The Wild Princess

His sources were getting worried about her. Having said that, his sources were always worried about her.

At first, it was the bronchitis she earned from spending the first night of her life on the side of a highway. His sources told him she would not survive the infection at such an early age, but he hardly worried. If her parents were anything to go by, he knew she would be a fighter. He was right.

Having fought off the bronchitis, she was put into foster care, and his sources grew worried again. She was an orphan, they said, and now she would never even know the comfort of a lifelong adoptive family. Instead, she would be passed from household to household, unable to settle down, unable to sprout roots. They said it was not healthy for a child her age, but he knew it would only make her stronger. Again, he was right.

As she grew older, it seemed he was suddenly getting calls on a weekly basis. She's changed families for the third time this month, or She's gotten into a fight at school, or She's tried to run away… again. Nevertheless, he kept his faith in her.

But then she left foster care. She was eighteen and free for the first time in her life. And, for the first time in his life, he had reason to be worried about her. After she left, it took his sources three weeks to track her down again. When they finally found her, she was over two thousand miles away, in Phoenix, Arizona. What brought her to Phoenix, they could not tell, and the only reason they were able to locate her was because she was briefly admitted to a hospital there. With alcohol poisoning.

Following that particular news, he asked his sources not to let her out of their sights, but the phone calls he began to receive nearly every day afterward only confirmed his suspicions. Seemingly, the freedom had gone to her head. Everything she did not get the chance to experience while she was in foster care, she wanted to experience now, but it was too much in too short a time. They said they feared she would not live into her twenties if she kept up her current lifestyle. They called her a wild child.

He continued to dismiss their fears as baseless; he continued to keep his faith in her. But when she ended up in the hospital a second time, now due to drug overdose, he decided he had to see the girl for himself. Not that he cared about her. It would have just been a little silly if the saviour partied herself to death. He did not even plan on establishing contact - just wanted to observe her for an evening and decide on the manner in which best to manipulate her to get her life back on track.

A "please" and an airplane flight later, he had arrived in Phoenix. It was 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside and he felt as if the sun was going to bake him inside his ebony-black suit. There were cacti around the airport and decorative palms sprawled their great leaves throughout the city. He suddenly wished he were back in the cold wetness of Storybrooke, Maine. That town may have been a prison, but at least it reminded him somewhat of home. Nevertheless, he decided to suffer through the weather and get on with the job ahead.

His sources had given him the address of a dance club which the girl liked to frequent every Friday night. The club was located in the basement of a respectable hotel in the heart of the city, where he booked himself a room for convenience's sake. After having checked in and deposited his luggage, he had a light dinner, played a few rounds of pool, and at nine o'clock headed down to the club.

The bouncer at the door, a man easily three times his size, looked him up and down, taking in first his suit, then his cane, and finally his age, and then his suit and his cane again, until the latter swiftly pulled a couple of hundred dollar bills from his chest pocket and slipped them into the bouncer's hand. He was then let into the club unhindered.

He stuck out like a sore thumb. A sore thumb in a suit, carrying a cane. People stared. The flashing lights and loud music only lessened his enjoyment of the situation, so he quickly retreated to the bar and ordered himself a dirty martini. Now all there was to do was to wait.

When the girl walked through the door, he recognized her immediately. She looked so much like her mother. All of her but the hair. That was closer in colour to Charming's, and fell about her face and shoulders in soft heavy curls. She was not as beautiful as her mother. Or maybe she was. Just a different, fiercer beauty which made you look twice before you truly saw it. She wore black leggings, black flats, and a short mahogany-red dress with buttons at the front. She wore no makeup, which only accentuated how young she was. Not innocent, but young. She must have used a fake ID to get into the club.

There was a boy on her arm. He saw the boy slip something into her hand and she swallow it enthusiastically. He frowned and sipped at his martini.

She danced with her arms above her head, making him chuckle to himself. Her movements took up so much space that the boy stood to the side, unsure of what to do. In fact, she ditched the boy after a while. Danced by herself for a bit. Then she found another boy and made him buy her a drink. She did not seem to notice the man at the bar with the martini.

