It wouldn't be long now; the clinking and beeping of machines from the room in front of him told him that.
Gold was in the hallway of the Albany, New York hospital, his Styrofoam coffee cup trembling with each labored pace he took.
What if he didn't wake up in time? What if he didn't wake up at all? What if Gold didn't get to say everything he needed to? What if the man in the next room didn't even know who he was?
He sighed shakily. He had to take this all slowly and calmly, passively as he did anything else. However, this wasn't some business deal or bargain, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This was his final chance to make amends with the only person in the world he had regrettably betrayed.
A tall blond nurse cleared her throat, causing Gold to shoot around. "He's awake now Mr. Gold, you may see him if you want."
Of course he wanted to. He'd wanted to see him for the past ninety years.
He stepped into the white room. It was warm despite the color, filled with flowers, small gifts of cards and candy. This man was obviously loved by many, but loved the most by him. The man himself, the boy he had known ninety years prior, was a living ghost. His once chocolate curls were ice white and curled like dried out feathers. He had an average frame, not to skinny but not buff enough to detect health. His skin was almost as pale as his hair and bruised and wrinkled with age. His eye opened to stare at the nurse; those were the only things about him that hadn't changed.
The nurse stayed a moment longer to straighten up and arrange the call button properly in the drowsy man's hand. "He's such a sweet old man." She commented. "Always polite, always smiling," She sighed and ran a hand over his arm as his chocolate eyes slowly blinked, "we're going to miss him."
The man in the bed smirked. "I'm not dead yet Shirley, don't count me out until I stop breathing."
She chuckled. "Yes Mr. Spinner." She turned to the pale Mr. Gold. "You have a visitor."
The smile remained as "Spinner" turned. However, his eyes squinted, like he was trying to focus, his eyebrows drawn down in a way that made him look slightly confused. That look soon faded and was replaced by line for a smile and wide, hard eyes.
The nurse left them alone, stating she'd be back when Mr. Gold was ready to leave (which he would never be).
They stared at each other for a millennium, old age vs. middle age. They years between them left scripts and scripts of words for them to say, yet neither one of them could find exactly the right ones.
But Balefire, or "Spinner" as he was called in this hospital, was a far bigger man than his father and managed a chuckle to get the conversation going. "Look at you! You could pass as my son." He continued to laugh until a violent cough tore through his throat. Gold lunged forward and grabbed the oxygen mask, helping Bae adjust it and watched a stream of blood ran down the corner of his mouth as he wheezed. He winked at Gold, hoping that terrified look would disappear.
Mr. Gold forced a smile, his heart pleating. "Should I get a nurse?"
"No," Bae sighed, lowering the mask tiredly, dabbing a napkin over the corner. "I've coughed up a lot worse."
Mr. Gold nodded, sighing shakily. He searched his mind for a comeback, something to show his son what he was feeling. "Um…Bae…"
"Papa, let me say something first."
"Yes…yes, yes go on." You're the one who'd dying after all.
Bae pressed a button that made his bed arch upwards. He squirmed a bit more and huffed from the labor before looking at his father. "Age has been kind to me, you should know that. I'm 104, I've seen the world and lived in some amazing places, I've fought in a hellishly blood war, killed many bastards who've deserved death and loved only one woman…well…three…but for different reasons."
Gold was fascinated from that small intro alone. He wanted to know every detail about Bae's life, every mistake, every adventure, everything. And that's just what he got.
The year was 1922. After coming into "The Land Without Magic", he was taken into an orphanage where he was set with a plump, warm-hearted housewife and her stone-cold man husband who couldn't wait for "the rats" to die out. He made fast-friends with had a hard-willed little girl—a little girl he named Swan. They had been close, so very close. He taught her how to kick a ball while she taught him how to find earthworms in the garbage garden. Things were great up until he was in his eighteen, when he came home one night to hear Emma screaming from the "father's" bedroom. His memory of what happened exactly was dim, but the image of "father" laying in a pool of his blood and Swan using a torn curtain to cover herself with stuck with him forever. He spent the next two years in a jailhouse while Swan was sent elsewhere, not even allowed to write to him.
