A/N: First, I've got to ask: How awesome is season two?

Second, I apologize for how insane and confusing this story has become. I currently have a sequel outlined and ready to go, I just have to find the time to sit down and start writing. In the next story, I've decided to focus solely on Emma and her point of view. I find when reading a book, I enjoy third person limited. Somehow I've started switching almost constantly from limited to omniscient. Whoops.

And lastly, I'm fully aware that my absence from this site may have sent even the most dedicated of readers on a quest to find a much bigger and better OUAT fic, but to any and all who are (and still) taking a look, thank you. If you're feeling review-y, please let me know what you think.

My secret side I keep hid under lock and key
I keep it caged, but I can't control it
Cause if I let him out he'll tear me up, break me down
Why won't somebody come and save me from this, make it end?

(Skillet, Monster)

The Serpent: All That Glitters

Goosebumps trailed up and down both arms in the blink of an eye. The room's atmosphere suddenly felt twice as dense, weighing down on a pair of strong shoulders that belonged to a crouched figure. Melting chocolate orbs widened in shock before slowly hardening to muddy ice, stomach rolling with the growing sensation of heat; fists clenched tight, knuckles abruptly paling, mind spinning in a whirlwind of colorful anger, right leg screaming in protest as he snatched up his idle cane, made to stand and face the young accuser—the savior's son. The Mayor's son. Henry Mills. Henry Swan. Emma Swan. Regina Mills. The names meant everything and nothing, serving major and minor purposes in the deals he struck with their owners, though important nonetheless. Names were his specialty.

But this boy—this boy he knew.

Gold swallowed hard several times, lips parting to speak.

Light from the nearest lamp began flickering violently out of control, antiques on every surface rattling faintly in their rightful places. Henry glanced between the various shaking light sources and treasures, frowning. Mr. Gold gazed skyward at the ceiling upon hearing the high, continuous squeal of wind, vibrating wooden boards leading his eyes all the way to the front of the pawn shop, sliding down over the lightly tinkling bell to the front door. The Mayor's son looked to the pawnbroker as shadows danced across the walls, focused hazel orbs upon fallen leaves skittering noisily across concrete pavement—something that had also intrigued Gold. In near silence—cane barely the ghost of a whisper against the floor—the shop's owner limped stiffly past Henry to get a better view. Brows drawn tightly together, the pawnbroker's outstretched hand gripped the handle, twisted. Met gusty wind that practically blew the door in. A tiny form slipped by into the darkness, spied stormy clouds overhead, hair and jacket blowing wildly as he stood, confused and awed under a flickering lamppost.

Mr. Gold tugged at the door until it clicked closed. He pushed away from the handle, gaze locked on a point above the form's head. "It's here . . ."

But the boy wasn't listening. "The curse," he mumbled quietly, realization ripped from parted lips by an unforgiving gust of wind. Henry turned to face Gold, excitement plastered across his face. "It's broken!"

The pawnbroker shook his head, impatiently brushing hair from his face. "No," he replied hastily. Gold gestured with a general wave of his hand to their surroundings, eagerly scanning the distance, calmly watching debris tumble towards him. Henry watched the pawnbroker step only just hesitantly in his direction, silently taking note of Mr. Gold's thoughtful expression. "This—this is no curse."

"Then what is it?"

He had felt it when he first touched the door handle. Electricity had shot up his arm at the contact, infusing his body with it. So long had they lived without it, so long had he thought he'd never be able to use it again, so long had he hoped he could. And now it was here. He hadn't the faintest clue why, but at that moment, nothing mattered more than its presence. Nothing mattered more than vengeance that was long overdue.

The pawnbroker stepped back into the shadows, pulling Emma's son with him.

"I don't know," he lied.

A shower of sparks and the lamppost exploded, sprinkling down like fiery rain where they had just been standing. One corner of Gold's mouth twitched up into a smile.

Henry, who flinched, didn't see.

She was in the woods again.

Running, running as fast as she could. Emma sprinted in the comfort of her boots this time, pursuing the dark shadow flitting between tree trunks. High–pitched giggling flooded both her mind and ears, driving her mad, breathing heavy, labored. Here, she was stripped of all power; here, he made the rules, controlled the ending. Being Sheriff of Storybrooke never made the slightest difference in the outcome of her recurring dream. Emma knew it well.

He ran, she ran.

The devilish being had Henry, her parents she hadn't been able to track down. They were trapped—would still be if Emma didn't catch the perpetrator. In her haste, branches snapped, rocks and other obstacles kicked and shoved aside. The closer she got, the longer it took to dodge trees and clamber over conviently–placed boulders and logs. Not a single drop of heroic blood ran in her veins, but she'd be damned if she sat by idly and watched them die. Yet Emma knew the ending, had lived it enough times to know that no matter what she did differently, he would always claim victory.

