A/N: This takes place after 'The Return' but before 'The Stranger' and adds a theory that is becoming my head-canon. I hope you all enjoy!
Emma glanced up from the piles of paperwork on her desk to see her slightly frazzled ten year old bounding through the doorway. Her brow furrowed and she sat down her pen, prepared to give Henry her full attention. Usually Henry only came running into her office like that when Regina had done something he was convinced was 'Evil Queen' like.
"What's up, kid?"
Henry skidded to a halt just in front of her, his brown hair wild from the wind and panting heavily, obviously having run there as fast as he could. "There's someone new in Storybrooke!"
Emma's eyes widened. "What?" She may not have given into the whole Storybrooke is cursed thing yet but she certainly knew that strangers to Storybrooke was unheard of and besides the latest mysterious August W. Booth, she was the only one in supposedly ever.
"Yeah!" Henry nodded his head enthusiastically, his brown eyes growing even wider with both worry and excitement, no doubt from having his mother as surprised as he. "He was just at Granny's!
"How do you know he's new?" She knew Storybrooke was a condensed town but it was still rather large and though Henry lived there for his ten years of life, he was a kid and surely didn't know everybody in the town.
Henry then cast a look at his mother. "He's new, trust me. I would have recognized him if he wasn't."
Emma suppressed a sigh, knowing the kid's explanation would be something along the lines of 'he would have been in the book'.
"Alright, so he's new." Emma conceded. "Did he say what he was doing here?"
Henry then bit down on his lip softly as he eyed her warily, hesitating to answer. Emma raised an eyebrow curiously, it was unlike Henry to hesitate in telling her anything especially after he became so excited about something.
"Henry...?" She prompted, alarmed at how motherly her tone became.
"He said..." Henry finally spoke, quietly. "He said he was looking for you."
Emma blinked. "For-for me?" For a moment, panic seized at her heart. Even though she'd only been in Storybrooke for a couple of months, she created a life here, one that, as crazy as it was, surpassed the last twenty-eight years of her life. However, in those twenty-eight years she met a lot of people, a lot of people that she didn't like and more people that didn't like her. It was no secret to anyone that Emma had gotten into trouble a lot and granted, she wasn't in any trouble when she left Boston that didn't mean that trouble couldn't still find her. A list of people started to flash through her mind, people she didn't want people here in Storybrooke to know about, least of all her son.
Henry nodded. "Yeah, he said he was an old friend."
Emma raised an eyebrow. "An old friend...?" Emma didn't have friends, not truly. The only friend Emma could really count as being true was her current roommate, and if she believed in Henry's stories, also didn't count because she was also her mother.
And Emma certainly didn't have any male friends, only ex-boyfriends and they would hardly be considered friends and she didn't think any of them would have the means to track her down to a small town in Maine.
"Did this friend have a name?" Emma inquired.
Henry shrugged. "He wouldn't tell me, said he wanted to talk only to you."
Emma sighed. "Great." She muttered under her breath. Whoever he was was trouble and since he claimed to know her, Emma had a duty to herself, her son and now the town as Sheriff to go talk to him.
"He's at Granny's you said?" Emma asked as she rose from her seat and Henry nodded again.
"Alright kid," She grabbed her badge and her gun and walked over to Henry, slipping her hand onto his shoulder. "Let's go check out this stranger."
She pulled into the nearest open spot in front of Granny's diner, turned the car off and glanced to Henry beside her. He still had the worried look in his eyes and she wondered who this man could be to arise such a reaction out of him.
She quickly flashed him a small, reassuring smile, reaching over to grab his hand. His lips twitched up as he squeezed her hand and then together they exited the sheriff's car.
Emma led the way, keeping her stance strong and powerful, Henry following quickly behind her, still worried but eager to see how it would play out.
The door opened with the familiar ding of the bell and Ruby glanced up from behind the counter and cast a smile at her, but Emma could see the wariness in her eyes. Whoever this stranger was had really got the town worked up. So, Emma guessed, it would have been the same for any stranger to this secluded town.
