Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time; ABC does. How lucky are they? I also do not own the characters of Emma and Gold—they are wonderfully portrayed by Jennifer Morrison and Robert Carlyle respectively.
A/N: Here it is—my Valentine's Day Golden Swan fic. For the record, it is loosely based on Valentine's Day and does not take place after my Simple Kiss story. Nonetheless, I hope everyone enjoys reading it and is having a marvelous Valentine's Day.
Bound to You
You be the prince and I'll be the princess; it's a love story, baby, just say yes…
The overplayed sappy love songs were starting to grate on Emma's nerves. She tapped her pen rapidly against the checkered tabletop and tried to ignore the overhead music.
A futile effort.
Every time she thought she had blocked it out, her brain would register the tune in the background, the catchy lyrics would bounce around in her skull, and she would be sucked back into the whirlpool of love. That was assuming she ever successfully broke away from the tide in the first place.
Did she really need another reminder that Valentine's Day was right around the corner?
It was supposed to be one romantic day of the year, but ever since the curse broke, love was a much celebrated concept in this town. A holiday dedicated to finding true love? No kidding. It was promoted to Valentine's Week.
Even this crossword in the Daily Mirror was based off all things romance! There was no escaping it!
"Actress of romantic flick Sleepless in Seattle," she mumbled aloud to herself thoughtfully. She had never been into chick flicks. It was such a waste of Kleenex.
Lines of intense concentration marred her forehead as she struggled to recall the name…It was hovering on the tip of her tongue…
"I believe the answer you're searching for…is Meg Ryan," a terribly familiar Scottish accent buzzed in her ear. She clenched her eyes shut and dropped the pen onto the newspaper. Okay, she'd rather take the sappy love music now.
Leaning back in her booth, she took her time in meeting those calculating brown eyes. There was something intrusive about them that seemed to flay her skin and peer deep into her soul. It rooted her to the spot, commanded her undivided attention at all times.
Gold—or rather, Rumpelstiltskin—lingered at the edge of her table. Unsurprisingly, he was immaculately dressed as always, with that odd fuchsia dress shirt adding color to his charcoal suit. Emma wondered if that was his way of celebrating Valentine's Week. Or did he simply like all things pink?
"Thanks," she reluctantly replied and penned in the answer. "I've never had the misfortune to see it. I take it you have?"
Was Gold a secret lover of chick flicks or something? Or did it come from living in that glorious pink house all by himself? Either he had seen it or he wasn't kidding about being exceptionally good with names.
That tricky smile teased his lips, the end of his cane tapping against the tiles.
"Once. It's a fitting movie for a rainy day."
Emma would take his word for it. She raised her eyebrows questioningly. Was that where he was during that massive storm? Curled up on his couch in warm pajamas with a buttery bowl of popcorn and watching Sleepless in Seattle?
She shook the strange image from her mind before she could envision Gold crying into his bowl of popcorn. A few seconds passed until she realized he was still standing there, silently requesting her immediate attention. God only knew he wouldn't leave until he got what he wanted.
The man was as stubborn as a child sometimes.
"Can I help you with something? Did your shop get robbed again?" That seemed to happen a lot these days. Something dark flashed through Gold's sharp eyes and his good mood faltered.
"Why does everyone ask that? One hormonal pregnant woman does it and suddenly it's my reasoning for everything," he exclaimed, his voice rising more than a few notches.
His knuckles tightened over his cane until they turned bone-white. He stared obstinately at the tiles for a fleeting moment. Then he smoothed a hand through his dusty brown hair and seemingly jumped right back to his walking-on-air attitude.
"May I sit down?"
Emma opened her mouth to ever-so-politely decline, maybe stretch her legs onto the opposite seat. But he was already gliding down to sit across from her. This was the guy who left her stranded in an elevator, among other things. She didn't exactly fancy treating herself to heart-shaped cookies with him. Not even if they had pink sprinkles.
Immediately, Red rushed over with a steaming cup of coffee and placed it squarely in front of Gold.
"Thank you, dearie," he addressed their waitress flatly. It was more of a dismissal than a show of manners.
