Fair Trade

Chapter One: Wish

Apologies: Lately I've been dreaming up stories with the need to get them on paper. This story may not be well thought out or well written, but here it is.

Disclaimer: I own nothing!

Emma walked into Granny's after a long day of… well, nothing actually. It was an incredibly quiet day and consisted mostly of driving around, making it look like she was tracking some dangerous criminal.

Have no fear, Storybrooke citizens, Sherriff Swan is on the job and that jaywalking pedestrian will get their just desserts. Emma chuckled to herself as she surveyed the diner.

A group of customers were clustered to one end of the bar, obviously celebrating something. A couple on a date sat at one of the center tables. In a corner booth, Mr. Gold sat contemplating a mug of what looked like tea, stirring occasionally. His face surprised her. It was… sad, for lack of a better word. Emma strode to the counter, ordered a mug of cocoa, and decided to poke a sleeping bear with a stick. After all, it had been a boring day.

"So tell me," Emma startled Mr. Gold. "Who's winning the staring contest, you or the tea?" She sat across from him as he gathered his scattered thoughts enough to focus.

"Miss Swan, what a lovely surprise. I would never have expected you to join me." His cheerful smile came a fraction of a second too late for her to believe it.

"You know, I would never have expected it either considering I never see you in here. What's the occasion?" Emma took a dollop of whip cream from her cocoa with her finger and stuck it in her mouth.

Mr. Gold's eyes dropped to his tea, his smile changing its tone. "Well… today… today is my birthday, Miss Swan." He raised his eyes to hers and she found she couldn't meet his gaze. Today was his birthday, they said. Today he was celebrating alone in a corner of a diner.

Emma suddenly remembered the wish she made on her birthday. "Well, tea is no way to celebrate your birthday." She left her cocoa at the booth and returned to the counter. "Hey Ruby, do you have any cupcakes left, and maybe some candles."

Ruby raised her eyebrows and looked from Emma to Mr. Gold and back again. "Uh… sure, Emma."

Emma returned to the booth with a marble cupcake, a book of matches, and three candles.

"Three candles?" Mr. Gold asked as she stuck them in the cupcake and fumbled with the matchbook.

"Past, Present, and Future." Emma lit each candle and then looked up at him. "Make a wish, Mr. Gold."

His smile was happy and sad at the same time as he carefully blew out the candles. He pulled each candle out of the cupcake slowly, removing the frosting with a finger and setting them on his napkin. Emma almost felt embarrassed to watch. This moment seemed so private for some reason, as if this was the very first birthday cake this man had ever been given. She wondered suddenly if it was.

He interrupted her thoughts almost immediately. "Here." He had divided the cupcake into two pieces and was pushing one towards her on a napkin. If this were a Disney movie he would be rolling a meatball across the plate with his nose. The thought made her smile, as did the cupcake.

"Well, happy…" She raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for him to fill in the blank.

"50th… shhh." He put a finger to his lips with a giddy smile on his face.

"You don't look it at all," Emma whispered loudly.

"I like to think that laughter keeps me young." Mr. Gold smiled again, making her laugh.

"Happy Birthday, Mr. Gold. May you have many more." Emma raised her half-cupcake as if it were a toast. Mr. Gold did the same, and then bit into it, delighted. Emma followed suit and soon only the crumbs were left.

They made small talk until both their drinks were gone. Emma's phone began to ring.

"I expect that Miss Blanchard is wondering what's keeping you, and I should be on my way home as well." Mr. Gold slid to the edge of the booth and stood slowly. "Thank you for a wonderful birthday, Miss Swan. Have a lovely evening." He exited the diner as she answered her phone.

Emma smiled at her empty cocoa mug. It already was a lovely evening.