"Hey Emma, can I get you anything?" Ruby asked as Emma slowly approached the counter.
Emma shook her head lightly. "Just point me in his direction."
Ruby's smile tightened even further and her eyes flickered over to the corner of the small diner. "He hasn't moved." She whispered.
Emma followed her gaze over to the man and her eyes narrowed slowly. She could only see the man from the back but his thick head of brown hair and black wardrobe was familiar. A little too familiar.
Immediately she felt her heart seize in her chest and a sudden lump grew in her throat. If who was sitting at that table who she thought was sitting at that table...but it couldn't possibly...
She extended her hand out slowly towards Henry. "Stay here." She commanded softly and Henry did nothing to refute her command, only glanced up at her worriedly.
Emma swallowed over the lump in her throat, took a deep breath and slowly started to make her way towards him, her heart pounding in her chest.
She froze just several feet away from him, catching the profile of his face and at once, felt the blood run cold in her veins. Even from this angle, his face was unmistakable to her and one that she'd recognize anywhere. One that she wished she would never have to see again but yet showed up at her doorstep not six months ago in the form of a sweet little boy.
Part of her wanted to forget she was the sheriff and had a duty to fulfill, part of her wanted to run back to her apartment, make some hot cocoa with cinnamon and laugh with Mary Margaret, act like the scared little girl she really was inside.
But she couldn't and she knew that. So she put on her brave face, grabbed a hold of her gun on her belt, narrowed her eyes and stepped into his line of sight.
His gaze that had been fully on his still full and probably cold cup of coffee slowly lifted up to her. Emma clenched her fists tightly waiting for the inevitable eye contact and when deep brown met piercing green she couldn't help the gasp stifled in her throat.
Those same eyes had pulled a cold-hearted, adventurous, young 17-year old girl in and now, after ten long years, they still had the same effect. His eyes seemed to penetrate every inch her soul and despite herself she found herself gaping silently at him.
Slowly, a smirk started to rise at his lips and he turned, throwing an arm casually over the booth seat behind him. "Emma," His voice was smooth like velvet and a chill ran down her spine, "How lovely to see you again." His eyes raked over her, her blonde hair falling curls to just past her shoulder, her hands now placed lightly on her hips, pushing back her jacket to reveal the form fitting sheriff's uniform, her slender fingers tracing lightly over the gun in its hold on her belt, the slight bend in her knees then back up to finally meet her eyes again, her lips curling back revealing a set of pearly white teeth. "As beautiful as ever."
Emma finally snapped her jaw closed, blinking rapidly to clear her mind and cursing herself for falling into his trap. She clenched her jaw, took a deep breath and shot a glare at him, cold as ice.
However, much to her immense dismay and irritation, the only reaction she got out of him was amusement. She always did find him an insufferable jack ass.
She huffed in anger and finally spoke. "What are you...how did you...why..." She growled, mostly to herself and threw herself into the seat across from him, slamming her hands down onto the table and continuing to glare at him. "What are you doing here?"
A slow smirk perked at his lips. "I heard you were here."
"Right..." She repeated dryly. "And here I thought you wanted nothing to do with me."
His head turned to the side, almost mockingly. "And why is that?"
Emma narrowed her eyes, her nose scrunching up in anger. "You know damn well why." She hissed quietly. "You're married."
"Was." He corrected shortly, glancing down to his hands at the table. She dared a glance down and noted his now bare left hand. She snapped her gaze back up to him, her glare still cold as ice. "And what do you want, sympathy?"
"Then what do you want?"
He kept an even stare with her but kept quiet and the silence hung over them thickly. He only spoke again when Emma looked ready to burst. He let out the simplest of sighs and leaned back into the cushioned seat. "I saw the article, Emma. I don't know why it took me so long, been busy I guess, however...the truth is out."
Emma felt the lump in her throat rise again and she fought to keep a steady face. "What truth would that be?"
