Doughnuts and Promises

Rumplestiltskin hated prison.

He knew of very few people who didn't, of course, but for him prison presented its own brand of exquisite torment. He doubted the world contained an excess of individuals who had several centuries of memories to contend with every time they were locked up with nothing to do but think. He was a man over-used to action and self-indulgence, eternally busy with deals and the propagation of his own agenda, and every second he spent here— useless, wasting away—chafed at his very core. Over two-hundred years of raw magical power and its resulting liberties as the Dark One—and now here he was: at the mercy of steel bars and concrete walls.

And the sensation of delicate porcelain warming between his palms did nothing to quell the ache of the past.

If he were to take the time to be honest with himself (and what did he have in this little metal cage, if not time for that?), her ghost gnawed at his chest like the removal of his very heart.

His thoughts, bordering on self-examination and (heavens forbid) self-pity, were mercifully interrupted.

"So pastrami's not your deal," the sheriff said almost before she was fully in the room, flicking on the garish fluorescent lights without any thought for the state of her prisoner's eyes. "I get that." She dropped her keys on the desk, tossed her jacket on the rack, and held up a brown paper bag. "But tell me these aren't worth at least one favour."

He raised his hand to his eyes, still squinting, and peered at the bag. "Those," by the smell, freshly baked pastries or some such nonsense, "are not worth at least one favour, Miss Swan." He smiled, not quite widely enough to bare his teeth. "You're going to have to do a bit better than that."

Miss Swan was either insufferably optimistic or enjoying her moment of imagined superiority. "Suit yourself," she said, and plucked a still-steaming doughnut from the bag. Leaning back against the desk, facing him with her feet crossed at the ankles and all her weight on the table-top, she took a bite of the doughnut. "Mmm. Chocolate coconut."

"Nice try."

She gave a half-shrug and dropped the bag on the desk behind her. She chewed in silence for a moment, looking between his face and the teacup in his hands with a bland lack of curiosity. She apparently decided the question was not worth asking, because she took another bite and said, after swallowing, "You're a hard man to crack."

He chuckled. His eyes had adjusted to the light enough to lower his hands. He smiled casually out at her from behind the bars and cupped his palms around the teacup once more. "You have no idea."

She sucked her fingers clean of frosting and wiped them on a serviette. "So, they let Moe out of the hospital."

"Is this your idea of conversation, or are you being intentionally dull?"

"He looked a lot worse when they were bundling him up for the ambulance ride. But there's no spinal damage and he—and I have no idea how—managed to avoid a concussion."

Gold turned to her, angling himself on the end of the cot so that he directly faced the desk. His hands were almost uncomfortably tight around the cup—he loosened his grip slightly for fear of shattering it. "What makes you think I care? I do hope I haven't been giving you the wrong impression."

"No—not really." She looked between him and the clock on the wall, checking it against her watch. From what Gold could see… eight o'seven and ticking. She hooked her thumbs into the top of her belt and gave a little shrug. "I just thought you'd be happy to know that, unless the judge has a real chip on his shoulder, this means you'll probably get off pretty light. Considering you beat a man senseless with a cane."

He gave her a mirthless smile. "I don't need your legal advice, Sheriff." What he needed was for it to be eight minutes from now, when she would unlock the door, according to the terms of his incarceration, and let him out.

She took no notice of his warning. "Do you even need that thing for walking? Or do you just carry around weapons that double as fashion statements?" She was a child poking a dog with a stick. Infuriating. Unwise. But it would do him no good to rise to her prompting, when she was on the outside and he was in, so he merely repositioned himself away from her and leaned against the wall.

A moment later, (five minutes, actually, according to his frequent glances to the clock), she spoke again. Her tone of voice was considerably changed—curiosity replacing the ring of a gleeful gibe. "How'd you hurt your leg, anyway?"

Closing his eyes, letting his head fall back against the cool concrete blocks, Gold mustered the last reserves of his patience. He let the silence hang, punctured it with a clearly audible sigh, and said, "In the war, Miss Swan. I injured my leg in the war."