She ran, he ran.

White, blinding lightning flashed before her eyes, struck the boulder barely five feet from her. Emma skidded to a halt, autumn leaves crunching underfoot. Nestled safely in the gray material and obviously waiting for her was a brilliant sword, radiating with power. She recognized the design in an instant. Grabbing the glowing hilt without a second's thought, Emma yanked the weapon from the stone, preparing to bolt through the forest.

Yet when she raised her eyes, they fell upon the patient face of Mr. Gold instead, barely two inches away.

Emma jerked violently awake, succeeding in knocking the back of her head against the desk lamp in her office. It crashed to the floor, all light vanishing from the room, and the Sheriff cursed, realizing the phone had started to ring. Mumbling a few more choice words, Emma applied pressure to her head with one hand, answering the phone with the other, eyelids falling over sleepy orbs.

"Hello?" she grumbled.

"Emma, listen to me," a voice said firmly. "I don't have time to explain, but you have to do something now, before it's too late—"

"August, I'm not going on a date with you," Emma replied in a huff.

"What?" he asked, briefly distracted. "No, that's not what I meant," the writer continued in a rush. Emma heard him release a frustrated sigh. "Mr. Gold has Henry."

In the blink of an eye, Emma sat up, focused, any and all pain forgotten. The Sheriff glanced through the partially–closed blinds to see swirling clouds and watched ferocious winds tearing telephone pole wires free, sparks showering the main road, which was almost entirely covered with debris. The wires jumped like striking snakes, dangling in the air. "Where?"

"I'm here at the shop. Don't worry, he can't see me. Our plan was interrupted."

"What do you mean, 'we'? You aren't part of this!"

"As much as you think I'm not," said August, "I am. Henry told me about the box, Emma. He told me everything."

A small frown had appeared on her face, and it only deepened with this news. Then a serious, confident look overtook Emma's features, and she mercilessly ripped a ring of keys from her belt, setting the cord phone aside. Thumbing through the collection, the Sheriff found the one she had been looking for and opened the tall metal cabinet behind her desk. In less than sixty seconds, Emma was loading shells into a shotgun, flipping it expertly closed, holding the weapon as if she had a million times since becoming Sheriff of Storybrooke.

"Don't," the writer warned, catching on even from blocks away. "You can't kill him."

"Who said anything about killing?" Emma replied, phone back at her ear. "I'm tired of playing games. I have questions, he has answers. If he wants to retain use of his other leg, he'll tell me what I want to know."

"Emma, wait—"

But she didn't wait. The Sheriff put the phone back on the hook and stormed out of the station. After a moment's hesitation, Emma set off in the opposite direction of the pawnshop.

Within five minutes, her bright yellow Bug was parked in the back alley behind Gold's shop. She figured August must have still been inside, waiting for her or to make a move to save Henry. Emma kicked herself mentally for not waiting—as August had so kindly requested—because how could she know what sort of situation she'd be swooping in on? Despite distrusting him, the Sheriff had learned enough about Gold to know he wasn't a serial killer. Or a kidnapper. So of course he wouldn't hurt Henry, regardless of the circumstances.

Besides, where could he go? As far as she'd noticed, nobody visited Storybrooke, and nobody left it.

Emma closed the driver's side door as soundlessly as possible, eyes shifting nervously to the back door of the pawnshop. Gold tended to sneak up on her when she least expected it, and even now, she wouldn't put it past him to do just that. The man unnerved her; some times more than others. Yet she had been unable to get used to the feeling, no matter the amount of visits, calls, and brief late–night dinners. He could project everything he felt just by a glance in her direction, though those looks were rare, if not extinct. A monster, a man—it didn't make the slightest difference. He was Gold, a pawnbroker, a weaver of words. Under his spell, he could make her believe anything. Trust anyone.

The Sheriff, shotgun in hand, gripped the weapon until she was sure it would crumble to pieces. Maybe August had overreacted. Maybe this was a mistake. One wrong move, one wrong accusation, and Henry could be scarred for life. Emma didn't want that. For anything in the world, she didn't want Henry to be afraid of her. Her job had never been much in the way of life–threatening, and she couldn't afford for it to starting being that way now.

Fumbling, fumbling, fumbling to open the door. To open the case. To hold the sword steady. Struggling, warring, debating on whether to leave the gun behind.