A devilish smirk crossed his lips. "Don't play coy with me Emma. You giving birth inside a jail cell not nine months after I last saw you?" He tsked quietly, shaking his head, never taking his eyes off of her. "What kind of fool do you take me for?"
She said nothing but her stony glare spoke wonders and his smirk grew. "And here you are, in a small town in Maine, odd for you...with a boy who can't be older then ten."
Emma's lips twitched in a snarl. "If you think you're going anywhere near him, think again. You have as much legal right to him as I do and that's none. Do you hear me? He's been adopted and he has a family."
His brow rose to his forehead as he stared at her in curious wonder and bemusement. "Finding out I had a son was indeed a thrilling discovery, however he is not the reason I'm here." He paused, letting the tension in the air grow and then he said, "I'm looking for someone."
Emma sighed heavily, rolling her eyes slightly. "So you've said." She muttered. "What do you want from me?"
He stared at her quietly for a long moment or two and then let out a low chuckle.
"What?" She snapped.
He continued to chuckle lowly, shaking his head slowly. "You think its you." At her confused glare he elaborated more. "Who I'm looking for, you think its you." He pursed his lips and shook his head again. "It's not you."
Emma leaned back, taken aback by this new information and narrowing her eyes in confusion. "But you said..."
"That I heard you were here?" He cut in and then nodded. "That is true but that is not the reason I'm here. I only requested to see you because I also heard you were the sheriff and could help me find who I was looking for."
Emma once again found herself gaping at him. "Who...who are you looking for?"
A darkness suddenly seemed to take over his eyes and for once since the moment they started talking that day, the smirk disappeared from his face. "A certain man."
"A man." Emma remarked dryly and then sighed. "You know, I do consider myself good at my job and even more so at finding people, but if you do expect me to help you I'm going to need more than that."
"I was getting to that." He hissed darkly and she nearly winced, narrowed her eyes in a glare but remained quiet, waiting for him to continue.
"I'm looking for my father." He continued and her brow raised curiously though she said nothing. "And I know he's here, somewhere, I just don't know where to look. And thats where you come in."
She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "And does he have a name I could possibly use?"
He narrowed his eyes for a moment and then shook his head with a sigh. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Emma crossed her arms over her chest, raising her eyebrows daringly. "Try me."
He lifted his eyes to meet hers, locking gazes with her for a long moment before dropping his gaze to the table.
Emma let out a deep sigh and leaned forward, reaching out to grab a hold of his hand tightly. "Listen to me." She hissed quietly. "I don't think you should be here. I don't want you here. I now have to explain to Henry who you are and I told him his father had died."
His eyes snapped darkly to hers and with it accompanied a dark smirk. "Well, it appears lying runs deep in this family."
She sucked in a deep breath and gritted her teeth, attempting to control her anger towards the infuriating man in front of her. "If you're not going to give me any sort of name, I'm not going to be able to help and I'm sure as hell not going any further out of my way than I have to in order to find someone that you want to find."
His upper lip twitched and he suddenly leapt forward slightly, snapping his hands down onto hers causing her to hiss and reel back. "I have to find him." He growled.
Emma heard a soft gasp from the other side of the room and her eyes flickered over to the counter where Henry was standing watching them with now horrified and worried eyes.
Ruby rushed out from behind the counter and pressed a hand into Henry's shoulder and then made her way over to their table as quickly as she could. She forced a smile, sending a dirty look to the dark haired man. "Is everything all right over here?"
He released Emma's hands and tossed himself back up against the booth, still keeping a stern eye on the blonde sheriff. Emma drew her hands back and rested them on her lap, narrowing her eyes at him and then nodding to Ruby. "Fine. It's fine."
Ruby furrowed her brow in skepticism. She didn't like the way the two acted but she knew Emma could handle herself so she just nodded quietly and sauntered back to the counter.
Once she was out of ear shot, Emma leaned in ever so slightly and continued in a whispered, harsh tone. "I don't know who the hell you think you are but I will not be talked to like that. I'm not that stupid young girl anymore, I've grown up and I've learned how not to be taken advantage of by men like you. If you want my help, you can ask for it but I will not be taking orders, least of all from you."
