Desperate Souls

Chapter 2: Fragmentation

Dinner

Anxiously looking to Mary Margaret, Emma winced and moved over to the door.

'Calm down,' she inwardly instructed herself. 'He's just going to be here for a few hours - maybe less - and then he'll be gone.'

With a deep breath, Emma opened the door and tried - key word being tried - to appear pleasant.

The moment she opened the door and he appeared in sight must have been too much to bear for the poor sheriff as she stuttered the most awkward polite line for him to enter.

"Um...hi. Won't you come in?" Cringing at her tone (what was she, an archaic princess?), she stepped aside and motioned him forward with a careless sweep of the arm. He greedily accepted her invitation, and, dressed in one of his neat and expensive suits, he limped into the room.

Although normally an alpha female, Mr Gold's sudden presence on her turf made Emma surprisingly beside herself. She blamed it all on the fact that she was feminine and soft in appearance, so she wasn't able to give off her typical "look at me the wrong way again, and I'll bash your face in" aura. Absently rubbing the back of her neck, she shifted about in discomfort. Goddamn those high heels!

It might have escaped her attention, but at least Mary certainly noticed how smartly dressed the man in front of them actually was. The suit he was wearing was one of his finest, the tie gave it all that little bit extra and his hair was done and combed and styled and everything about him said 'rich guy looking sexy and he knows it'.

Mr Gold spun around, surprising both ladies with his swiftness, and leaned on his cane. "Thank you, Miss Blanchard," He turned to Emma, "Emma,"

Each time he said her name it was done with such delicacy that it clearly showed his desire. Emma's gaze snapped upward. With a forced smile to her lips, she nodded once in reply and resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

Then Mr Gold turned to both again, "Thank you for the invitation" a charming smile on his face, "I'm very grateful."

His eyes slid back to Emma and got glued to her form because the dress she was wearing was showing all her curves in an enticing manner. As she fought against her own free will, Emma finally felt his eyes on her and blanched. What in God's name was he looking at? The man bit his lip and tossed his hair over his shoulder before looking straight at her again, then complimented her. "You look gorgeous, Emma."

Cursing her femininity more than ever, Emma crossed her arms over her bosom with the hopes of ending his scrutiny. Sparing her breasts a glance to make sure everything was in place, she then realized that crossing her arms only enhanced the cleavage and quickly dropped her arms at her sides.

With her eyes now directed at the floor, Emma's cheeks burned with a mixture of shame and repulsion at Gold's words. With a begrudging, "Thanks," she held her tongue since she didn't want to embarrass Mary by starting a verbal assault. What she truly wanted to say was something along the lines of, "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Gimp," but that wasn't exactly "fine dining" appropriate language. The bottom line was she did not like attention on herself, she did not like being "dolled up," and she most certainly didn't like Gold being the one to notice her softer side.

Mr Gold suddenly grew very mirthful.

"I had not expected for you to be all dolled up, dear," And though Mr Gold's words left Emma and were directed at Mary in the next few sentences, his eyes and attention were fully on the blonde in front of him - who was probably ready to puke and certainly if she would have seen the thoughts whirling in his mind.

Oh yes, his eyes were still fixed on Emma's bosom. Only now he realized his hungry predator look might scare and disgust her even more, and tried to move his eyes away but could not help the occasional glance that was given to her.

"Miss Blanchard, I brought a bottle of the finest wine I could find. White, sweet, best fitting to the dish you've prepared."

"Do sit down," Mary said with a bright smile. "We can't have you stand there now, can we?" She accepted his sore leg and the condition it brought him, and helped him point a seat. He took it and with a kind smile sat down.

"Thank you, Miss Blanchard."

"O, do call me Mary." Mary said, and waved her hand through the air like waves. "Mr Gold, we're happy to have you with us."

Mr Gold eyed Emma and raised a brow. "Is that so? I'm very blessed to be invited."

Emma could hear Mary Margaret making small talk with Gold, and that naturally enraged her all the more. How could Mary act like it was so effortless to talk to a troll?

Absently twisting a ring on her finger, her eyes darted sharply toward Gold's when she heard his voice. Did he actually expect her to verify Mary Margaret's words? There's no way in hell she'd say, "Why yes, of course we're happy to have you!" She'd rather French kiss a toad.

Instead, Emma moved to have a seat at the far end of the table, but Mary Margaret surprised her by calling, "Oh no, Em, that's my seat... Would you mind?"

