side and folding her hands in her lap. "It wasn't that I was trying to pry, I'm just trying to figure out why and how this will benefit you. I mean, no offense or anything, but about 98% of the time, everything you do is meant to help you in some form."

Sparing a gaze off to the far corner of the room, she softly added, "For what it's worth, I'm not big on talking about the past, either. The only good thing that came from it was Henry, but now that he's also in my current life, there's no need for me to go back there. Ever." Watching him sullenly brood over his cup, she prodded, "What has Regina done to make you so against her? It's kind of obvious you're trying to undermine everything she does."

His gaze turned foul and he stretched his good leg. His right hand settled just above his knee and he wrinkled his nose. "Miss Swan, is there no end to your questions? I enjoy your company, I really do. But I see no purpose for your questions."

Emma's eyes fluttered in momentary surprise, yet she cleared her throat and shook her head. "Ok...um, I'm sorry? I can't help it that I'm a naturally inquisitive person, especially when someone like you is offering me their help. If you were in my shoes, wouldn't you be the same way?" With a pause, she laughed a little and corrected herself, "Oh, right...no more questions. Sorry." Rising from her perch, she stretched her limbs and announced, "I can tell when I'm bothering people, so I might as well take this opportunity to leave before the sun goes down. You mentioned hating slumber parties, after all."

With a smirk, Emma zipped up her coat before eying Gold curiously. He appeared to be lost in thought (no surprise there), a peculiar drawing seeming to be holding his attention as he stared off into space. The drawing of a man holding a baby wrapped in a blanket. The man being awfully similar to Mr Gold and the blanket being a typical boyish color. The man looked affectionate at the child.

"You draw that?" Emma asked, now motioning to it with her hand. "Looks kind of like you... And hopefully that's a question you can actually answer."

"Yes," Mr Gold said, voice husky so he had to clear it before he could repeat himself, "Yes I can answer that."

Emma looked up, surprised and pleased that Gold was finally going to answer one of her questions. He was a mysterious man, but she was hoping to somehow figure out a way to make him open up. Somehow she felt it was in her best interest, especially since he was the key to the town.

"And no I did not. One of the town's people drew it the day Henry arrived in town." He looked straight at her with stern penetrating eyes. "But of course you already figured as much. My hands are not good for drawing, only for creating documents that should then be signed. Contracts, as they are called. Images like this one I cannot create myself. I'm not a great artist at that trait."

Shrugging, she returned, "Well, you never know...just figured I'd ask. I can't believe the town took such an interest in my son... It's almost as if this is a celebratory picture."

Mr Gold clipped his lips tightly together and was wringing his hands in front of him. The image had been there on purpose, to stir feelings, emotions and possibly memories inside of the young woman in front of him. He tilted his head and his eyes narrowed as he watched her. "It is indeed me, with Henry."

Head jerking toward him upon hearing his announcement, she narrowed her eyes and asked, "You? Why you? I mean, he's the mayor's son, and considering how touchy she is about my even looking at Henry, I'm surprised she allowed you to pose for such an intimate picture."

Suddenly appearing wistful, she turned her back to Gold and appraised the picture more thoroughly. "I barely got to hold him before he was taken away from me... As sad as it sounds, you probably spent more time with him as a child than I did. I envy you for that."

Mr Gold's jaw clenched but despite this his cheeks colored, as if he was touched by her words and perhaps a little embarrassed. "You barely had to hold him?" He asked, Scottish accent rasping.

Eyes still glued to the picture, she obviously failed to notice Gold's reaction and sighed. "Yeah, well I didn't count on meeting him 10 years later...that kind of does something to my conscience since he knows I could've been there for him, but chose not to be. I should've known better that giving him up for adoption wasn't his best shot, because I was adopted, and I had a miserable life. I obviously wasn't thinking straight when I made that decision, because now..." She sighed. "... Now I want him back, but I don't have much of a choice."

His eyes saddened and he looked at her tiredly. "But it doesn't work that way, does it. The connection was there and you knew it, you felt it. No one could replace that empty spot. No one but him, your son."

Hearing Gold's words, Emma felt a pang in her heart and turned to regard him curiously. It was almost as though he were taking the words right out of her mouth, and she nodded weakly. "Yeah...I guess it was so. It was almost like giving up the one part of me that meant anything, but I figured I was doing what was right. If I'd known he'd be adopted by someone he considered an "evil queen," I probably would've reconsidered. ...Or at least demanded he'd gotten a better living situation."

Mr Gold gestured for her to sit down again. "I regret you had to go through all that."