His eyes narrowed into dark slits for a moment as his body tensed and then slowly he relaxed and the darkness seemed to slip away from his eyes. He let out a sigh and ran his hand over his face, sat with his eyes closed in silence for a few seconds and then slowly reopened them.
"I'm sorry." He said quietly and her eye twitched suspiciously. "I'm sorry for my behavior now and I'm sorry for my behavior ten years ago. I was a stupid man who had done stupid things out of hurt and out of spite. I know it was a lot of me to come here, seek you out and ask for your help but if anyone knows what I'm feeling Emma, its you." She raised her brow curiously and encouraged him with her eyes. "You told me that you were abandoned by your parents." Immediately her face grew cold and she gripped onto her leg tightly, her jaw clenching. "What you don't know is that so was I. I was abandoned by my father except I wasn't a baby. I was eleven years old and my father made me a promise. He told me we'd go together, he told me he'd never leave me but he lied. He left. He abandoned me in a place that was new and foreign to me and I had to find a way to live on my own. For years I had no idea where to find him but I never stopped looking. And I found him now, I know he's here, and thats why I'm here. Emma, if you knew your parents were practically just around the corner, what would you do?"
Her face softened as she listened to his story. She didn't want to feel any sort of sympathy for him, he had caused so much damage to her life, a broken heart, a pregnancy she didn't want and the guilt of breaking up a marriage. And part of her didn't even want to believe his story but she could sense he was genuine from the look in his eyes because she saw the look in her own eyes and the look in all the other eyes of the orphans in the shelter with her. He had been abandoned just as she had and he was old enough to remember when it happened and how it happened.
She frowned and glanced down at her lap. She didn't know what she would do if she knew her parents were right around the corner. If she believed Henry's stories, she actually already had and part of her really wanted to believe that Mary Margaret could be her mother. There would be no one else on the planet that Emma would want for a mother and David Nolan, not exactly the Prince Charming Henry claimed him to be but she could still see the good in his heart and she would love to think that he could be her father. But it couldn't be the truth, her parents couldn't possibly be the wonderful people that were Mary and David. Her parents, she believed, wanted nothing to do with her but even so, she'd still want to find them and talk to them and ask them why.
She nodded to herself and slowly lifted her head. "Alright, Ben." She said softly. "I'll help you but you've got to tell me what his name is. This town is larger than it looks but I pretty much know everyone."
He was quiet for a moment and then he brought his hands onto the table and folded them together, leaning into them slightly, stared blankly ahead of him, sighed and then looked up at her. She could see the tension in his jaw, the hurt in his eyes and was almost going to reach out to hold his hand but decided against it.
"His name..." His voice was thicker now and quiet as if it would be almost painful to say his name aloud. "...his name is Rumplestiltskin."
There was nothing then but silence for a very long minute. Emma stared at him, a range of different emotions slowly spreading across her face: anticipation, confusion, skepticism and then finally anger. Her eyes grew cold once more and she curled her hands into fists in her lap, her jaw clenching tightly. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
He blinked. "I'm sorry?"
She clenched her teeth together and leaned in towards him hissing quietly, "You've been talking with Henry haven't you? Is this all some big joke to you? Do you get joy out of blatantly mocking me? Mocking him?" She subtly motioned to Henry.
His brow furrowed in confusion as he slowly shook his head. "Emma, I'm not-"
"Shut up." She snapped sharply and he sat up straight, alarmed by her abrupt change in mood. "You had me fooled, Ben, you really did. Getting me to believe you were abandoned."
He frowned. "I was." He replied darkly.
She scoffed and shook her head. "Do not give me that crap. My life is not a joke, alright? My parents are not fairy tale characters and Rumplestiltskin is a character in a story brook. He's not real."
Ben pressed his lips together in a firm line, his eyes hardening once more and his shoulders tensing. "You don't know anything." He remarked, his tone low and dangerous.
"I know that there is a difference between fiction and reality. That's why they call it reality, because it's real."