Sending Mary Margaret a scathing look - was this some kind of joke? - Emma irritably nodded and moved to sit in the seat beside Mr. Gold. It was a small, intimate table, so the blonde made sure that absolutely no body parts of theirs were touching. It was a bit of an effort, what with her long legs and all, but she made sure that she was considerably further back from the table than necessary.

With a deep breath, Emma forced a smile to her lips and draped her napkin across her lap. "I, uh...thanks for bringing the wine. Mary Margaret may like to think she's high society, but she has absolutely no taste when it comes to the good stuff."

"I heard that!" the teacher trilled, yet she was smiling as she came over with some wine glasses. Ice water was already on the table, but that was far from being what Emma needed at that moment.

Smiling weakly, Emma began to shred at her napkin (an old nervous habit of hers), only to realize that the napkin was cloth. Dammit.

"So, Mr. Gold, have any interesting new business venues?" Mary Margaret asked, sitting down and pushing her seat forward. Motioning toward the kitchen, she explained, "Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes, so I'm afraid you'll have to put up with our idle chatter first."

Emma mentally screamed, but said nothing. Sensing Mary Margaret's expectant glance, the blonde cleared her throat and added, "Yeah, um...what's it like to have everyone under your thumb 24 7? I've always wondered that... I mean...OW!" Wincing from the swift kick Mary Margaret had delivered, Emma coughed and hurriedly amended, "I-I mean, how can you stand it? I'd go absolutely nuts with all those people to keep track of..."

Mary Margaret appeared slightly at ease, but judging by her pinched lips, Emma was far from being off the hook. At this rate, she wouldn't want to leave her and Gold alone.

Which admittedly was a good thing.

With jittery fingers, Emma reached for her water and added, "I'm sorry, I...I tend to get snarky before I eat." Completely missing the glass, she gave a yelp when the ice water spilled onto the table and completely saturated the tablecloth.

Shit, shit, shit!

"Oh God, Mare, I am so, sorry, I..." Trailing off, Emma was about to ask why Mary Margaret was so pale, but that's when she followed her friend's gaze and realized she'd spilt on Gold's blazer, as well.

"Oh..." Straightening her stance, Emma moved as though she might bend over and sop up the mess, but instead she anxiously handed Mr Gold her napkin and exclaimed, "Er...there you go! Sorry about that... If it helps, the "wet rat" look suits you."

So much for a lovely evening.

Mr Gold looked up in shock at both ladies who seemed to have no intention of helping him. His suit, one of the finest he had, was now spoiled with drink and he looked rather upset because of it. "A wet rat." Mr Gold murmured. "More like a drowned one."

Mr Gold hesitated. "Don't worry, I can get this to the dry cleaner."

Emma coughed into her hand and avoided everyone's gaze. Somehow she felt guilty for behaving the way she had, but instead of apologizing, she weakly offered, "It, um...it was just water. It's not like you were wearing silk, right?"

She honestly had no idea what he was wearing, because she hadn't spared him a second glance until that moment. At least, not a look that was lingering enough to drink in his appearance. But now that they were gazing eye-to-eye, she noticed the bitter resentment in his gaze and fell silent.

Mary took the napkin that had been thrown at him by Emma and gently started to dab Mr Gold's suit. The man looked a bit uncomfortable and quickly took the napkin from her to do it himself. At this, Mary turned to Emma and squinted her eyes, moving her head. She was giving clear silent signals that Emma should at least act instead of just standing there. After all she had caused this.

Mary Margaret's disapproval was naturally enough for the blonde to handle, so with a sigh, Emma rose and began to sop up the water from the now empty chair. Bending over and cleaning more vigorously, she somehow felt she didn't have to worry about him sneaking a peek down her dress... At least, not now that she'd put a considerable damper (no pun intended) on their evening.

He placed the napkin aside and allowed for Mary to help him sit down on a different dry chair. He thanked her silently and fixed his eyes on the table again, though all lust and joy had gone from them.

His brown orbs showed nothing but malice and bitter regret for coming. If he had expected forgiveness or tolerance his expectations had been smashed much like the glass that had watered his suit. He noticed how Emma acted around him with such unalloyed annoyance that telling himself everything would be fine seemed like an optimistic step on the stairway to heaven. If she wanted to play this game dirty he would have to cut her out of his master plan.

He placed his hand on the table, his silver ring reflecting the dim light of the table lamp. Mary looked at her hands now, nervously. Her lip trembled as she was clearly contemplating what to say to save the situation for being a downright disaster. "We are happy you've come, though." She finally said, capturing Mr Gold's attention. He slowly turned his head to face her.

