DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, ABC Studios, Disney, and various publishers. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story is AU in that it will (sadly) never happen (or WILL it, ABC?! No? Fine then...) However, it's set in line with the current story, after the episode In the Name of the Brother. The only difference is that Gold waited longer to call in Emma's favor. I needed to give Hook time to heal and get out of the hospital. And now I'm shutting up!
Emma's thoughts were racing a mile a minute as she packed her duffel bag. She was concerned. She didn't like leaving Henry now that Cora was in town, and definitely not to run off with Mr. Gold on some wild goose chase. Could the man have picked a worse time to call in her favor? And her mother was not helping her state of mind.
"This is ridiculous. He can't just expect to snap his fingers and have you come running," fumed Snow White.
"I'm pretty sure that's exactly what he expects." Emma sighed. "He's probably accustomed to that sort of thing."
"Well I won't have it!" Snow paced the floor, and lowered her voice. "I don't think you should be leaving Henry now. Obviously, we're going to look after him and guard him with our lives, but Cora is an unimaginably dangerous enemy. I really wish you wouldn't go."
"Are you suggesting that I break my oath?" Emma zipped up her duffel and flopped back onto her bed, staring up at the whitewashed ceiling beams. "That would probably be a Very Bad Thing. Do you think Gold makes any less dangerous an enemy than Cora?"
Snow sat down next to her daughter and stroked her hair. She closed her eyes against the brief flash of pain when she remembered she'd missed twenty-eight years of this closeness. She couldn't imagine losing it again so soon after they had found each other.
"No," she said quietly, and took Emma's hand. "Gold would in all likelihood be worse. Plus, it's only right that you honor your promises, and he's not asking for anything unreasonable, really. It's just terrible timing."
"It'll be ok, I'll be perfectly fine," Emma said. "Gold needs me, and I doubt he spent all this time and energy making sure I'd come here, meet you all, and save the town only to lure me away and kill me in Boise, Idaho or something. I just wish I knew Henry would be safe while I was gone. Not that I don't trust you guys, of course! Still…"
"I understand completely," Snow reassured her. "He's your son."
She said it as if that explained everything. And maybe it did. Emma was sort of new to whole loving parent thing, but she knew she would give her life for Henry's in a heartbeat. If there was just something she could do. Emma sat up quickly, "I have an idea! Maybe there's some sort of protection spell I can get from Gold to keep Henry from harm while I'm out of town. It can't hurt to ask!" Emma fished her boots out from under her bed and pulled them on in a flurry of motion, reaching for her jacket and car keys afterwards.
"I don't know," Snow looked at her rushing daughter with more than a little concern. "Protection spells are tricky. There is never a guarantee that they'll work properly. And do you really want to be indebted to Mr. Gold again? If you have to go, we can watch Henry. I promise you we will."
"I know, mom, and believe me when I tell you there's no one I'd rather he be with while I'm gone, but a little extra protection would mean peace of mind for all of us, right?"
Emma became alarmed at the sudden tears in Snow's eyes. "Seriously, I trust you guys! I just-"
"No, no, that's not it," Snow laughed and brushed away a few tears. "You called me mom!"
Emma blushed. "Yeah, well… It's about time, right? Anyway, I've got to go. I should have just enough time to catch Gold and ask about the spell before he really gets into packing for the trip. God knows what that even entails. How does a five hundred year old fairy tale warlock prepare for a roadtrip? Never mind, I don't want to know." She stuffed her cell phone in her back pocket and waved to Henry and her father on her way out the door.
Charming left his grandson to his drawing and came over to kiss Snow's cheek. "So where is our daughter running off to now? Another dragon needs slaying?" Snow smacked his rear end and he smiled. She stood up and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"She's gone to see about a protection spell for Henry, which should conceivably not be as dangerous as a dragon, but with Gold involved, who knows? I tried to talk her out of it, but she's so headstrong."
"Yeah, she gets that from you," Charming dodged another swat. "She'll be fine. We just have to have faith in her."
"Always," Snow agreed. "Now who wants some chocolate chip cookies?" she called in a louder voice towards the kitchen.
"Me!" Henry cried, and jumped off the chair, already grabbing the milk from the refrigerator.
"Mr. Gold?" Emma called, as the little bell tinkled over the pawnshop's door.
The man himself walked out from the back, carrying his customary cane. Emma wondered briefly if he truly needed it for anything other than beating people. He looked as impeccably dressed as always in a crisp purple shirt, silk tie, and at least three rent checks' worth of a suit.
"Ms. Swan. You're early. Not that I don't appreciate your zeal, but I'm not quite prepared yet."
"Yeah, probably need to sacrifice those last few virgins," Emma mumbled.
"What was that, dearie?" Gold was smiling as if he had heard her, that preternatural freaky bastard.
"I need your help. I need a spell."
Gold raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure you understand the concept of our little trip today. It is the payment for the favor you already owe me. Now you wish for something more? Are you really sure that's what you want?" His tone implied that no, that is really not what she should want.
"Yes. I want a protection spell for Henry, to keep him safe from Cora while we're gone." Emma stared him straight in the face. "This is a terrible time for you to call in my favor, and I figure the least you could do is help me protect my own son while we go looking for yours!"
"Ms. Swan, let's get something straight: you owe me a favor, not the other way around. And asking for your assistance while retrieving my son is a fairly mundane form of repayment, let me assure you. It could have been unspeakably worse." He didn't need to add that he had asked unspeakably worse from others less fortunate beholden to him.
Emma swallowed, hard. "Please, Mr. Gold. I need it for my son."
He considered her for a long moment, and Emma was aware of the minutes ticking away until noon. It was just past eight now.
"Well, if it's for Henry, I'm sure I can manage something." Gold walked behind the counter and lifted out his black potions box from beneath the register. He opened it and ran his fingers along the rows of little wax stoppers. His thumb came to rest on a one of the bottles. He looked back up at Emma, then withdrew the chosen vial slowly.
Damn drama queen, Emma thought.
The bottle was lovely, made of red glass and tapered to a thin, elegant neck. The wax that sealed it was white and pearly. Emma could see the liquid sloshing around inside it, catching the light and refracting it into a million shades of pink.
Gold spoke, "This is the base ingredient for a powerful protection spell, but there are other… components. I cannot provide those, you have to do so yourself."
"That's fine," Emma said, reaching for the bottle.
"Wait." Gold put the potion on the counter and rested his hands on his cane. "Miss Swan, you should know that this spell is unique. All magic comes with a price, and the protection of a loved one costs much indeed. In your circumstance, well, you may not be prepared to pay."
"Gold, there is no price I wouldn't pay for the safety of my son. As a father yourself you should understand that."
"Oh, I do, but-"
Emma snatched the vial off the countertop and tucked it into the front pocket of her jeans. "Good. So what else do I need for the spell?"
Gold sighed, and took a sheet of parchment from the potion box. He passed his hand over it, and spidery black lettering shimmered into life across the page. He handed it to her.
"The instructions are all on here. We shall discuss your payment at some later date after we've secured my son. I suggest you do the spell quickly. I expect you to return here promptly at noon." He turned his attention to closing up the box and putting it away as Emma walked out the door.
"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…" As he counted down, he couldn't help but smile despite the general state of shambles his life was in. Sometimes, all it took to lighten the heart was the misery of another. Just like in the good old days. "…one."
"GOLD!" The door to his shop banged open and his poor little bell flew off and knocked over a hat stand. "What is this bullshit?!"
Gold faced his angry intruder. "Such language, Ms. Swan! And look what you've done to my bell. I knew you would be the death of it one day."
"Cut the crap, and tell me exactly what this garbage means." She stalked over to the counter and slammed the parchment down on it so hard he feared the glass would break.
"I don't understand."
"Enough! Of course you do. This is… filthy! This spell. It's complete bullshit!" she repeated.