He shifted in his seat, leaning in towards her quickly and she pulled back immediately, keeping a wary eye on him. "And did you ever think that maybe someone else's reality is not the same as yours? This is your reality, Emma, this world with all its fancy gadgets. But its not mine. I came here to escape but I didn't plan on coming here alone. My father was supposed to follow me but he didn't and now I'm here to confront him and you can choose to believe me or not but with or without your help I will find him."
Emma continued to shake her head, her anger seeming to only grow with every word he said. "You're insane. I don't know how on Earth Henry roped you into his theories but you've taken it too far now and it needs to stop."
He growled, slamming his hands down onto the table, the coffee mug and napkin holder rattling, and urging several gasps and a sudden hush in the diner. Emma completely pressed herself back up against the booth seat, her eyes widening, her chest heaving as she kept a cautious eye on him.
In the silence, the bell above the door jingled as the door opened and in hobbled the owner of Storybrooke himself. He took a look around the now eerily quiet diner, narrowed his eyes in suspicion and then appeared to shrug it off and limped over to the counter.
Emma managed to tear her gaze away from him to look at the newest person to enter the diner. She suppressed a groan at the sight of the man, it was bad enough she had to deal with Ben and his insanity, she also had to be in the same room as the town creep. Her eyes flickered back to Ben who hadn't moved an inch, his hands still firmly place on the table, his lips twitching in a snarl, his eyes flaring dangerously. "I don't know how much help I'm gonna be to you, Ben." She spoke evenly. "But there may be someone just as crazy as you who can."
His eyes narrowed slightly in question and her eyes flickered back to the counter. Ben hesitated for a moment and then slowly turned around and almost immediately his face fell.
The anger and fire that had been raging in his eyes slowly melted away and was replaced with a desperate sadness, a longing, a hurt. He clutched onto the seat behind him and his shoulders began to quiver ever so slightly.
Emma didn't know what she was expecting Ben to do but it certainly wasn't that. His sudden change confused her and she glanced between him and Mr. Gold, narrowing her eyes in disbelief.
And then suddenly he was flying out of the booth, the force of him pushing himself out of the booth knocking the coffee mug over onto the table with a crash. The clattering re-caught the attention of everyone in the diner and Mr. Gold, looking at first as non chalant as he always had, faltered and the slight smirk faded as he caught Ben's gaze from across the room.
Emma observed Ben, standing in the center of the diner, his arms pressed tightly against his sides, every muscle in his body tense and though she couldn't see his face, she could feel what his expression was.
A thick, heavy silence filled the room as the two men stared each other down. A few people slipped out the front door in fear of the now deathly silent Mr. Gold who they normally feared anyway.
Ruby stood by the door to the kitchen, fiddling with the straps of her apron, eyeing the scene warily. Henry was clutching onto his mug of hot cocoa, his eyes wide as he glanced slowly between Mr. Gold and the stranger.
Then another clatter echoed through the room as Mr. Gold's cane hit the floor and then slowly he rose to his feet, a look unlike Emma had ever seen before crossing over his face.
His limp seemed to disappear as he slowly took a few steps forward, his hands shaking. Then he paused and Emma could have sworn she almost saw tears glistening in his eyes.
He visibly swallowed, his face scrunching up in what could only be described as anguish as he whispered pitifully, "...Bae?"
Ben let out a strangled sounding breath and his whole body shook for a brief second. His fingers stretched and then clenched again at his sides and his shoulders squared. He cleared his throat and spoke with all the confidence the other man lacked. "Papa."
Mr. Gold's eyes widened for a second, shock spreading across every inch of his face. He blinked quickly forcing back the moisture that was building in his eyes. "Bae..." He whispered again, slowly extending his hand out toward him. "It's really you?"
"It's really me." The other man confirmed, his voice low and deprived of all emotion.
What sounded like a whimper escaped Mr. Gold's throat as his arms extended out just a few inches further before he paused for a second and then lowered them down again. Then he slowly started to make his way towards him, moving unlike he'd ever moved before with caution and fear.
As he reached just several feet away, Bae took a long step back, his hands shooting out in front of him, his eyes hardening. "Don't touch me." He growled.
Mr. Gold froze on the spot, his face melting to one of complete despair as if he'd just had his heart shattered right there. "Bae, please..."
"You left me." He spat harshly and Mr. Gold visibly winced.
"I-I didn't-I didn't mean-" His voice shook with a vulnerability that was so uncharacteristic it was almost frightening to the onlookers who still remained in the diner.
Bae scoffed humorlessly and shook his head slowly, keeping his glare tightly focused on his father. "Don't give me that crap. You knew exactly what you were doing! You promised me. We made a deal or don't you remember that?"
"Oh Bae, of course I-"
"How could you?" Bae cut him off with a fierce growl, leaping a few furious steps towards him. Again Mr. Gold winced but he did not move from his spot as if he were glued there. "Do you have any idea of what it was like for me? To have looked so hard and so far for a way to help you, to help us. And to finally get there and you desert me. You let me go." He bit down on his lip, fighting the tears in his eyes and the quiver in his voice. "You chose magic over me."
Mr. Gold shook his head furiously, reaching out towards him as he took a few steps forward. "It wasn't like that Bae!"
"The hell it wasn't!" He pushed his hands away forcefully. "We had an opportunity to leave it all behind, to start a new life just you and me without magic, without the dark one and you couldn't do it. You couldn't leave it all behind for me."
"No!" Mr. Gold protested sharply. "I didn't know what was on the other side, I didn't know..."
"Neither did I!" Bae furiously pointed at his own chest, staring at him in exasperation. "But I was willing to go through anyway to save you. I was scared too but I knew that at least I'd have you with me and whatever it was we'd get through it together just like we always had. All you had to do was trust me. And you didn't."
Instead of denying it further like Bae expected him to, Mr. Gold lowered his head to his chest, his shoulders tightening and his hands pressing firmly against his side. Then after a second he looked up and even Bae was taken aback by the expression in his eyes. Bae hadn't seen a look like that since his mother died and the only time it had ever come close was when he learned Bae was to be shipped off to fight in the wars. After he had taken the powers of the dark one, Bae could see his father disappearing slowly. All the great emotions he possessed as a regular man were being stripped and replaced with evil. Bae had seen him kill too many people and show absolutely no remorse for it yet he knew his real father wouldn't stand for it. He thought he'd never see his true father again but yet here he stood, guilt, remorse, hurt, pain, desperation all written in his very human eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Bae." His voice trembled and cracked with emotion and for a moment Bae's glare faltered, watching his father crumble slowly before him. "I didn't want to let you go. I regretted it so much Bae. Everything I've done from that moment you disappeared was for you, was to find you again. I could hardly live with myself knowing what I'd done to you, knowing I'd left you, knowing I'd broken my promise." He shook his head slowly as he began to approach him once more. This time Bae didn't move, only watched him warily, his body tense. "I didn't rest, for years and years, I searched for a way, for any way to get back to you. Please believe me, Bae."
Bae's lips twitched. "Why should I?"
"You're my son, Baelfire. You're my boy and...I love you more than anything." Catching his look he then added with a convincing nod, "More than magic, Bae. More than anything."
Bae's jaw tightened but his eyes began to soften as he searched his father's face. He couldn't see any trace of a lie, any sign that he wasn't being genuine but they had been apart for so long.
Mr. Gold lifted his head an inch and then nodded, taking a few more steps towards him, extending his shaking hands out and resting them gently on his wrists. Then he met his eyes head on and whispered lowly, "It's here, Bae." His brow rose knowingly as Bae narrowed his eyes in question, wondering briefly what he could be referring to. The longer he stared the more he began to realize and his eyes widened and Mr. Gold nodded again. "I've buried it but I know where it is and I will bring you to it and I will let you destroy it."
"Destroy it?" Bae's voice was a whisper now.