Jumping when a hand came to rest, warm and foreign, on her shoulder. She whirled and brought the blade up to meet warm flesh below a strong jaw. Burning, revenge–seeking hazel orbs finding the familiar face.

Which happened to be smiling. "It suits you," was all he said.

Away went her storm of uncertainty and whirlwind of confusion, and in came the gentle breeze of calm reckoning. She released a breathless sigh, lowering her weapon without hesitation. "Where is he?"

There was no need for specification. "Around front."

"And Gold? Why does he have Henry?"

August extended his hand, palm outward, facing her. Asking her without asking to remain calm. "We don't have any more time to waste. You're going to have to trust me on this, Emma, whether you like it or not." The writer held out his other hand, which had balled into a fist. He gazed at her for confirmation she was ready and waiting. She had eyes only for his hand. Slowly, surely, he uncurled his fingers to reveal what Emma had waited and searched for ever since Gold's drunken escapade:

An elegant silver key.

"If the curse isn't broken, then . . . how do you remember?"

Gold half–smiled, meeting the young boy's gaze. "Your mother was quite gracious to me in the other land—not that she had any choice, of course. She granted me a good life here and my memories, and in exchange, she got what she wanted." He lifted one hand and shrugged as if the fact made little difference. As if it had always been meant to happen.

Henry frowned and took a slow step backward. "It was you." Emma's son shook his head in disgust. "This whole time, you were the one who gave her the curse. Everyone here doesn't remember who they really are because of you! My mom, Emma, Archie—everyone thought I was crazy, and it's all your fault!"

The pawnbroker lifted a finger. "All magic comes with a price."

"But I was right," Henry pointed out. "Fairytales aren't just kid stories, they're real. Every character in my book really exists. Magic. Is. Real."

"Ah, yes, but what use is it if no one believes you, my dear boy?" Gold countered. "Did you really expect them to? Especially our newly–appointed Sheriff, who has no faith in your stories of happy endings and enchanted castles. Emma must see something, Henry, before she can believe in it. Otherwise, we'll be here, as we have been, forever. Time shall move, but the town will remain, the people never aging. Storybrooke, cursed." Magic alive.

"But I believe, and you believe. And that makes it real."

Mr. Gold opened his mouth to respond, but he didn't get the chance. Cold steel kissed the skin of his neck, and the pawnbroker suppressed a shiver, turning his head ever so slightly to catch a flash of blonde hair. "You know, I think my kid's right, Gold. And I think it's about time you shared some of that insightful knowledge with the rest of us." To emphasize her seriousness, Emma pressed the blade a little deeper. He couldn't prevent the chuckle from building up in his chest and bursting forth into the air. He could feel her confused glare on his back.

Gold turned calmly, slowly, to face her, sword resting against the side of his neck. He smiled. "It suits you, my dear," he practically whispered, lifting a finger to trace the outline of the blade.

Emma slapped his hand away. "This isn't a game anymore, Gold. You've wasted enough of my time. Leave Henry alone or—"

"Or you'll what? Sword me to death? Please," the pawnbroker scoffed. He gestured to Henry. "I've done nothing to your boy, Ms. Swan. I hope you realize that. You could have saved yourself the trouble of bringing backup. I'm just one man, after all."

Henry frowned. "Backup?"

"But it's no matter," Gold continued, smile a mile wide. He held up a hand and snapped his fingers.

All at once, Emma's world crashed down around her as Henry was flung against one of the shop's windows and pinned there by some invisible force. He called for her once and she moved to help, but Mr. Gold shoved out an arm to block her, and from around the side of the pawnshop, the Sheriff was forced to watch as August seemed to glide through the air before slamming into the display window next to Henry, arms and legs pinned in the same fashion. Emma had just demanded Gold let them go when he snapped his fingers again. Both Henry and August fell into a soundless sleep, heads lolling to the side, eyes closed. The Sheriff called their names several times, and when she received no response, Emma took a step back and cast her sword aside, anger boiling deep within the pit of her stomach.

Gold heard the steel skitter across the concrete sidewalk, but took his sweet time facing Emma again. "Ms. Swan," he drawled finally, meeting her flaming glare fearlessly, mouth twitching up at one corner. She knew he was in control and could nothing to change that. "I believe we have some unfinished business to discuss."

At first, the pawnbroker thought he was seeing things, but he kept his eyes on her as a smile of her own gradually conquered her features. "I agree."

All at once, Gold's world crashed down around him as Emma produced a second weapon from her belt. Jagged and curved, she gripped it tight and held it at the perfect angle for him to read the engravement along its length. He didn't need the light of the sun or to even read the carved word. Because he already knew what word—what name—had been engraved there long, long ago: