A part of Rumpelstiltskin had always wanted grandchildren. He wanted to make up for his corrupted fatherhood in a new generation, yet he never wanted to use his future grandchild simply because he felt guilty over how badly he had wronged his son.
This was probably the reason why Rumpelstiltskin distanced himself from Henry the moment he knew. He always felt it; some strange, paternal side cared for the boy, from the moment he set eyes on the squirming infant, through the years he watched from afar as young Henry aged under Regina's care.
When Emma finally, bluntly decided to stop beating around the bush and ask the grandfather why he hated his grandson, Rumpelstiltskin was floored, as well as admittedly hurt.
He never hated the boy, even when he distanced himself as far as he possibly could when he found out the little lad had a biological relation to him. He pulled away only because he didn't want to repeat past mistakes, and end up hurting Henry in a way he'd never want him to be hurt.
Frankly, it was hard for the man to comprehend how anyone could hate the child. Sure he get under your skin, as could most children (Bae included), and he tended to lack quite a bit in his manners, but the child had been the one to save them all. History could write Emma down as a hero all they wanted to, but she never would have accepted her destiny if it wasn't for her son.
That being said, Rumpelstiltskin wasn't entirely sure if he loved Henry, even after nearly six months of suddenly being bestowed the title as grandfather. He was both a difficult man to love and to love others, besides the people that had been permanently engraved into his heart already.
Belle was a fantastic step-grandmother, and Henry loved her. The two shared a passion for reading, and once Henry managed to get the woman engrossed into comics, well, that was all Belle ever read.
It was truly pathetic how Henry's step grandmother did a better job of filling her role as a grandparent than he, the real grandparent did. He was encouraged multiple times by his love, and even members of the Charming family, but Rumpelstiltskin could never seem to pull out of his shell.
That is, until today.
"Well, I feel as if I'm in some over familial after school special," Rumpelstiltskin muttered to himself as he un-crumpled Belle's second clue. He had to snort at the overly cute little smiley face she used to dot the end of the clue. She owed him big for this...
"You find anything yet, Lad?"
The man tried to keep the impatient lilt from leaking into his tone. Kids took time understanding puzzles, and Henry hadn't spent enough time with Belle to read her like a book, like he had. He was pretty sure he could practically see the frayed edges of the note in the tree, but he kept his mouth shut.
"No, I don't see anything," the young boy called back to his grandfather. He poked his face out of a bush, startling Rumpelstiltskin. "Are you sure we're in the right part of the forest?"
"Positive." Every part of the pawn shop owner itched to grab that eleven year old's head and jerk it up to the tree so they could be one step closer to finishing this grueling ordeal, but he kept his mouth shut.
It had to be a conspiracy of that wicked Sheriff and his own darling son, it just had to be. Frankly, his dear Belle's sporadic treasure hunt, and Neal's sudden bout of food poisoning tied together too well to be just a coincidence.
It had been early in the morning when Rumpelstiltskin received the call from an exasperated Emma, who had to deal with a colicky Neal all night from some bad chicken. Snow had the flu, Charming was taking care of her, and even by the curse of the gods, Regina (who had a truce with the family) was unavailable.
Taking care of Henry was no taxing challenge, and Rumpelstiltskin had done it before. Grandmother Belle, bless her heart, usually kept the boy occupied and saved his crocodile skin every time he needed to take care of his grandson. She warned him one day that he'd have to face looking after the boy sometime, but Rumpelstiltskin never thought the cruel woman would set him up like this.
"Mr. Gold, I found Belle's next clue!"
The crinkle in the per-teen's eye was enough to bring an endeared smile to the old man's face. He'd never be able to deny the warmth he felt at his grandson's happiness, no matter how much he wanted to.
"That's wonderful, Henry. Climb up and get it so we can move on."
Rumpelstiltskin cursed darkly to himself at the sheer height of the tree Henry needed to climb, and realized the boy would never be able to climb the bark on his own without assistance. It wasn't that he didn't want to help the child, but more due to the fact that the man was too weak to help without the crutch he had relied on all his life. Magic. Normally that wasn't an issue for Rumpelstiltskin; he used magic for everything.