He was a lost identity after that. He spent some time in the basements of nightclubs with drunks, some more time in hospitals from beating the Hell out of said drunks, and found a final destination in a bookstore where he found a passion for poetry (technically through the window of the bookstore; a story that made father and son laugh). The librarian took him under his wing and helped him get a more solid education—and education that almost went unused when he joined the great war of 1939. Bae didn't go into great detail of what happened during that war except that he had nearly drowned twice due to submarine complications and lost 40% of his hearing in his right ear. He returned to the states afterwards with honors. He was a hero, and despite being a coward in his own mind, he took advantage of what the perks that had come with the title. This meant free drinks, favors, and occasionally a girl or two to spend the night with.
"But you were a hero Bae; hero's don't run from battles." Mr. Gold stated with a hint of shame.
Bae gave him a hard look. "Fear does not make you a coward, it makes you smart. I ran from many things in my life, all of which would have led me to old Death's door. Most of them at least…"
Several years afterwards, when the alcohol and world traveling was taking its toll on his body, he was hit by a red car and spent three days in the hospital. He was ready to kill the driver by the time he limped out of that hospital only to discover that the driver was a rather beautiful woman—and faith had it—her name was Isabelle, Belle for short. This was the making of a complicated, five year relationship that involved bruises, tears, laughter, marriage, two dead babies, divorce, a romantic night on a tin roof, remarriage, one beautiful baby boy named Rumy, and years of hardships and happiness to come.
His son married on the date of his fifty ninth birthday, and it was truly the best birthday in the world. His wife couldn't conceive, so Isabelle, who wanted a grandchild so bad she was jittery, suggested they adopt. Four years later however, Rumy and his wife went for a anniversary dinner and Bae and Isabelle were babysitting their beautiful adopted granddaughter Belle—named after her grandmother of course. They received a knock at the door that night from two police officers stating that his son and daughter-in-law had been involved in a hit and run.
Gold felt his stomach lurch at the look on Bae's face.
"It hurts. It hurts so much," Bae whispered, "to lose your child. It's the most unnatural thing in the world." He reached out and took Gold's hand. "I am so sorry I had to put you through that."
Gold smiled. "You had a right to leave. I should apologize for taking so long to find you."
Bae chortled. "I didn't exactly make it easy."
He continued with his tale. Bae and Isabelle raised their granddaughter, who was a rebellious but warm little tyke. She had fascination with the fairytales her teachers told her at school and began creating a book of sorts, a hobby that became a mission to her grandfather. He added what knowledge he had from his life in the Enchanted Forest (he only told his son and granddaughter about his former life, knowing Isabelle wouldn't grasp it like their childish minds would). After years of research, drawling, and writing, he managed to put a descent book together. Belle, who was in high school by then, took him to celebrate by taking him to the premier of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a movie that hadn't meant much to Belle until his eighty-fifth birthday when he began having vision and strange dreams out of the blue.
Belle and he reconstructed the book entirely, rewriting every story, painting and replacing pages, and even giving the book a hardback cover. There were of several people Belle and he had written about: The princess Snow White and her Prince, The Evil Queen who would stop at nothing to destroy the world's happiness, and even his father who had used his power for striking deals with the desperate and received despicable payments—except for the one he made with a girl named Belle.
"You were an idiot to let her go you know." Bae commented.
Gold looked away with guilt. "I know." He looked at Bae with hope shimmering in his eyes. "Did you ever see what happened to her?"
Bae shook his head sadly. "I wish I had, but her story went cold after you threw her out."
Was he trying to purposely add to Gold's guilt?
"Sorry, death makes you cranky."
Gold's head shot up. "No. Please Bae don't say that!"
Bae shook his head, a sad but peaceful smile on his lips. "I'm done for, Papa. My wife and son have long passed, and Belle needs to live her life. I was so fortunate to live the life I lived, despite my flaws and mistakes." His grip on Gold's hand tightened. "My only regret was that my father hadn't been there to share it with me."
A sob broke through his throat. "I'm so sorry Bae! I tried everything to get back to you, even made that damn curse that took forever to be lifted."
"I forgive you." Bae sighed. "I can't even think about hating you now." His opposite hand slid to Gold's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. He blinked, his eyes closing for a moment before he opened them with a final smile. "Now let's hear about your life."