He finished righting the hat stand and turned around to face her. His voice was harsher than it had been before, and she could swear she was talking to Rumplestiltskin now.
"I warned you the spell came at a high price, dearie. Let's see if I remember your reply. 'There is no price I wouldn't pay for the safety of my son'. Was that about right? What exactly has changed in the past five or so minutes? It's not as if you have to kill anyone."
"But… but…" Emma mentally slapped herself. She needed to get it together. Arguing with Rumplestiltskin required all of her wits. Maybe more than she had, actually. "This can't be the right spell. It reads like a low budget movie script. Real magic doesn't work this way."
"Oh, and now you're an expert on real magic? A month ago you didn't believe it existed at all! Trust me, this is the real spell, those are the real requirements, and you really have to do what it says on that scrap of parchment if you want to safeguard your son."
"But, it says I have to sleep with someone!" Emma's shocked whisper would have done a Victorian spinster proud.
"Sleeping isn't required, my dear," Gold snickered. Juvenile, but worth it! "I fail to see why you're carrying on so. It's not as if you're an innocent maiden. Been around the block and have the illegitimate son to prove it, eh? It should be no unendurable hardship. Although, you may want to get a move on it, you only have about three hours left."
"ARGH!" Emma threw up her hands. "This is ridiculous. I can't just accost some random stranger and say hey, let's have sex!"
"Of course not," agreed Gold. "You have to choose carefully. Didn't you read the rest of the paper?"
"Well, no, I sort of got stuck at that first little detail!"
"It has to be someone with strong ties to our enchanted lands, someone with magic in his veins, in his history. It can't be a regular human. It has to be a fairy tale person, and the more magical the better."
Emma's heart skipped several beats and she could feel the blood draining from her face. "No freaking way are you suggesting…" She took a giant step back in horror.
Gold's eyes widened as he caught her meaning. "NO. That is absolutely not what I meant. Ms. Swan, try to control your overactive imagination. You couldn't possibly afford that price." He almost sounded insulted.
"Yeah, well, it sure seemed like that's where you were going, old man! Goddamned scary as hell."
Emma tended to swear like a sailor when upset. Gold found it rather amusing.
"This is a primitive spell, ancient and effective. Ideally, the parents of the child in question would be the ones performing it," he lectured. "The sexual intercourse would not be much of a price to pay in and of itself. That's why the blood sacrifice is required. However, your circumstance is… more delicate, shall we say? You have to choose your partner with as much care as time allows."
She chewed on her bottom lip and thought out loud. "August would be ok. He's sort of my friend, and he's single, attractive. I think he would help me out and it wouldn't be overly traumatic for either of us. But I haven't been able to find him since I broke the curse. I don't even know if he's alive or not. So who else is available?"
"Have you considered our handsome local milliner?" Gold suggested.
"Speak English, Gold."
He rolled his eyes. "Other than myself, which we have already established is most certainly not an option, there are only a couple of other men that had knowledge of magic and our world even during the curse. They would be your best choices for ensuring a powerful spell. One, as you mentioned, is the puppet, who has apparently disappeared, and another-" He paused for dramatic effect. "Is the Wonderlander."
"Hatter?! The Mad Hatter? He's crazy! Are you crazy? There's no way. He tied my mother to a chair, and tried to blackmail me into making hats for him! He's completely off his rocker."
"Yes, that is technically what it means to be mad."
"I am not sleeping with that crackpot."
"Again with the sleeping. What is with you people here? Back in my world, the spell didn't involve all this sleeping."
"STOP! Just stop. I don't need your fond remembrances of screwing in the olden days, ok? Just give me that." Emma angrily yanked the parchment off the counter and crumpled it into her back pocket. She sighed and thought of Henry's smiling face, and her usual grim-determination-in-the-face-of-insurmountable-odds demeanor returned. She marched toward the exit. "If you will excuse me, Gold, I have a man to catch."
"Best of luck, dearie!" His laughter followed her out the door.