From the pocket of her apron, Red pulled out a handful of Sweethearts. At first Emma thought she intended to offer the little candy hearts to Gold. That would have been a sight in itself. Instead, she held one up so that he could read the message: a smiley face.
Then she flitted away. Curiouser and curiouser…
An amused chuckle came from Gold's side of the table. Emma was still stuck on what the hell all that was about.
"Our dear werewolf has made a sticky bet with Snow's favorite dwarf," he remarked. "She must refrain from speaking until after Valentine's Day. All she can use are those candy hearts to get her message across. I pity the person who asks for the bathroom."
Emma stared incredulously at Gold and then across the diner to Red, who was currently waving a pink heart in Whale's face. With that girl's thirst for gossip, she was bound to cave. Emma was placing her bets on Grumpy.
"The way this town behaves around Valentine's Day, they should rename it the Kissing Town," she muttered. Gold's presence made it too difficult to focus on the crossword, so she shoved it aside. He casually sipped his coffee, his attention never straying from her face. "Again, may I help you? Or do you seriously enjoy my company?"
"I really enjoy your company…Emma," he drawled. The way he spoke her name always mystified her—it was like he never tired of having it roll pleasurably off his tongue. "Do you remember that favor you owe me?"
Oh, no. Every nerve in her body halted with dread. He wasn't calling it in, was he? It couldn't be a coincidence that it was so close to Valentine's Day. It took about a minute to swallow the lump in her throat.
"No, which one?" His expression darkened. He didn't like the implication of Emma forgetting their deal even slightly. She sighed. "How could I possibly forget, Gold? You remind me every chance you get," she retorted. He smirked over the rim of his coffee cup.
"Exactly," he whispered loud enough for her ears to catch. Her muscles tensed up and her mind clouded over with confusion. Was this some kind of trick?
"What?" He lightly set the coffee cup down and rested his arms on the tabletop. His body loomed forward with the ease of a rattlesnake until their faces were barely a few inches apart. She could literally feel the warmth of his breath on her skin.
"You obviously expected a better reason for my presence. I just gave you one—the reminder of our agreement. Now, I'm simply enjoying your company, as I said."
He took up his cup, raised it in a mocking toast, and sipped it eagerly. The steam tickled her nose and she pulled back. Anxiously, she weaved her fingers through her blonde hair if only to give her hands something to do besides clenching.
"So…all you wanted to do was give me yet another reminder that I owe you a favor?" The glee dancing wildly in his brown eyes was answer enough. "Smug bastard."
Gold disregarded the rash name-calling and chose to roll his shoulders loosely in a shrug: what can I say? His teeth peeked out from beneath his curved lips. Smug was an understatement.
"Admit it, Emma. You enjoy my company, too. Perhaps I am the one doing you the favor." And he winked.
Emma prepared a list of snide remarks, but none of them escaped her lips. In truth, she didn't not like his company. She'd be lying if she claimed Gold wasn't one of Storybrooke's most intriguing residents. The man was a mystery to be uncovered. Every time she tried to unravel him, though, another layer replaced the one that was shed.
Luckily, the chime of the bell and the pattern of excited footsteps saved her from having to admit that out loud.
"Emma, there you are," Henry gasped as he skidded to a stop in front of their table.
There weren't many places in Storybrooke she could hide from the kid. Her hang-outs mostly consisted of Mary Margaret's apartment, the station, and the diner. Henry was almost bursting at the seams with enthusiasm…and then he noticed Gold.
Was that the screech of a record Emma heard?
"Oh…hi, Mr. Gold. Or, Rumpelstiltskin. Which one do you prefer?"
A genuine smile rose to Gold's lips. Emma had never seen the pawnbroker so at ease as when he was around Henry. Astonishingly, she could picture him as the kind of guy that adored kids. He was always so patient with Henry and never minded his unsatisfied curiosity. It was sort of…nice.
"Either one suits me well, Henry," he answered humbly. The kid must have deemed Gold safe, for he instantly whirled back on Emma. Any minute now, she expected the kid to float away like a balloon.
"I've been looking for you," he said. As if that wasn't obvious from the way he nearly barreled over Mother Superior. "You know how Grandma got me a magician's set last Christmas? Well, I've been practicing. Want me to show you a few tricks?"