Emma softly assured him, "You don't have to take pity on me...I'm sure you have better things to do than listen to my sob stories about my son. I've met plenty of men in my lifetime, and no matter how nice they are, none of them are truly interested in discussing emotional topics unless they lead to...um..." Shrugging if off, she feebly amended, "You get the idea."

This caused a small smirk to creep onto Mr Gold's face and he gave a nod. "I see," He said with a half-hearted chuckle, "and I am sure you wouldn't dream of ever laying down with me."

Eyeing him in disgust, she sarcastically returned, "Gee, what gave it away? Perhaps the fact that we're usually at each other's throats, or that I'm usually wearing a "you make me sick" expression when we're in the same room?"

He watched her carefully as he said it to see if she had any memory whatsoever left of the night they'd shared together and the 'magical' moment in which Henry had been created. Even if this memory only presented itself to her as a dream that'd be enough for him to know.

His brown orbs locked with hers at this and his small smile twitched. "After all I must not be a man of your taste. A young thing like you, with such confidence, and such beauty. The only thing that'd make me as a man attractive must be my wealth and one doesn't get that by simply sleeping with me. I've nothing else to offer. No kind personality, no good looks, no youth."

He eyed her suspiciously, trying to lure an answer out of her that'd satisfy him. A compliment of some sort would be fine.

The fact that he kept complimenting her made her shiver, because she didn't like the turn their conversation had suddenly taken. What was he getting at? Was he fishing for compliments of some sort? With a smirk, she asked, "Why, are you suggesting you have women lining up at your back door because of your wealth, Gold? I assumed you were rich because of the fear you invoke, but judging by this shop? I don't think it's your main source of income. Makes me wonder what truly goes down in the political arena down here."

If anything, Gold's comments had only raised suspicions of her own. She honestly hadn't given much thought to his wealth until now (she wasn't much of a material girl), so she had to wonder how he'd acquired so much money. Everyone else besides Regina, after all, seemed to have a modest income.

"Oddly enough, you've been very kind to me today," Emma finally spoke, "but this conversation is getting a little too weird for me... So unless you're asking me to play matchmaker, I think we should change the subject before I hurt you."

The saccharine smile on her face seemed to belie her anger, but she was actually putting it on in an almost mocking manner.

"Matchmaker," Mr Gold mused, his brown orbs sliding from her pacing form back to the picture.

Now taking this opportunity to do exactly that which she had suggested, changing topics, Emma folded her arms and confessed, "I recently told Henry his father was dead, so you're right. Dwelling on the past is pointless. If I can't even remember him, he might as well be dead, am I right?"

Frowning as she glanced off to the side, she decided to hold her tongue since Gold didn't need to know what kind of a person she'd been. To protect herself, she'd continuously had one-night stands so she'd never have to see the person ever again. In fact, she'd had so many that she could barely recall any of the men, so it bothered her that she'd accidentally birthed a child from one of those flings.

"You forgot who Henry's father is?" Mr Gold said, his brown eyes wide as he tried to fake the shocked expression to what be considered appropriate to this situation. His left hand was placed on his knee and his right clutched the top of his cane. He looked aside and blew some air between his teeth, hissing before he looked at her again in earnest.

Since Emma had been gazing fixedly at the wall, she'd missed the shocked expression, but she could hear the intonation in his voice. She took his shock as disapproval, and she immediately felt her guard go up. "I did, yes," she coolly returned. "Judge me all you want, but I wasn't any different from any other child in the system. Don't get me wrong, some of us genuinely do turn out fine, but most of us rebel in any way that we can... Sex just so happened to be best for me at the time."

God, she couldn't believe she'd just confessed that to Storybrooke's number one creeper...

"What else did you tell him? That his father was a savior? That he rescued people and is a true hero, just to inspire the boy?" Mr Gold nodded as he let this new idea sink and tried to see the possibilities it gave. "That must be far better to him than the truth."

Absently rubbing at her face, Emma sighed and nodded. "Yeah, uh...yeah, that's exactly what I told him, more or less. Firefighters are brave, heroic, and expected to die in the line of duty, so I figured it was a win-win story to give. He deserves a father like that, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to give it to him. Hell, he deserves more than me , but I'm doing the very best I can."

He looked at Emma again. "Have you considered visiting Dr Hopper? He's very good at these conversations and therapies. If you can't recall... or for any reason feel like you need someone to support you mentally I would say he is the man to go to."

Upon hearing Gold's suggestion, Emma scoffed and shook her head. "Sooo, your grand idea is I see a shrink, eh? I know I sound fucked up, but I can assure you this isn't eating away at me inside...not really, anyway. At first I thought you were trying to suggest Archie was the father," she confessed, laughing at the ridiculousness of such an idea. In fact, the idea of anyone in Storybrooke being the father was quite amusing.

