Desperate Souls

Chapter 2: Fragmentation

The Call

As they walked off, poor Henry practically being dragged due to her hurry to get away, Emma swore she felt Gold's eyes burning into their backs. It was enough to make her shudder, but when her son asked what was wrong, she insisted she was merely cold.

After dropping Henry off at Regina's, Emma felt the only place to logically go was her own home. She was in need of some serious TLC with a bubble bath, because after dealing with the stress-inducing Mr. Gold, simple relaxation was never enough.

Entering the apartment with a sigh, Mary Margaret looked up from peeling potatoes and arched a brow. "Everything alright? You seem...tense."

"Yeah, yeah, peachy keen," Emma grumbled. She started to head towards her room, only to stop short and linger with uncertainty. After a few more moments of warring with herself, the woman sighed and turned back to face her friend. "Mary Margaret, could I talk to you about something?"

Looking up from her task in surprise, she nodded and agreed, "Well yes, of course... What's wrong, Emma?"

"I'm not even sure yet," she confessed, raking a hand through her hair as she came over to the kitchen counter and had a seat. "The truth is, I've gotten myself in a little rut, and I'm not sure if I can get out of it... It's kind of political, if you get my drift."

Mary Margaret winced. "Oh, no...you're not talking about Regina and Gold, are you?"

"Give the woman in paisley a prize," Emma muttered, absently running her fingers along the countertop. "I am so screwed... Gold actually offered to help me get custody of Henry, but you know Regina would make my life a living hell for even thinking of it..."

"Wait, what? You can't be serious!" Mary Margaret exclaimed. "I mean, isn't Gold the one who nearly sabotaged your campaign? Emma, you can't trust that man!"

"Believe me, I don't , but right now? ...I kind of feel he's my only hope."

Making a face of displeasure, Mary Margaret shook her head and began chopping the potatoes a little more fiercely than necessary. After a moment's pause, she suggested, "Perhaps we could...um...invite him over for dinner to discuss?"

If Emma had had a drink in her mouth, she would've done a spit-take. " What ? Oh Mary, you can't be serious... I can barely stand being around him when I have to be!"

"Well...neither can I, truthfully, but if you really plan on going through with this whole custody battle, I want to assess what Gold has to say. I think three heads are better than one, in this case," Mary Margaret insisted. "That way, he won't be able to pull one of his little stunts with both of us watching."

Emma sighed. "Mare, I don't know..."

"Go get the phone."

Inwardly smirking at her friend's motherly tone, the blonde gave a defeated, "Very well," and rose from her perch. She stood in front of the phone for at least a good minute, her unease evident as she sent Mary Margaret a pleading look. "Do I have to do this?"

The teacher frowned. "Yes! You're the one who wants to get involved in this mess, so you have to be the one to invite him over! Stop being such a child!"

Scowling (and ironically looking even more child-like), Emma begrudgingly picked up the phone and dialed the number to the pawn shop (did Gold ever even leave that damned place?). After a few rings, she heard him answer and instantly felt sick to her stomach. Pressing her forehead against the wall, she miserably asked, "Gold? Um...are you...are you busy this evening? Because Mary Margaret accidentally made extra food, and...yeah. I guess I'm saying there's room for one more?"

'Please kill me now,' she internally begged.

Mr Gold was surprised when the phone rang and called him away from his valuations. With the items placed aside, an old clock and a few other curious antiques, he limped over to the counter to answer the phone and breathed into it at the sound of Emma's voice. He had expected a lot but not a call from her and for a moment he feared she had recalled the whole 'planned' incident that led to Henry. But alas, she was acting as if her drink had been spiked again for instead of scolding him she invited him over to dinner in a way he could not believe.

"Are you taking the mickey out of me, Miss Swan?" He asked, using her surname for perhaps Mary was there and listening along. He felt like she easily could for she acted a true mother bird around Emma.

If anything her request must be the lowest of all jokes for it was overly clear she had developed a propensity towards him that not even Mr Hopper's therapies could cure. "You mean it?" He said in surprise by hearing Mary's voice piping in the background.

"I'm surprised," He admitted with all due honesty. "And I'd love to accept your offer…" But he changed his mind and bit his lip. For a moment there was silence as he let her believe he were to come. Then he shook his head and the phone made a whooshing sound as he did so, before his lips parted and he found the strength to reply. He loved to go there and visit –dare he say or even think- the grandmother of his son and his own mother-in-law, basically, and the unknowing mother of his child. But he didn't feel like he could take another punch below the girdle and didn't want to cause the object of his desire any more inconvenience by his presence. He pinched his forehead between his fingers.

"But I'm afraid I will have to decline. I wouldn't want to waste your appetite, Miss Swan. Tell your mo-Mary I appreciate her offer. She's the first to actually invite me over for dinner out of kindness and I appreciate that very much."

He closed his eyes and leant his arms on the counter. Why was it so hard to be good? To hell with it, he should just accept!

Luckily Mary, on the other side, bumped Emma aside and spoke into the phone (though Emma was still holding it). "Then how about tomorrow night?" She gave Emma that motherly daring look that told her she had to agree to the offer and she had to agree now . Mary urged her daughter to repeat her offer albeit Gold had already heard it and smiled.

"Tomorrow evening…" Mr Gold found no excuses and clicked his tongue. "I'll be there."