There wasn't much for Gold to tell really. After Bae's disappearance, he became sarcastic and heartless, striking deals with the desperate and screwing over anyone who was stupid enough to fall for his tricks. He met his own demise however when he made a deal with a merchant and got involved with an ex-princess, Belle.
Bae laughed and smiled at the coincidence. "Faith had our backs on that one."
She had been his true love, his everything, but he couldn't lose his power, not when Bae still needed to be found.
"Like I said, you were an idiot."
"I was a coward. And because of that fear I lost her, but I'll never be able to make amends with her."
Bae shook his head. "You're not a cowards Papa, you're a man who turned himself into a monster to protect his son, and I did some of the exact things you did to protect mine, only I failed, you didn't..." his body relaxed and he closed his eyes. "You did fine Papa…"
Gold held his hand as his breathing slowed, peace and unbearable sadness making him lurch. He leant down and pressed a kiss to Bae's wrinkled temple. "I love you son." He received no response, and slowly his chest no longer heaving, and he knew he was gone. "I love you so much." His voice cracked and buried his head into Bae's shoulder, sobbing as hard and loud as he allowed himself to. His son was gone, and despite the relief that finding him had granted, he still had so much saddness and agony built up that would take more than one breakdown to let out.
Two hours later, he stepped out of the room, his head and body throbbing, his face scarlett. The nurse and two men in white were waiting, nodding their sympathy as they brushed gently past him to prepare Bae's body for pick-up. He didn't dare watch, knowing that if he saw them place that sheet over his body he'd break without a way to get put back together. He limped slowly out of the hospital, reaching his Cadillac and making a slow drive back to the hotel he was staying in.
It was well past eleven and he was ready to bed down like all the non-mourners of the world were. He had hoped he had cried himself out at the hospital, but he felt another dam of tears snapping. He sobbed all night, letting all his anguish out in long screams.
He was throbbing more so in the morning and threw up more times than he could count. But at noon when he got a sandwich and black coffee into him, he felt more whole. He had made amends with his son, gotten his forgiveness and could move on. It was one less regret he had off his shoulders.
Now that Bae was gone, he was being haunted by a pair of blue eyes that had disappeared and would never be found.
He started packing afterwards, finding no reason to stay in the Big Apple. Bae's body was to be buried in his plot with his beloved wife, son, and daughter-un-law, a family Gold wished he had met. He left his door open, not wanting the barrier to stop him. There was a knock but he ignored it, believing it was the doorman or something.
"Excuse me, are you Mr. Gold?" came a hinted accent.
Gold zipped his bag. "Yes I am but I'm afraid I'm on my way…" he froze at the sight of the girl and fell into the depths of her crystal blue eyes.
The girl stepped forward shyly. "Hi, um, m-my name is Belle, and, well I was told to come find you and, and say…" she laughed nervously and pulled a letter out of her blue dress. "I'm Baron Spinner's granddaughter well," she chuckled with a roll of her eyes, "adopted granddaughter but that's not important. He left a message telling me where you'd be and that I should come meet you." Gold was a mere foot away from her now, his eyes wide and glassy and his mouth agape just slightly. She looked exactly like Belle. His Belle.
"Does, um, that mean anything to you?"
He looked her over, analyzing every aspect of her. The resemblance was uncanny, but how could she possible be his Belle? She was dead—unless Regina sent her somewhere he could never find her. There were a lot gaps and questions, and he hoped somehow he'd be able to ask her that.
"It's an absolute pleasure to meet you," his voice cracked and he gathered her in his arm. "Belle. I'm so glad to see you."
Belle, unaccustomed to such tearful greetings, made a face. "I'm…I'm sorry." She said as she pushed him back some. "Do I know you?"
Mr. Gold's face fell. She wasn't his Belle, she was Bae's.
She noticed his reaction and tried to stretch the question. "Were you a relative of Grandpa Spinner, or a friend of his maybe?"
A friend? He wish he could call himself that. He wished he wasn't the coward who found his son only to watch him die, and then to meet his granddaughter that was too identical to his lost love. He couldn't be with her the way he wanted to, but perhaps he could be something else.
"No. No darling I'm not. You don't know me at all," his eyes glowed, that newfound hope he had received easing in.
"But you will."
I am almost certain that Bae's the one who writes the book in OUAT. It makes so much sense! I can't wait for season 2; counting down the seconds…47…45…44…43…42…