Mr Gold pensively licked his lips in a way that told Emma she wasn't to leave just yet. His eyes were on the floor, pondering. "How can it be you don't remember, Emma? If I may be so bold to ask. Were you... in this relationship willingly? Or this particular instance... Did it happen just once?" He was fishing, "Is it because you had many lovers or was it something else at the time?"

Shrugging at Gold's prodding (why did he care?), Emma admitted, "I don't know why...I mean, I've heard that some type of trauma can erase all memory, but I know for a God-given fact I was a substance abuser. It's a miracle I remember anything at all..."

Now leaning against the wall, she gazed up at the ceiling and grumbled, "I feel like I'm in a confessional booth... Father, please forgive me my sins - it's been 28 years since my last confession." With a slight smile at that, she softly sustained, "It was only once, I think... But once is all it takes, as you know. I'm pretty sure I met him at a crowded get-together, because that was nine months before...um...before Henry was born."

Mr Gold smirked at her as she recalled that one time event where he had planned to meet her, drug her, take her even against her will if she so insisted. And the result had been stunning. Henry was a wonderful and clever lad, not to mention a beautiful kid. Mr Gold couldn't even begin to state all aspects he adored and took pride in his son.

"28 eight years," He mused silently, suddenly taking pity in what she had said. It wasn't exactly his fault that she'd been taken away, that she'd been torn out of her father's hands so many years ago. But he had created and passed on the curse, and planned for most of this to happen, so it was only natural that next to pity he felt guilt. But pushing his feelings aside, he drummed his fingers against the arm of the chair and glanced up at her. "You're a remarkable woman, Miss Swan."

Eying him curiously when Gold called her "remarkable," Emma scoffed and shook her head. "Yeah, I'm 'remarkable,' alright. I'm 28, have been moving for years since I can't find any roots, and don't even know my own parents. I almost wish Henry was right with his musings, because at least then I would have parents..." Realizing she was rambling, she quickly stopped speaking since she didn't wish Gold to know about her son's theories. She didn't want him whisking Henry off to an insane asylum for believing David and Mary Margaret were her legal kin.

Mr Gold took another pensive stance, thinking back of that night and how young she had looked. How little she had changed. He was seeing and reliving it all again. "What would you do if you found the father was still alive? Would you tell Henry?" He hoped not for he didn't want Henry to know his father wasn't the hero he'd been told of but the villain everyone in town feared.

Surprised by Gold's question, Emma cleared her throat and shrugged. "Well...that honestly depends on who the father is. If he's a good, decent, kind-hearted man, then yes, I'll have no qualms with telling Henry I was mistaken about his death. But if he's as greasy and undesirable as most of the men I took to bed, then no, I'd rather keep him safe from such corruption." Eying him suspiciously, she demanded, "Why, do you have some magical time machine that can take me back to find out? You almost sound like you have an idea, and that admittedly makes me nervous... I mean, maybe deep-down I don't want to know who the father is."

When she uttered those words, "You almost sound like you have an idea", Mr Gold gave his most famous I-know-the-truth-and-won't-tell-you-yet smirk he had shown so many times before. The smirk he had when Regina accused him of the adoption of Henry not being an accident, the smirk when he played all the cards straight into his hands and was the only one who knew how things really were.

He knew.

With his brown eyes, darker than usual due to conflicting emotions inside of him, set on her he licked his lips. "I think it might be better you don't. But some day young Henry might learn and you'll need to have him forgive you for lying."

Emma furrowed her brows. "Why do you say that? I was this close to telling him I goofed, but I just...I saw the twinkle in his eyes, and I knew I couldn't disappoint him. I've already done enough of that to last the poor kid two lifetimes, so is it really that awful to lie about his parentage?" Pausing, she added, "Henry's a really smart kid - I'm worried that he will find out someday, and if he does, I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to understand why I did what I did. I don't know if it's best to tell him now before the lie gets too out of hand, or if I should just take my chances and pray that he never finds out."

"And if he did?" Mr Gold said. "I'm certain he'll understand... eventually."

Emma groaned and raked her fingers through her hair. "You make it sound so easy! I almost envy you since you don't have this responsibility, but somehow, well, I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world. I've really grown to love that kid."

Pacing back and forth, Emma breathed deeply before remarking, "By the way, I sure I'm not getting billed for this, Dr. Gold..." Although it was meant to be a joke, she somehow couldn't bring herself to smile. She was far too heartbroken over the hell she'd single-handedly put Henry through. He didn't ask to be born, so it was her job to make his life stable, again.