This new boy was clingy. He did not let her dance by herself, and was constantly trying to put his hands where he should not. She slid his hands down or up to her waist, half-laughing, though her brows were furrowed. Eventually, she lost patience and pushed the boy away. He did not react well. He grabbed her by the wrists and shook her, while her face grew more and more infuriated. Behind her, her silent observer got up from his stool, his cane gripped firmly in his hands, the snakelike slits which were his eyes fixed firmly on the boy. The boy gave him a wary glance, let go of her, and left. She never realized why.

He sat back down on his barstool, his pulse a little quickened. Why did he do that? To come so close to revealing himself, and for what? He swallowed about a third of his martini.

The night continued in pretty much the same manner. The princess would seduce a boy into buying her a drink, dance with him for a bit, and then send him away and dance by herself. Then five minutes later she would have yet another boy pinned to the wall with her tongue down his throat. Her silent observer developed an intense and inexplicable desire to dismember these boys limb by limb.

The seductress had retreated to the bathroom in one of the escape tactics she used to get rid of a boy. He knew she would be out in a few minutes, so he turned partway back to the bar to finish his martini. Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him. Hot breath on the back of his neck. He turned around, and sure enough there was the princess sitting on the stool beside him.

"May I help you?" he asked in the tone of a person who did not wish to help anyone.

"I should be asking you the same thing, mister," she replied with a cocky smile, "considering you've been staring at me all night."

He made a face like he was about to vehemently deny her accusation, but she intercepted.

"You didn't think I'd notice? I notice everything. But it's alright. I like older men."

He smiled. Smirked, really. If she knew how much older, she surely would not be saying that. "Sorry, dearie, but I'm not interested."

She looked at him shrewdly for a few seconds, then grinned. "You can't lie to me, mister."

But he was not lying, was he? God, she looked so pretty when she smiled.

"Why aren't you dancing?" she asked out of nowhere.

He laughed out loud, then lifted up his cane.

"So why come to a dance club if you aren't gonna dance?"

He pointed at the closest speaker. "I like the music," he said, trying not to cringe.

"Again with the lying!" she cried out, her eyes flashing. Again with the smile, he thought. "I think you're just lonely," she said, and suddenly her hands were holding one of his in his lap. "It's okay. I'm lonely, too."

He hoped she had not noticed his eyes grow wide at the unexpected contact. Her hands were soft and her skin silky, but her grip was firm and genuine. They felt so warm there, her hands in his lap. He couldn't do this - She was too young - She was the saviour, for God's sake! So why did he want her so badly? Belle. She must have reminded him of Belle. Belle was only a few years older than this wild child when he met her. She was selfless, too, and so was the little princess in front of him, what with having protected the underdogs at school from the bullies. Then again, Belle had been so innocent when they first met, but the girl in front of him was far from it. One look into her stormy eyes could tell you she had been through more pain in the first eighteen years of her life than most people had in their entire lifetimes. He could relate to the pain. Belle would never have understood, but she could. He wanted to squeeze her hands and tell her it was alright, that he was destined for greatness, but a boy suddenly showed up at her side, one of the half a dozen nameless boys she had used that night.

"There you are, baby," he said to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

"And I told you to get lost," she snapped without looking up at him.

The boy scowled, but left her alone nevertheless.

"You don't seem that 'lonely' to me," the man beside her accused with a notable bitterness in his voice.

"Why? Because of him? Trust me, he's one of a type who's only good for one thing. He's just a boy. He hasn't learned how to love yet. What I want is a man."

"Give him a few years and he'll be one."

"I don't think I can wait that long," she said pointedly, squeezing his hand. Then, "Are you staying at the hotel?"

"Yes," he replied without thinking. His eyes widened again. Why would he tell her that? But it was too late. She had leaned forward and her lips brushed ever so lightly against his. He sought to kiss her back, but by that that time she had pulled away. She now surveyed him smugly with that smile on her face. He began to protest her teasing him, but suddenly her mouth was against his. He inhaled a lungful of her breath, which tasted like alcohol but was laced with something undeniably sweet. She had caught him off guard, and he felt a hint of anger at her for it, but the anger did not last for now she no longer pulled away and he could kiss her back as much as he wanted. Her hands travelled from his lap to the back of his neck, bringing him closer. His hand, the one not holding the cane, was placed gently on her waist. Her pale hair was draped around his face; it smelled like her, the smell he wished he could drown in. Her lips were soft, but her tongue was softer. She slid off the stool and was suddenly so close he could feel the warmth of her body against his own. She sat down in his lap, straddling him, wrapping her arms around him until he -

"Stop - stop -" he gasped as she kissed his neck. She fixed him with a look of utter disappointment, so hurt, so irresistible. "Not here," he stated firmly.