Her son gazed hopefully at her, his hands joined in a pleading fist. Emma's mouth split open, with only awkward silence emitting from it. Once upon a time, she might have been able to handle a few pointless magic tricks—making a Styrofoam cup float in the air or Henry "cutting off" his thumb. The breaking of the curse had left her shaky about magic in all cases.
"I don't know, kid…" She winced in anticipation of his disappointment, but the kid merely spun toward Gold with the puppy-eyes on full blast. Sure, go cut his thumb off, why don't you, Emma thought as she watched Gold's face become agreeable.
"Are you going to pull a quarter out of my ear, Henry?"
The man was practically showering in money, anyway. A quarter from his ear should be no big deal. Henry waved his hand in circles and then reached behind Gold's ear. Between his fingers appeared a shiny quarter.
"Ta-da," Henry exclaimed, holding the quarter out so both of them could see it. Emma even took it from his hand to make sure it was a genuine quarter. "That was beginner's stuff. I want to try a bigger magic trick…but I have to use both of you to do it."
Henry slyly glanced up at Emma from underneath his eyelashes, waiting for her confirmation. Under the table, Gold prodded her leg with his foot. She sent him a cross look and stomped down on his foot, causing him to growl in pain. Despite her irritability, her resolve was chipping the more she studied Henry with careful consideration.
What was the harm, really? It would be one lousy magic trick and it would make Henry happy. Oh, the price of being a newfound mother.
"Work your magic, Henry the Magnificent," she relented. Henry beamed, his irises glowing with joy. She would give anything to keep that smile on his face.
"Henry the Magnificent…I like it. You know, I could always use an assistant." The way Emma's jaw fixed shot that horse dead. There was no way she was standing on some street corner and shouting ridiculous phrases like 'Presto Change-o!' "Or not. Okay, both of you hold your hands over the table."
Emma had a very bad feeling about this, but she copied Gold anyway and stretched her arms over the table. Her hands accidentally brushed Gold's and the corners of his lips twitched in a smile. Please don't cut our hands off, please don't cut our hands off…
Henry searched around their table for something before he leaned over and grabbed a handful of napkins from the dispenser. Opening one, he draped the thin paper over their hands, shielding them from view. Emma's stomach was in knots.
"Now all I have to do is say the magic word—Henry-kazam! And…." Emma spotted Henry's hand scrambling under the napkin. She felt something cold encircle her wrist, startling her into numbness. What the hell was on her hand?
Gold must have felt it, too, since his expression was as confused as she felt inside. Henry whipped off the napkin in one quick flourish to reveal his work. Oh…my…God…
There was a bracelet on Emma's wrist. Except this bracelet was shiny and had a chain attached to it. Her eyes followed its path, straight to where it linked with a matching bracelet on Gold's wrist. Panic overwhelmed her mind, blaring like a red alarm.
She was handcuffed to Gold. Handcuffed to Gold!
"Henry, what did you do?" Her brain fizzled as she tried to process the unsettling predicament she'd fallen into. Her fingers clawed at the metal bracelet, but it was secured. There was no getting rid of it. "Trick's over, kid. Where's the key?"
Henry seemed equally as amazed, his eyes boggling with wonder. It did not soothe Emma's anxiety in the least. If anything, her heart pounded harder against the skin of her chest and a cold sweat broke out over her forehead. She should have stuck with the crossword.
"Wow. It's never worked before," he murmured almost to himself. Emma's eyebrows sky-rocketed. The nerves in her body were as icy as the sensation of the cuff rubbing her skin.
"What do you mean, 'it's never worked'?" Henry snapped back to life with the frigid tone of her voice. He shrugged.
Gold was clearly in shock; only his fingers moved as they experimentally traced the chain. Then his hand wove over the bracelet back and forth. She was about to ask him what he was doing when it hit her—he was attempting to use magic to escape. And it wasn't working.
"It's never worked," Henry repeated. He touched a finger to the chain as if it might not be real. "I tried using these on Grumpy and Gramps, but it didn't work. Then I tried it with Mary Margaret and the Queen. Every time the handcuffs just fell off," he explained.