"I guess.. What Emma was trying to say, what I was trying to say," Mary's brown eyes found those of Mr Gold and when she saw the mixture of emotions in them she panicked and took up her own napkin, squeezing it in her hand as she mustered all her courage. "We're so grateful you offered to help Emma with the custody and Henry and we wondered why?"

She gave Emma a helpless look. Dinner hadn't even be served yet and already all was spoiled.

The blonde took the wet cloth and hurried with it to the kitchen, leaving the two behind in silence. Mr Gold let out a throaty sigh and pressed his lips tightly shut. His face turned dark and he grimaced. So this was why he had been called over, he thought embittered. His fingers tensed upon the table.

Discarding the cloth into the sink, Emma listened as she heard Mary Margaret ask if Gold would like some music. The man obviously hadn't replied to her question and Mary obviously did her very best to save the situation. With an anxious look in their direction, the blonde heatedly gestured for her friend to come into the kitchen before Mary finally took notice of her wanted attention.

The minute they were out of earshot, Emma hissed, "What the hell are you doing? It's bad enough you've got me dressed to the nineties, but do you have to add music too? Music is romantic, and this is not a romantic dinner! What if he wants to dance?"

Mary Margaret had to laugh. "Emma, he has a bum leg! Why would he want to dance, and in front of me, no less? No man with the intentions of wooing wants an audience."

"Gee, I feel so much better," Emma sarcastically returned. Taking a deep breath, she added, "I actually do feel pretty bad for spilling that water on him. I hope he knows I didn't mean to. I mean, c'mon, spilling water on the man might lead him to disrobe, and I most certainly do not want that to happen. Not under our roof."

With a wan smile, Mary Margaret threw her hands up in surrender and ushered Emma back toward the table. "Dinner's ready, Mr. Gold, so I'll be back out in a few minutes. Let me know if you want that music - I have all the classics!"

Standing there awkwardly for a few moments, Emma moved over and had a seat beside Gold once more. Sparing him a fleeting glance, she softly asked, "You, um...you ok? I swear I didn't mean to do that - I mean, I know we've had our ups and downs, but I'm not that cruel." She paused. "Usually."

It was this diversion that she used, hoping Gold would relax before they tried to coax the conversation toward the custody battle at a later time. But despite Emma's generous attempts to divert his attention Mr Gold found himself pondering the subject of the custody that would most surely surface at a later point again. He found it had taken his lust for food away as well as the last bit of joy and kindness he had felt.

And even Emma's well-accentuating dress could not bring back his mood now.

The man placed one hand on top of the other as he his eyes desperately sought their host Mary. But she had vanished into the kitchen and was therefore nowhere in sight, leaving him alone with her of all people, the woman who had carried his child and seemed to have forgotten all about him. Not only that, but she clearly despised him enough to ruin his suit and twirl around the subject she had summoned him about. To think he had dressed up so nicely for her, to impress her. As if it had been a possibility. She must have been well drugged that night he had taken her, nine months before Henry was born and his original plan was enacted.

"Spare me your kindness Miss Swan if it is only to agonize me. The purpose of my visit here is now clear to me and there will not be any kind of music, classical or otherwise, that could convince me there's any form of mutual understanding or respect in this room." His eyes shot sharply to her.

For the first time in Gold's presence, Emma found that she was genuinely speechless. She'd often been told that she wore her heart on her sleeve, but were her intentions really that clear? Could he tell she was repulsed by him and his actions? Perhaps it wasn't the man himself she despised, so much as the way he carried himself. It highly bothered her when people acted as though they were entitled to rule over others.

"I thought that I had acted my part well to offer you my goodwill. But to find myself lured into this house to have my dignity shattered and myself made a fool off is not the way I thought you would repay me. I know, Miss Swan, that it must be very hard to think of a reason why I would want to help you gain back your son. But if you keep this act of violence up, against me, I will not be so kind in future times."

Biting the inside of her cheek, Emma sat on her hands and listened to Gold's curtly delivered speech. Eyes flashing, she calmly insisted, "It wasn't my intention to "shatter your dignity," Mr. Gold - surely you can't deny that you've ruined any chance of my trusting you? Everything you've done for me has been built off deceit , and I can't get Henry back that way. I won't get him back that way." Brushing a lock of her hair back from her face, she insisted, "Corruption may be amusing to you, but I'm not going to play into your games again. I want to trust you - I genuinely do - but give me one good reason why I should."