She moved over him like an angel who had just lost her wings.

When they had first stumbled into the hotel room, he had tried to resist her yet again, saying his leg was lame, he couldn't do it. Then she pushed him back onto the bed and told him to lie very still and not make a move.

And now she moved over him like an angel who had just lost her wings, and he could not make a move if he wanted to.

He did not touch her. He did not want to. Or rather, he did more than anything, but was afraid his touch would spoil her somehow. Or maybe he did not deem himself worthy of touching her.

The lights were off in the room, but there was plenty of moonlight falling through the large window behind her. She was silhouetted in the light; her entire body looked like it was surrounded by a platinum halo. And her hair. Her hair was a silver sea of cascading fire. She looked like a goddamned goddess. The goddess of moonlight.

He was afraid to touch her, but he was always seeking to kiss her. She knew it, of course, and God, did she ever use it against him. Every once in a while, she would fold her body over his and let him drown in the sea of her sweet-smelling silver hair. Her lips would collide with his so softly he could hardly feel them, and when he would raise his head to catch them, she would pull away with the grace of a tree straightening out after a gust of wind. She would look down at him then, smiling, so self-satisfied, and he would scowl up at her. So she would laugh and come back down and kiss him on the mouth and then everywhere else.

In the mess of their lust and passion, he had not thought about using protection until it was far too late. Only after the deed was done and they lay quietly side by side did the thought cross his mind. Nevertheless, he knew the chances were low. Besides, if she needed him to wear protection, she would have asked him to. She must have been on the pill. Of course, that had to be it.

She lay on her side, turned away from him. There was a few inches of distance between them because he was still afraid to get close to her. Her sheet was pulled over her chest, but her back was exposed down to the small of it. Her skin looked smooth as a rose petal and was almost luminescent in the moonlight. He wanted to run his fingers up and down her spine, make her shudder in pleasure at the roughness of his touch, but he knew he could not.

She shivered, and he realized with a reasonable amount of guilt she was cold. Finally, he had a reason to touch her. He pulled himself up to her side, feeling her chilly legs collide with his warm ones, then, holding his breath and he did not know why, he gingerly slipped his hand over her waist, under her sheet, and pulled her in close. Her back collided with his chest, her skin so terribly cold. He pushed his other hand under her neck and pulled her closer still, until her head was resting on his shoulder. Then he wrapped both arms around her chest and crossed his legs with her frigid ones. She hugged one of his arms to her body. He could not see her face, but he imagined she was smiling.

When he woke up in the morning, she was sleeping with her head on his chest. It was early; the clock on the bedside table read only 7:15 AM. There was no more moonlight now, just warm, soft sunlight peering in through the window. The tranquility and near perfection of the scene forced a wave of panic to wash over him. He made as to get up, but remembered the princess sleeping so peacefully and reproachfully beside him. As carefully as if she were an infant, he slipped out from underneath her and out of bed, supporting her head in his hand for a moment before placing a pillow underneath it. She groaned and stirred slightly, but did not wake.

He went to the window. Smashing his hands onto the sill, he leaned over it, breathing heavily. What had he done? He felt cold beads of sweat begin to form across his forehead as he thought about the consequences of his weakness in the face of temptation. What a coward, he thought, too afraid to say no, too afraid to hurt Her Highness. And now ten years later when fate would bring her to Storybrooke, he would have to leave. If she saw him there, if she recognized him, her illusion of free will would be broken, and she would never break the curse unless she knew she had a choice not to. The mistake was his, and now so was the price to pay.

He closed the blinds so the light would not wake her. He dressed in the twilight, picking up his clothes from around the room. He could not find his tie. He searched under the sheets on the bed for it, and his hand landed on her pair of underwear. Silly, frilly little thing. He bunched it up into his fist and smelled it, then stuffed it into his chest pocket. He decided to forget about his tie. He turned toward the door.

Pausing in the doorway, he looked back at her for a moment. She was still asleep, not knowing who he was, never to find out. He realized then this was the last time he would ever see her, and that thought felt like torture to him, though he did not know why. He walked back from the door and approached the bed one final time. He bent over her and brushed the blond hair from her eyes. Then he kissed her lips.