However, he had made a solemn, unbreakable vow to himself that he wouldn't ever use magic when it came to Henry. He had sabotaged most of his relationships with his loved ones that way, and he'd be damned if he ended up losing another child because of magic.
"Give me a boost, Mr. Gold!"
Rumpelstiltskin sighed and limped to the base of the tree, trying to see if he could summon the strength in himself to lift the child. He was not going to use magic to levitate him, even though he knew that's what Henry wanted. The boy was fascinated by magic, understandably, but he knew of his grandfather's rule with it, so hopefully he wouldn't push him.
The pawnshop owner grunted as he wrapped his arms around the eleven year old and pulled him up onto one of the lowest branches, taking care to make sure it was sturdy enough so Henry wouldn't fall and get hurt. His dearest Bae had threatened to "tie his balls into a bow and tape them onto next year's Christmas gifts" if anything happened to Henry (just where did he pick up that kind of language anyway?).
"I got the clue!" Henry piped happily, waving another crumpled piece of paper. "This one's a tough riddle, Mr. Gold. Do you think you can figure it out?"
The man chuckled, glancing at his grandson with paternal fondness. "Aye boy, there aren't many riddles that can get passed The Dark One." He sat down and unfurled the paper, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion at the words. "...Or perhaps I've finally met my match."
Henry read over his grandfather's shoulder, missing the way Rumpelstiltskin stiffened as he put his hands on his back. "In the highest point of the forest, pointing toward the moon at night and the sun during the day; It's not a tree or a hill, and that is all that I can say."
Damn. Belle was better at this than he thought.
The man sat there, pondering for a moment longer and half hoping Henry would give up, but alas, the gods were not merciful enough to grant him such a wish.
"Well, we better keep going then! I'll bet it's further into the forest."
Rumpelstiltskin sighed. "I need a moment to rest, child." Henry, being the impatient child he knew only sighed and gave a little, rather endearing bounce of impatience.
"Can I go explore?"
"Stay in sight." The man paused, and then added for good measure, "And I mean it."
Rumpelstiltskin's eyes were closed, but he could still hear the crunching of leaves from Henry's shoes as they got further away. When he couldn't hear even a faint echo of Henry's shoes, he opened his eyes again. As he suspected, the insubordinate boy was nowhere in sight.
"Henry!" Anger leaked into the man's voice as he growled and pushed himself to his feet. Why couldn't the child just do as he was told? Bae was never this impossible at his age. Then again, Henry was well known in his family for his disobedience.
"Henry, you get out here now, young man!" Oh great, he had actually resorted to the 'young man' card. What was the world coming to?
Their was no answer other than the gentle whistle of the wind and rustling of leaves. Rumpelstiltskin cursed to himself as he stalked through the forest, venomously promising silently to tan the boy's hide the moment he found him.
He flicked his wrist and instantly snapped several small trees blocking his path, stepping through the clearing he made—and almost plummeting to his death. His feet teetered on the very edge of a cliff with a hundred foot drop leading to a thin, shallow stream below.
A whimper almost bubbled up in the man's throat as he shakily looked around, praying to the gods that Henry had not fallen off that cliff. "...Henry?"
Rumpelstiltskin was sure he was experiencing the closest thing that could be called a heart attack as he saw those tiny little fingers desperately wrapped around a frail root protruding from the side of the cliff, and dangling there with desperate fear.
By the gods, it was his first official bonding day with his grandchild and he was going to fall to his death.
"Gr-Grandpa!" Henry trembled out, marking the first time he had ever called the man by his grandfather title. It had always remained the detached 'Mr, Gold', but here in the desperation and fear of a young child, it was 'Grandpa'.
"Hold on, Lad," Rumpelstiltskin uttered, with as much shaky reassurance and comfort as he could muster. A colossal orb of magic encased the shivering boy and hovered him up to safety.
Rumpelstiltskin slipped over a few unstable rocks at the edge of the cliff, losing his grip on Henry, who thankfully collapsed with a yelp in his grandfather's arms. Rumpelstiltskin's head immediately jerked back and slammed forcefully into the tree.