"Well, consider the payment..." Mr Gold's smile faded when he saw the expression on Emma's face and became more timid again. He knew he shouldn't tease the young woman at a time like this. Although it could be the perfect remedy for her mood and sadness it could also be taken wrong by her. And judging her former reactions Mr Gold didn't want to risk upsetting the girl even more. He folded his hands in front of him. "Emma," He said, thinking he'd better stop rambling incessantly about the boy. He wanted to continue their talk to see if he could get her to remember or realize who he was but he knew they should be calling it a day. She was still wearing her coat and ready to leave, after all.

"If you don't wish to find out it might be for the better. The truth can stay hidden for now. I will no longer detain you."

He got up from his chair and limped over to the side of the shop where he held a key on a chord. He pocketed it and limped closer to her, indicating he was on his way to the door and intended to leave for home. It was getting late and outside the rain came down in sheets. Storybrooke's weather probably had picked up his mood for once as he felt close to tears- had he not been infected for so long by the Dark One it would have showed. His face was kind, gentle, as he smiled at her and placed his hand on the doorknob.

"Shop's gonna close." He said with a smile.

Hearing the somber tone to Gold's voice, Emma knew that it was time for her to leave. She felt a little embarrassed, because she should've known better than to impose on someone when her son was none of his concern. And worse yet, she'd imposed on Gold , the one man who controlled everything in the town. Would he somehow use this newfound knowledge against her? Trying her best to appear nonchalant, Emma turned to face Gold and nodded. "Yeah, um...you're right, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to throw all this on you or damper your mood, so just pretend it never happened. I'd rather forget it did, after all."

As she followed Gold to the door, she took note of the weather and groaned. Growing up, she'd actually liked the rain - loved it, in fact - yet she was definitely in no mood to go dancing in the rain on a night like this. She'd given up such follies years ago, because she'd only been able to act so childlike and carefree when she had hope . Once she'd realized that she was, indeed alone, and that she'd never actually know her birth parents, she'd become sullen, defiant, and angry. As far as she was concerned, she'd never dance again.

Pushing past Gold to indicate she wouldn't be wasting any more of his time, Emma stepped out into the pouring rain and tilted her head up toward the heavens. The sky was dark and angry, yet the droplets felt soft and serene against her face. Sensing Gold behind her, she softly apologized, "Again, I'm real sorry about all this... For what it's worth, I appreciate your listening and offering to help. If I actually do decide to fight for Henry's custody, I...I'll contact you."

Mr Gold's wry and painful smile indicated that whatever Emma would chose he would help her if she needed, but he was still hiding something. The rain touched his head and the raindrops got stuck in his hair, as if to adorn him. He didn't flinch despite the rain was pelting down on him, and didn't seek shelter. The ground became slippery and if he were to take a step his cane had to be put firmly on the pavement or he could risk slipping.

"Thank you for your faith. I'll trust you do that, Miss Swan." They were out and about so he used her surname in case anyone would be nearby and overhear them. Yet he couldn't help whisper to it "Emma."

He smiled and started on his way home, favoring Emma with one last look and giving her an arch smile.

His evening was spent pondering and his night disturbed by unpleasant dreams of the child being taken away and Emma denying him to see his son ever again. Their son. When he woke up it was only one o'clock in the morning and he was covered in sweat, soaked. His hands were placed behind him, his chest uncovered for he only wore his baggy pants*, his breath was short and his brown hair was sticking to his forehead. With eyes wide he realized it had only been a dream and as he placed himself down he started making plans to avoid such a situation to become reality.

Mr Gold wondered in silence if Emma truly didn't recall him and their night spent. And if she did, would she be bothered now? Or would she have slept with no trouble and haunting demons of her past to awaken her like his demons had awakened him? As he lay on his side and stared into the darkness he regretted for a moment the man he was. If he'd been different he would not have been able to trick the queen and get Emma pregnant. He would not have had Henry in this world. But it was the reluctance and attitude of the boy whenever seeing him that made him regret the man he was. Not the fire fighter Emma had told their son to be, not a good soul either. Should he actually regret anything at all?

Morning arrived all of a sudden, for he'd fallen asleep again and awake by the sound of his alarm and groaned at seeing the time. After a rushed shower and breakfast he hastened to his shop to open it and settled himself behind the counter with a cup coffee to start the day. Or at least, to drink his sorrow away. He didn't mind mixing it up with a little alcohol (man, he needed something strong that day because he'd been in hell all night. He needed the strength and energy to plot and plan and make deals).


*Golden speedos it should be, according to Mr Carlyle on twitter.