"Good job." Mary said, her bright eyes sparkling with pride as Emma's and Gold's chat had ended and the phone left a pleasing soft sizzling beep. She was acting like the true match-making mum forcing her daughter to do what was considered 'best'. Her arms wrapped around Emma's shoulders as she hung around her neck with a smile. "See, you can do it. Mr Gold won't be that scary, you'll see. And now you have even a day to prepare for meeting him."

Mary's excited little dance once she let go of Emma told the poor girl enough. "We should have you wear something nice. The green dress perhaps? Or you can borrow my white one."

But what had happened between Gold's answering the phone and Mary Margaret's forcefulness was but a blur, and Emma stood by dumbly listening as the school teacher took full control of the situation. Still holding the phone, she anxiously gnawed on her lip and rubbed her toes against the hardwood floor.

Mr. Gold almost seemed to be toying with them - perhaps he enjoyed the discomfort she was obviously imbuing? - but whatever the reason, Emma nearly screamed from the frustration of it all.

It was at that moment that Mary Margaret insisted she repeat the offer, and Emma gave her friend the best, "You have got to be kidding me" look before doing as she was told. She wasn't sure what it was about Mary Margaret, but she had a commanding air about her that was...well...hard to say no to.

Before she knew it, Gold had agreed to the invitation, and Emma pratically whined when Mary Margaret hung up. Only coming back to reality upon her friend's suggestion, Emma's eyes grew wide as she squeaked, "Are you freaking out of your mind ? Mare, do I honestly look like a woman who dresses up, and for men like Gold , no less? I don't want him getting the wrong idea about this whole affair! I'm trying to get him to help me with Henry, not get him to fall into bed with me!"

Mary Margaret blushed at the mental image, then hurriedly cleared her throat. "I, um...point taken. I understand that you're nervous and upset, but you know it's true what they say: a little bit of dolling yourself up goes a long way. Men are far more interested in listening if you look nice."

"Mary Margaret, you're going to make me puke ." Rubbing at the tension headache forming between her eyes, Emma groaned and moved back over to the kitchen counter. After a moment's hesitation, she finally spat, "Alright, fine ! I'll wear the damn green dress, but I won't wear any jewelry, or fix my hair, or God only knows what else you want me to do."

Mary Margaret tried to hide a smile, but was unsuccessful.

"What, you think this is funny ? I swear to God, I could just throw myself off the Storybrooke bridge!"

"You're being over dramatic," the teacher insisted. "I mean, Gold is just a man , Emma, and according to you, you've encountered all sorts of them."

Emma rolled her eyes. "Well yeah, but those were all men I intended on sharing a room with. This guy's just... impossible ."

"Then we'll have to make an impossibly good meal to distract him," Mary Margaret brightly insisted. "And no, before you ask, I am not poisoning him."

Emma had to laugh. "Aw, c'mon, not even just a little ? I've heard arsenic adds a nice kick to certain dishes."

Shaking her head, Mary Margaret urged, "Why don't you go relax until dinnertime? You have a looong day ahead of you tomorrow, so I'd suggest calming down the best you can."

"Yeah, you're right...Gold can't bug me while I'm sleeping ." With this thought as her primary incentive, Emma disappeared into her room and prepared for a nice little nap.

Oh, how wrong she was. Gold had , in fact bugged her during her dreams (or in this case, nightmares), and the memories had plagued her well into the next day.

"What's wrong?"

Emma sent Mary Margaret a look and shook her head. "Do you really have to ask? It's Doomsday, remember?"

Smiling, her friend assured her, "Of course I remember - I'm in the kitchen preparing for it, aren't I?"

"Ugh, are you sure you can't-?"

"Poison it? No, I can't," Mary Margaret interjected, smirking as she rolled out some dough. "Now as for you , shouldn't you be putting on that pretty green dress?"

Emma groaned and rolled her eyes. "God, you're worse than the mom I never had! I really should've told you no, but I guess it's too late, now..."

"Of course it is, silly! Go get ready!"

"I don't see why you're so damn chipper about all this," Emma muttered, but not loud enough for Mary Margaret to overhear.

Storming into her room like a petulant child, she began to irritably riffle through her closet before finding the only dress she currently owned. Holding it up in front of her gaze, she frowned and shook her head. What in God's name was she thinking ? Wearing a dress was A) uncomfortable as all hell, not who she was in the slightest , and C) not how she wanted to present herself to Gold!

Lips pinched in frustration, Emma grumbled to herself and began to ease out of her normal attire. Gold had damn well better be appreciative, because her blood pressure was surely at an unhealthy level by this point. Living in Storybrooke was gradually becoming the bane of her very existence...

Several minutes later, Emma emerged and winced when Mary Margaret began to dote on her. Swiping the teacher's hands away from her face, she snapped, "Will you quit it? I don't need you fixing my hair!"

"I'm sorry, I...I just wanted to make sure you look your best," Mary Margaret insisted. Now returning to the kitchen, she called over her shoulder, "He should be here any minute, so be prepared to greet him."

Emma scowled. "Now why do I have to greet him? This was your idea, so-"

"He's your guest," Mary Margaret firmly cut in. "I may have come up with the idea, yes, but it's you he's truly here to see, not me."

Breathing deeply through her nose, Emma looked up toward the ceiling and prayed for strength. Could this day be any worse?

Knock. Knock. Knock.

"Emma, I think he's here!"

And, it just got worse.