"Goodbye, little princess," he whispered.

She smiled in her sleep.

He left.

Three months later, his sources told him she was pregnant. He must have sat in speechless horror for a good ten minutes after being told. Of all the things he had done to the poor girl, the last thing he wanted to do was burden her with a child. There was one good news in that phone call, however. It appeared she did not know who the father was. Or rather, she knew who he was and the night she got pregnant, but she had been so intoxicated, she did not remember what he looked like. That information made him happier than he dared to admit. He would see her again after all. In fact, when she and the child arrived ten years from now, he may even become close to them. Then someday he could find it in himself to tell her the truth, and she may even forgive him. And then he might have a family again.

Her pregnancy also answered a mystery which began puzzling his sources and he shortly after the encounter at the dance club. Exactly three weeks following their night together, she suddenly stopped visiting the club. His sources were reasonably panicked by her inexplicable vanishing off the grid. It took them two weeks to locate her again, and to everyone's surprise, they found her working at a local diner. She looked happy and healthy, they told him. He liked to imagine it was something he said or done to her that made her want to get her life back together, but he knew better. It was evident now he knew nothing at all.

During the time of her pregnancy, she truly did become more responsible. She worked a steady job, began renting an apartment in a respectable part of the city, and quit the drugs and alcohol. He was proud of her, to say the least, and there was a certain energy to his step as he walked around town. But then she got into a spot of trouble. He knew it was not her fault. The crime was minor and the jail time insignificant. The problem was she was due to deliver that same month.

He learned she had given birth in prison to a healthy baby boy. Then he learned the baby was put up for adoption.

He never thought he would be so devastated by the prospect of never getting to know his son. He genuinely considered adopting the boy himself, but he knew he could not. Such an uncharacteristic act was sure to raise suspicion from Her Majesty.

He had to admit Regina was the one to thank for the answer which finally came to him. Ever since the curse was enacted, he could see she was not happy in Storybrooke. Not even seeing all her most hated enemies in eternal misery could fill the void of loneliness inside her heart. She would never admit it, but he knew. He teased her a few weeks earlier, telling her she should adopt a child and then she would have somebody new to abuse. She laughed it off, but he could see in her eyes the idea had made an impact.

He now came to her with a deal and an offer to obtain her the boy. Take it or leave it, he said. She stared at him hatefully for a few seconds, then broke. Of course she would have the boy.

He was good with legal trivialities, always had been, so arranging the adoption was hardly a challenge. He only saw the boy once before he disappeared into Regina's clutches, and the worst part was he could not even risk showing him a spot of affection. Undeniably, he felt guilty about sending him into the dragon's den. He knew the boy would not grow up happy. However, he also knew that when his mother would arrive and find out Regina had him, her animosity toward Regina would be instantaneous. Besides, he would always be close. He could keep Regina in check if she got out of hand toward him. Secretly, he would always be there to protect him.

As Henry grew older, he developed a fantastic imagination, but he was a little lost for meaning living with a "mother" like his. His father chose to take advantage of one and provide the other when he sold the storybook to Mary Margaret. The boy figured it all out so quickly. He even realized the Emma in his book was his true mother. And when he found her and brought her to Storybrooke, even his father was impressed beyond words.

She looked twice as fiercely beautiful as she did when he first met her, and just as wild. He made sure she did not catch him staring at her when she smiled. It was evident when they met the second time she truly did not remember who he was. A part of him was thankful; a part of him wished she did.

Now he would watch them walk through town together. His family, so unattainable. They never saw him watching them from the other side of the road. They looked so happy. He wished he could be happy with them. He wished he could take Henry for a hike in the forest, show him how to fish. But most of all he wished he could carry through his revenge on the wild princess, make her pay for the night she had given him all those years ago. He wanted her to lie on the bed, unable to move, while he did whatever he pleased to her. He wanted to be the one to come in as if to kiss her but pull away at the last moment, so that her stormy eyes would fill with longing and then he could kiss her on the mouth and then everywhere else. He wanted to be able to taste her, to smell her again. He wanted a new pair of panties for his collection. The old he still kept in a box hidden deep, deep inside his house.

More than anything, though, Mr. Gold wanted to be able to tell Emma Swan he loved her, and hope only that she would not kill him.