"Yes." He confirmed and tightened his grip on his arms as Bae's face softened as he realized the implications of that statement. The knife that gave his father the dark one's magic, the knife that if destroyed would destroy the magic but also destroy him. But this was a world without magic and if they destroyed the knife in this place it wouldn't affect his father but it would ensure that if they ever did return to their original home, the dark one's power wouldn't be his.
"I just want your forgiveness, Bae." His father's voice brought his attention back and his throat tightened at the look in his eyes. "Please." He whimpered. "Forgive me, Bae, please."
He hesitated. He didn't want to forgive him, he wanted to hate him for the rest of his life but the man he hated was not the man that stood before him. The man that stood before him was his father, the man without magic, the man who had been corrupt by magic, the man who was being hidden by the magic. He wanted his father back since the moment he learned he had taken the dark one's magic and though he was still incredibly angry with him for deserting him, he had his father back, begging for forgiveness.
At his lack of response, Mr. Gold took the initiative to continue. "I know that I can't make up for what I've done to you, Bae and I know that my word probably means absolutely nothing to you anymore but I swear, on anything, on everything, I will never, ever leave you again."
Bae glanced down for a moment, letting the words sink in. They were not the words of the dark one, they were the words of his father and those he trusted more than anything. He bit down on his lip, slowly looked up to meet his eyes for a long second and then he sucked in a breath and crossed the short distance between them, throwing his arms tightly around his father. He heard his gasp of surprise and then a sob in relief as his arms surrounded him. He was significantly taller than the last time he'd seen his father and was in fact a couple of inches taller than his father now and as he felt his father's face bury into his shoulder, he knew this was the moment he'd been waiting for since being transported to this world.
"Oh Bae." He whimpered against his shoulder, clutching onto him for dear life and he held back, taking in the familiar warmth of his father's hug. The tears that had been building his eyes for the last several minutes spilled over onto his cheeks and he gripped tighter onto his father's coat, now burying his face in his shoulder. "My beautiful boy." He ran his fingers over Bae's head, combing through his thick head of hair just as he used to do all those years ago.
Bae continued to hold onto him in fear that if he let go somehow he'd become the man he hated again. He could feel his father's love in his arms, he could feel the man he used to be and he didn't want that feeling to disappear again. He'd waited too long for that and if this turned out all to be a lie at least he could say he held on as long as he could.
"Bae..." His voice broke as he lifted his head. "Forgive me." He muttered again, his desperation clear in his voice.
Bae nodded against him, clutching him tighter. "I forgive you Papa." He whispered against him. "I forgive you."
Father and son continued to hold on to each other, seemingly unaware of their surroundings, just simply enjoying their long over due reunion.
When they eventually parted they wiped at their eyes and cheeks, meeting each other's still watery gaze with a warm smile. "Oh Bae..." He lifted his hand to softly touch the side of his face, taking in the familiar but significantly older features of his son. "Look at you. You're a man."
Bae scoffed a laugh. "Twenty-eight years does tend to age people."
"Twenty-eight years." He echoed back, a sad smile tugging at his lips. "I'm sorry I made you wait that long, Bae."
Bae bit back a begrudging comment, realizing being hostile towards him would not do either of them good. Twenty-eight years was long enough and they'd missed so much.
"It doesn't matter." Bae answered with a shake of his head.
"Of course it matters." His father insisted with a frown. "It will always matter, because I hurt you Bae."
"And I have forgiven for you for doing so, Papa." He reached out and clasped his hand onto his father's shoulder. "And despite myself, I do trust you."
A genuine smile began to tug at the corner of his lips as he placed his hand over his son's. "And I will not disappoint you again, my son."
Bae let a small smile grace his lips and he squeezed his shoulder before releasing him.
It was then that he caught sight of their surroundings and the smile dropped off his face. He noticed people sitting in their booths, gaping at the scene before them, he noticed Henry looking as if he had just seen the face of God and Ruby still behind the counter looking confused. When he glanced back down at his father he noticed him staring off behind his back, his formerly warm eyes growing hard and his face tense and that's when he remembered Emma.