His hands slipped off the table and he reached for his cane, drawing it between his legs as if ready to get up. Emma frowned and crossed her arms. So, he was going to leave. Fine by her - that meant she couldn't be criticized by Mary Margaret for not quitting, because he was the quitter in this case.

"I think you'll be right again, Miss Swan. Next time I act, I'll act out of pure self-centered reasons." His 'what's-in-it-for-me' attitude had been restored just as his cold and cool demeanor. Though at the point he wanted to get up and leave Mary returned with a big smile and a big bowl of food, and he was urged back on his seat.

"You're not leaving, I hope." Mary said with the kindest smile he had ever seen. It rendered him silent.

Realizing that he'd stopped, Emma followed his gaze toward Mary Margaret and forced a smile. "Sorry, Mary, I...tend to have abhorrent table manners, it seems. He's probably the fourth guest I've scared away in my life."

With a wry smile, Mary Margaret set the bowl of food down on the center of the table and returned, "Well, why does that not surprise me? I'm sure you've been giving poor Mr. Gold an earful." She turned to the man in question. "She loves talking a little too much sometimes."

Trying her best not to roll her eyes, Emma mumbled something about the dinner looking "great" before she spared Gold another glance. She momentarily contemplated on touching his hand to get his attention, but since that was a move she deemed far too intimate for her taste, she opted for a soft, "If you'd rather discuss the custody matter with me and only me, I'll understand. Mary's just looking out for me."

Pretending that she hadn't heard this announcement, Mary Margaret smiled and began doling out portions of the meal.

Mr Gold remained silent as Mary made small piles of food upon his plate. He eyed it with a hungry curiosity and silently had to admit that Mary indeed could cook judging by the scents alone. From the corner of his eye he noticed Emma's hand twitch but she made no move and only stuck to that one whisper.

"Miss Blanchard may stay," Mr Gold voiced loudly, "I've the odd feeling it'd be safer if she did." His brown eyes avoided Emma entirely now. What had he expected of such a foolish girl who differed so many years in wisdom as well as age from him. If she had been worthy of his fullest attention and admiration before she now only received the littlest of his consideration.

"Usually people are after me for my money, and I expect this case won't be any different." His mind had become clouded and dark, and all personal intentions he had shoved aside were now pulled back and placed on a pedestal. He gingerly unfolded his napkin and placed it on his lap, then took up his cutlery and placed the fork and knife to rest on the edges of his plate. He folded his hands and commenced in Mary's prayer which was ended by his husky voice wishing them all a good meal as was thought appropriate. He took up the cutlery again and started eating, his appetite only having returned so-so now that he was convinced whatever deal their child involved he would put himself first and not Emma. If she was incapable of even granting him a chance or a single word of kindness, then she wasn't going to be a proper mum to their son.

Mary's mouth gave a subconscious quirk at Mr. Gold's words, for he was completely right. It probably was safer if she stayed. Emma, on the other hand, was not amused. In fact, she was rather appalled by his assumption that she was only interested in speaking to him because of his money. She had half the mind to curse him out for his impertinence, but Mary Margaret sensed this and kicked her under the table.

"It tastes delicious, Miss Blanchard. Really exquisite cuisine." He complimented Mary, smiling kindly at her and giving her his glances while he avoided moving his head into Emma's direction. The vixen might wear a wildly seductive dress but her mouth did nothing to compliment it.

Yet.

Truly, if Mr Gold had the strength and Mary had been absent, and the whole custody battle of their son wouldn't be in the picture he would have changed a few things about Emma's words towards him. The way she used her mouth would have become much more pleasant. But now there were too many risks and to be plain honest about it Mr Gold had feelings for her that had so far kept him from doing anything cruel to her. He wasn't sure how long his restraint would last until she'd snap that too, but he did not intend to be a villain who committed downgraded crimes such as rape or selfish murder.

Not often anyway.

Everything he'd done so far had been calculated gentleman-like crimes he could get away with and he would benefit of. Having Miss Swan work against him would be a great mistake for he needed her to get his son back.

He folded his hands as he munched on some green vegetables. His brown eyes drifted back to Mary as he watched her eat. The room had become silent.

With a fierce "Will you quit that?" expression, Emma irritably retracted her sore leg and motioned to Mary with her hand. "Wine, please."

"Hmm? Oh, of course... I'm such a terrible hostess sometimes!" Wiping her hands onto her apron, Mary Margaret rose and poured everyone a glass.

Now raising her glassware, Emma smirked and announced, "Here's to not spilling wine on Gold's blazer," then promptly downed it in three gulps.