"Tell me her name dearie!" Rumpelstiltkin's voice called out to their backs as the way, his voice tainted with a little desperation.
"Tell me!" He demanded. "Or maybe… should I ask the child myself?"
Snow White paused in confusion.
There was a sudden strangely muffled popping sound from Rumpelstiltskin's cell. They spun around, Prince Charming drawing his sword and stepping forward instinctively. Snow let out a gasp when she saw what Rumpelstiltskin had in his grasp. A little girl, maybe three or four years old, with a tumble of blonde curls , clad in pink footed pyjamas. He held the child aloft by a fistful of material at her nape. The child looked about her with a startled expression, as if she had been yanked straight from her bed and the depths of sleep.
"What is your name?" he asked the child.
The child turned her head, caught sight of the green-skinned imp that had magicked her into his cell, and a high-pitched shriek of terror. Rumpelstiltskin winced at the noise.
"My, my dearie, there's no need for that,"
"Let her go!" Snow yelled. She didn't know how he gotten the child or who she was, but no child could be safe in the hands of Rumpelstiltskin. The child's fear was tearing at her heart.
Prince Charming and the warden stepped forward, but Rumpelstiltskin to a step back from the bars and warned them.
"Uh-uh-uh," he scolded in that insane little voice, brandishing the struggling toddler at them, "One more step and this dear little one might have an… accident."
Rumpelstiltskin cackled evilly.
"We wouldn't you to have an accident, would we?" he cooed, speaking now to the child he held at arm's length.
"Boo-oogey man!" cried the little girl, swinging limbs wildly in an attempt to hit him. "Let go! Let go! Let go!"
"Boogey man?" laughed the imp. "What on earth is a boogey man?"
The child paused her frantic attempts to escape, distracted by the unexpected response.
"You're not the Boogey Man?"
"Certainly not," Rumpelstiltskin denied in an incongruously charming tone. "I," he announced, "am a… magic man."
"Like a wizard?" the girl asked curiously.
Rumplestiltskin stretched his mouth wide in an amused grin.
"Well, yes, I guess I am a little like a wizard," he agreed, shifting the now compliant child to his hip.
The adults outside the cell tensed, uncomfortable at the sight of the Dark One eliciting the trust of a small child, but didn't dare make a move for fear he would harm her.
Snow felt sick watching Rumplestiltskin holding the tiny girl. What was he planning? Would he kill the girl to make her tell him the name of her unborn child? The girl was barely more than a baby… Snow imagined the girl's parents, how terrified they must be to have their precious daughter whisked from her bed in the night. Snow clutched her belly protectively, watching the imp with trepidation, praying under her breath that she would be back safe in her bed.
"Did you use your magic to bring me here?" the child asked, unaware of how dangerous the man that held her was.
"I did! I brought you here to see your Mummy and Daddy!" Rumplestiltskin said and pointed through the bars at Snow White and Prince Charming. The girl looked where he directed, her eyes wide with wonder.
No. Snow froze, her eyes locked on the pair. Surely he was playing some sort of game with them. That could not be her daughter. Her daughter was safe and sound inside her. The baby kicked beneath her hand as if to reassure her.
"But I don't have a Mummy or Daddy," the child's sad little voice whispered to Rumplestiltskin. Snow felt a knife twist in her heart at the loneliness in the child's face.
"Of course you do! Everybody has a Mummy and a Daddy!"
The child shook her head.
"I don't have any," she told him, "they didn't want me. Mrs Connor told me that's why I live with her."
"That's not true! Here they are!" Rumplestiltskin waved his free hand at the royal couple. "And I think they love you very much."
Prince Charming glared at the imp, thinking what a cruelty it was to manipulate the emotions of an orphaned child like she was a pawn on a chessboard. He grasped his sword, just waiting for a moment in which he could dart forward, maybe grab the child - she looked small enough to fit through the bars…
A look of longing passed over the child's face as she looked again at the attractive young couple, but she looked down a shook her head again with certainty.
"Really? I was so certain I had the right little girl. Perhaps I called the wrong name…Child, tell me, what is your name?" he asked again, with a cunning glint in his eye. In a falsely sweet tone, he promised, "Tell us your name, and then we will know if these are you parents."
She cast another side-long glance at Snow and Charming, a little ray of hope shining in her eyes. She whispered something to Rumpelstiltskin. He cackled happily and instructed.
"Say it loudly dear, so they can hear you." His eyes were fixed on Snow White, waiting for reaction.
"My name is Emma," the child called out to them.
Snow felt her face pale and her eyes locked in the child. She felt as if the ground had been ripped from under her, somehow falling from a great height and standing completely still at the same time. Rumpelstiltskin watched her face crumple with glee.
"Emma?" Snow cried out, clutching her pregnant belly, staring at the child her baby would grow into. "Emma!"
Snow darted forward, slamming against the cell door, arms reaching through desperately trying to reach her daughter. Charming ran after, shocked by her speed. The child was shocked by Snow White's reaction for a split second before launched herself towards her.
"Mommy!" the older Emma cried out, little arms reaching out, body half out of Rumpelstiltskin's grasp. "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
"Emma!" Snow brushed her daughter's fingers with one swipe.
Rumpelstiltskin yanked the child back out of Snow White's reach.
"Don't hurt her!" Snow begged, tears streaming down cheeks. "Don't hurt her!"
"Oh, I won't," he promised, holding the again struggling child back easily. "I'm just going to send her back where she belongs."
"Nooo!" Emma cried, still reaching for Snow. "I want to stay!"
"Sorry dearie, you can't do that," Rumpelstiltskin said, "you have to go back now."
Emma sobbed, still reaching for her parents, only a few feet away from her and yet still out of reach.
"This was all just a dream," he told her. "Say goodbye now, you're about to wake up!"
"Mommy! Daddy!" Emma cried, reaching for them, both now reaching back, "I want to stay with you!"
Rumpelstiltskin lifted her into the air. Emma, knowing she was about to be sent back, called out.
"Nooo! Noooo! Don't make me go! I'll come back! I'll find you! I'll – "
There was a flash and then she was gone, and it was only Rumpelstiltskin alone in the cell.
"So it is Emma then?" he smiled wickedly at the Charming and Snow. "What a lovely name."