Newly inspired, Emma wrenched her arm back to tug the handcuffs. Gold's stomach lurched into the table, his breath whooshing from his mouth. She wiggled her arm in the air again. The chain rattled, but the handcuffs didn't clatter to the table.
This could not be happening. Not on Valentine's Week!
"Henry…" Gold straightened in his seat and dreamily lilted. He clasped his free hand around the cuff that trapped his wrist. A spark of realization flowered in his eyes, directing Emma's curiosity to something other than trying to force her hand out of the cuff. "Are these the same handcuffs….from my shop?"
Emma's gaze flickered to Henry. Guilt transpired across his little face, his shoe bashfully scuffling over the tiled floor.
"I thought you might have been there. I saw the handcuffs on the wall and thought I would try that trick. I was going to return them afterwards," he blurted out in apology. Gold's body stiffened visibly, instigating even more worry in Emma's mind.
The blank mask pieced together and Gold reverted to the in-control, hard-to-read dealmaker once more. He waved the admission off with a slide of his free hand. Emma sensed the disarray churning underneath, though. There was something Gold wasn't saying.
"Never mind it, Henry. Perhaps the key is somewhere in my shop."
With that note of finality, he quickly slid out of the booth. Emma had no choice but to do the same unless she wanted to be pulled out onto the diner's floor in front of everyone. They kept their conjoined hands between them so that no one would be able to see the cuffs.
As they made their way toward the front entrance, with the weight of Henry's stare following after them, Gold dipped his head down by Emma's ear. Her scowl increased. Now was not a good time for his witty remarks.
"Be thankful he didn't saw us in half."
Just as Emma reached the door, she felt a new pair of eyes drilling holes in her back. She turned her head to meet Red's sultry eyes, gleaming with curiosity upon noticing Emma leave with Gold. She fumbled in her apron and held up a yellow heart. Text me.
A stubborn headache started up right behind Emma's eyes.
I hate Valentine's Week.
The first burden about being handcuffed to Gold that Emma knew she would not forget easily was this: wherever Gold went, she inevitably followed. It was beyond frustrating.
Once outside the diner, Gold seemed to take it upon himself to call the shots and instantly turned right. Emma fumed through the nose. What if I wanted to turn left? This should be a joint decision! Of course, she could always kick his cane out from under him and then drag him down the street of her choosing.
With Emma in tow, he began to head in the direction of his shop. No matter how Emma tugged or struggled, the cuffs refused to loosen. If anything, their restriction seemed to increase.
And so she found her feet begrudgingly matching his strides. It was the most logical thing to do; cooperating until they found a way out of this mess. If they got all the way to his shop and he broke the news to her that he misplaced the key, she'd find a new use for that cane. It wouldn't be pleasant.
She supposed this could be worse. He could have insisted on driving, in which case she would likely tumble into his lap whenever he took a sharp turn.
"So, what exactly weren't you saying in there?" Gold shifted his head to study her cautiously. The walls shot up to the sky, barricading her outside. Whatever he was thinking, he was keeping it safely locked inside the barriers of his mind. A place that was so heavily protected, she could never reach it.
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. These handcuffs are as much a conundrum to me as they appear to be for you," he replied in his guarded, soft-spoken manner. Somehow, Emma seriously doubted he was suffering at the magnitude that she was.
"Yeah, right. Being handcuffed to the savior is a real nightmare for you," she sarcastically scoffed. He yanked his arm up and effectively dragged her forward. It was his way of telling her to drop the subject. "You know something else about these handcuffs. Why would it be important that they came from your shop?"
Unless he was planning on having Henry arrested for "borrowing." Then again, this was the man who pocketed penny candy in Mr. Clark's store. Being a has-been thief, she knew every trick in the book. She wouldn't recommend the pregnancy scam for Gold, though.
His forehead creased with lines of anxiety and frustration. She knew she hit the bulls-eye in terms of his ambiguity. There was something he refused to share with her. For some reason, he was keeping her in the dark. Did he not trust her?