"You fought in a war?"

He chuckled and muttered under his breath. "I never said 'fought'."

He could imagine the gears turning in her head, her internal calculations running in a frenzy… trying to piece together his age with geography, world studies, and the high school history classes she likely skipped more often than attended. "But there haven't-"

He held up a hand to cut her off. She must have been watching him intently, because she bit off the sentence the moment his fingers flicked up from the teacup. "There are always wars, Sheriff," he said. "Just because you've never heard of them," he let the implications of the statement linger a moment between them, "does not mean they never happened." He opened his eyes and glanced at the clock. Eight-twelve. He hunched forward with his elbows on his knees, cup dangling from his fingers, and swung his head around to stare directly at Emma through the bars. "Now, is that all, or must I submit to a mandatory interrogation before I'm released?"

She checked her watch.

He tapped a finger against the cup, a steady plink, plink, plink. "Tick tock, dearie. Let's not take all day."

The second-hand ticked its way around the face of the clock. Eight-thirteen.

She pushed herself up off the desk and circled around to the back of it, yanking one of the drawers open and pulling forth a deep tray made out of a hard grey plastic. She snatched her keys up off the surface of the desk and walked to the cell. She took her precious time to find the right key and insert it into the keyhole, but the lock rasped free with a full twenty seconds to spare. She took two steps inside and held out the tray.

Freedom at eight-fifteen.

Setting the teacup on the cot beside him (cautious, ever so careful not to jostle it, never letting it stray from the corner of his vision), he took hold of the outstretched tray and laid it on his lap to collect his things. He takes a moment to inventory everything – his wallet, his watch and chain, a few coins and a slip of paper—and then place them in the appropriate jacket and trouser pockets. He looped his finger through the handle of the teacup and looked up at the Sheriff. "My cane, if you don't mind."

Emma exited the cell, leaving Rumplestiltskin to grab hold of the cell bars and pull himself to his feet. She returned a moment later and stood just outside the cell with his cane in hand, holding it rather gingerly by the ornate handle. It had been cleaned of blood—no doubt photographed thoroughly and documented as evidence—but the polish job left something to be desired. "Promise not to beat anyone?"

He smiled. "I never make promises I can't keep, Miss Swan."

She gave a weak smile in return. It neither reached her eyes nor her tone, both of which gave off as much warmth as a midwinter gale. "Reassuring."

He held tightly to the cell bars and made his way towards the cell door, every step shooting little bursts of jagged white pain up his knee. His leg had stiffened considerably from lack of use. He made it to the doorway before taking another step forward, an ungraceful shuffle-hop that left him hissing through his teeth, and leaving the prison bars behind him.

"Do you want me to call a cab?"

He looked at her, limping steadily forward, until they stood eye to eye. "May I give you some advice, Sheriff?"

"… Okay, I guess. Shoot."

He bared his teeth in an almost-smile. "Whatever you may think about me, let's make one thing clear." I do not need your pity." He gestured around the room, teacup dangling off his little finger. "I don't need your help, or your advice, or your little games." He chuckled, shook his head ever so slightly. "In fact, I don't need anything from you. Except that favour." He pushed his hair back from his forehead and looked her in the eyes. "Do we understand each other?"

To her credit, Emma met his gaze without flinching. Her mouth was pressed thin, lips white. "You know, Gold, I think we do."

"Good." He deliberately plucked the cane from her hand and flashed her a dazzling smile. "Enjoy your doughnuts, dear."

A/N: This was fun to play with because it's kind of a deleted scene from Skin Deep and a character study on Rumplestiltskin in jail and a Gold/Emma cat fight all at once. haha. I've been looking forward to writing those two together for quite some time, because I love their interactions with each other on the show... their jibes and their little attitudes towards each other... so hopefully the same vibe played through in the text.

Anyway, I hope everyone liked it! Thanks so much for reading. :)