He felt the back of his head prickle and throb, and felt a warm trickle that he knew wasn't rain water. He could still feel the warm bundle of his grandson in his arms and felt himself drifting off, until everything became warm and grey.
An angel had come to their rescue, and had bandaged the wound on Rumpelstiltskin's face and poured peroxide into a few scrapes on Henry's palms. To be more descriptive, it was a certain angel with brunette, silky hair, and a love for books that had been worried when their treasure hunt carried out longer than it should have.
Rumpelstiltskin now laid spread across his and Belle's large bed with a quiet Henry at the edge of the mattress in dim light, sifting through a new comic book Belle had picked up for him in town.
Neal and Emma had returned from the doctors and were both resting in the apartment, and the Charming couple remained in bed, Charming having apparently caught Snow's illness. What a day. If Rumpelstiltskin had known his attempt to bond with his grandson would lead to this train wreck of events he would have just stayed in bed.
"How are you feeling now?" Henry asked quietly from behind his comic. He glanced up, gazing over at his grandfather, who still seemed hazy from the pain.
"Remember when I told you I damaged my own foot in the past?"
"Well this pain could possibly rival it." The man paused, recalling the agony of cracked and broken bones and tendons, and shuddered. "Or perhaps not."
Henry set down the comic book, and the man felt a pang in his heart at the sight of those sad, bright green eyes. "I shouldn't have gone off that far."
Rumpelstiltskin snorted, a bit of an edge leaking to his voice. "You're right, you shouldn't have. It was foolish and you could have been killed."
The boy bowed his head, looking close to tears, and Rumpelstiltskin cursed over how much he looked like Bae in that moment, and felt his anger dissolve like an ice cube in a pot of boiling water.
"I'm sorry. I just...I thought if we finished the treasure hunt you'd think it was fun to spend time with me and we could do it more often."
The man felt his heart crack and was certain he could hear it as well. Was that truly the impression he had given the child, that he was boring and he didn't care to get to know him? Truly he was grandfather of the year. Rumpelstiltskin had remained a coward and had pushed away someone who wanted to maintain a relationship with him.
"I've never thought you were boring, Henry, but I...I know I've been distant. I didn't want to hurt you, as we know I'm prone to do..."
And here he almost destroyed another potential relationship.
The two were silent for a moment, and Henry's shoulders fell in a sad shrug. "So I guess Operation Treasure Hunt was a bust. We never even found Belle's treasure."
Rumpelstiltskin gave a silky chuckle and eased himself back against his pillow. "Perhaps, but she never gave us a time limit, dearie. Those woods are pretty deserted most of the time, so I doubt anyone will find it before we do. Plus, the weather is supposed to be beautiful tomorrow."
The joyous sparkle that alighted in the eleven year old's eyes would forever be imbedded into Rumpelstiltskin's mind, and he knew it was a look he'd never forget. "You mean it?"
"Well of course." The old man's eyes twinkled playfully and mischievously. "I made a deal with Belle after all."
Henry had never reminded Rumpelstiltskin more of Bae then he did in that moment, with the same twinkling eyes and beaming, chubby face.
Rumpelstiltskin reached over and flicked off the bedside lamp. He heard the covers rustle and felt Henry crawl up beside him in the dark. Something entwined with the man's heart when he felt the smaller bundle press himself against his side, and although his mind had always been clouded with fear and reluctance, he felt nothing but love and contentment in that moment.
An arm slid around the eleven year old as grandfather and grandson fell asleep in each other's embrace, and remained that way even when Belle came back to check on them.
(Been wanting to write Grandpa/Grandson Henry and Rumple so bad lately, and the new episode finally pushed it for me. Personally I don't think Rumple will try to kill Henry. I believe the camera panned into him at a convenient moment and the seer meant something entirely different. After all, we all know how badly Rum misinterpreted her first prediction...
There will be an epilogue to this fic, and I hope I did the characters justice! It's hard keeping Rumple in character when he's a grandpa...
Personally I see him being a loving one after being distant for a while.)