"Emma, I don't think now is the best time—"
She dared to dig her heels into the ground, forcing him to stop in his tracks lest he rip her fingertips from the frame of the dress shop's window. Irritated, he turned full-circle and glowered at her. She mirrored his annoyance. If anyone should be upset, it should be her.
"Really? Because I think now is the perfect time. It is the week of Valentine's Day, I am living among fairy tale characters, there's nothing but mushy love songs on the radio, and—in case you haven't noticed—I am handcuffed to Rumpelstiltskin! And I refuse to move another inch until you tell me what is going on in that head of yours. You'll just have to drag me."
From the way his eyelids narrowed in challenge, he was considering doing just that any second. The reminder of his sore leg must have changed his mind, for he gestured to the alleyway next to Modern Fashions. That was as far as she was going.
His eyes scanned the area back and forth, as though he were afraid someone might be eavesdropping. His tongue darted out to carefully trace his upper lip. Emma spread her free hand by her side, silently urging him onward. Well?
"Every item in my shop is extraordinary. These handcuffs are no exception. Were you aware that your father had a twin brother?" The furrow of her brow explained her obliviousness. "These handcuffs originally belonged to him and his true love, Jack."
"Jack? As in…Jack and the Beanstalk? Fe, fi, fo, fum and the like?"
He held up a hand to calm any assumptions she might be making. For one thing, if Jack was real, then where the hell was the giant? She figured a towering human would be hard to miss. Or was he…tiny?
"One and the same. It's short for Jacqueline," he informed her. Emma's eyebrows nearly stretched up into her hairline. Where was Henry when she needed him to explain these fairy-tale touch-ups? Oh, yes—in the diner performing magic tricks. How could she forget?
"Wait…you're telling me that Jack…is a girl?"
"Woman," he corrected. Same difference. "And you'd be wise to use past tense. She died. Anyhow, these handcuffs are not your average, run-of-the-mill handcuffs. They have been enchanted for the sole purpose of pleasure."
Was he trying to come up with a solution? Or sell them to her?
"Yeah…so is every pair of handcuffs in adult romance books," she retorted dryly. He offered her a warning look that demanded silence while he finished. Emma gestured for him to continue, their hands moving as one.
"I have never been interested in using them myself. As far as I know, there are only three possible ways to escape these handcuffs once two people have been locked together." He began to tick the items off on his fingers. "One, you cut your hand off. Grisly, I know. Two, death. And then there is the third option. I'm afraid you're not going to be pleased with it."
Emma tried to cross her arms, but too soon realized it reeled Gold against her body. Angrily, she waved her trapped arm in the air, Gold's arm helpless to stay still along with it. If anyone saw them from a distance, it would look like they were fist-pumping together.
"Don't spare my feelings. Out with it already," she screeched.
She was dreading the consequences if she and Gold did not remove the handcuffs by nightfall. Was there a door that did not lead to violent measures? Or was she really going to have to make use of her father's sword?
The possible future abruptly flashed inside her mind. How would they eat? How would they shower? Oh, God…where would they sleep? Not…together? Can't breathe…can't breathe….I might be having a heart attack at twenty-eight!
Gold exhaled deeply, resigned to revealing the last shred of detail he was holding terribly close to his chest. She wasn't all too certain whether she wanted to hear it. Emma could not have braced herself enough for the third and final option.
"The two people who are joined together by the handcuffs must…engage in certain…intimate affairs in order to ensure the removal of the handcuffs. The ultimate pleasure, if you will."
Emma stared hard at him for several minutes, unblinking. She prayed her mind had translated that gibberish wrong. There was no way it could mean…it couldn't possibly…
She gulped nervously.
"What you're basically describing is…we would have to…" Gold followed her train of thought and solemnly inclined his head in acknowledgement. A stone—no, a boulder—plunged into Emma's stomach, sizzling hot as a fiery coal.
"Yes, Emma," he confirmed her growing fears. It only took two words to officially make her weak at the knees. . "Making love."
A bit straightforward, I know. The fun is all in the journey, right? Either way, I think I could have serious fun with this and I hope everyone reading this does, too. With that in mind, I wish you all a Happy Valentine's Day! *hands out pink-sprinkled heart-shaped cookies*
The lyrics, of course, come from Taylor Swift's Love Story.