Made All the Difference
by misscam

Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.

Author's Note: This is an AU premise, changing who cast the curse as well as the Storybrooke it then created. The main pairing will be Snow/Charming, and it will also have some Belle/Rumpelstiltskin, minor Emma/Graham and possibly some others as it goes along. It will also feature a redemption story for Regina. As with the show, there will be flashbacks to FTL.
Thanks to Angie for beta work.

II

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

II

Prologue

II

A wind moves down the main street, whipping up the leaves and leaving them to fall back down again, exactly as it did the day before and will again the day after. This is Storybrooke. Life is much like the wind, repeating itself with only tiny variations. Nothing much changes.

Until tonight.

The wind whips at Mr. Gold as he walks through the street, carrying a soft bundle in his arms. Most of the inhabitants of the town avoid him, as it is said dealing with him is making a deal with the darkness, though no one quite remembers who said it or why.

It is hard to remember much in this town at all, as if the days passing are mist and impossible to make solid in their memories. And thus life passes, day by day, while time does not.

Mr. Gold finally reaches his destination, pausing by an old truck and looking up at the house by it. There is a birdhouse in the garden, making him form something that might pass for a smile. Certain things do not change, Mr. Gold knows. Oh, how he knows.

This is the house of Mary Margaret and David Nolan. They've been married forever, or that's how it seems to everyone. She's a school teacher, he runs the Storybrooke stables. She's a little meek but loving and caring, he is kind and unassuming and offers apologetic smiles far too often. On Sundays they walk hand in hand down the main street, pausing at the corners to kiss.

Mary Margaret and David Nolan have a good little life, most agree, perhaps even better than most in this little town. But even so, they all know something is missing for them. A child. All these years and missing a child. It is strange to miss something they can't remember having, but it is a strangeness that seems to cling to this town.

Most people in Storybrooke miss something. Even principal Regina Mills in her great mansion has something a little lost in her eyes, widowed as she is and visiting her father in the nursing home every week as if that is her only comfort. Mr Gold too, Mayor Gold, collects maps as if he would rather be out searching the world than be here, and never visits a certain bar where a young woman works. (Perhaps just as well, some remark, because it is said she has no heart from how easily she breaks others'.) This is not a town of happy endings.

At least for now.

Mr Gold looks down at the bundle in his arms. This will be the start, he knows. The first tiny change in this town that doesn't change, and one day a much larger change will follow. Until then...

He walks up the stairs to the Nolan apartment, lifting a hand to knock and waiting while he hears hesitant steps come closer. It is David who opens, eyes widening a little in surprise when he sees who it is.

"Mr Gold. What can I do for you?"

"Mr Nolan. It is more what I can do for you and Mary Margaret."

The sound of his wife's name always makes David's expression soften, and this time is no exception, even if the slightly confused look also stays. David Nolan is often a little confused, something Mr Gold almost envies. Sometimes it would be easier not to see so clearly.

"Here," he offers, pushing the bundle at David who takes it automatically, looking down at it. "The adoption is finalized. This is your child now."

"But..." David starts, sounding about as confused as he should be, since he and Mary Margaret hasn't started any adoption proceedings and Mr Gold hasn't told them he's done it for them. No matter. They won't remember that. They'll just know they've adopted a child.

"This will be your child," Mr Gold says firmly, voice filled with power. "You and Mary Margaret adopted him. Closed adoption."

"Our child," David repeats a little hesitantly, his brow furrowing. He looks down at child wrapped in warm blankets, who is just now opening his eyes to look up.

Love at first sight takes many forms, Mr Gold knows, just as love itself does. Here it is again and again it will be of use to him.

"David, who is it?" Mary Margaret's soft voice calls, coming closer until she steps up behind David, touching his back as she does. "Mr Gold, I... Oh."

She leans down to look at the child with the same mesmerized expression as David, her breathing a little ragged. It seems such a natural thing, the two of them with a child, as if it has happened before. (But then, of course it has, and Mr Gold knows that better than anyone, since no one else really knows anymore.)

"Your child," he says again, neither of them looking up at him, but still hearing it, he knows. Feeling it become true. "Closed adoption. You may name him."

"Our child," Mary Margaret says longingly. "Oh, David..."

Their hands link on the baby's blanket, their heads close together as they regard the life in their hands. Parents and child. Such a strong love, Mr Gold knows. Strong enough to do unspeakable things, as he has done. As he will do.

"What do you think about Henry?" Mary Margaret asks hesitantly. "After Regina's father. I think she would like that since she can't... Henry. Let's call him Henry."

"Henry," David echoes. "Yes. Hello, Henry."

Henry. So be it.

Mr Gold leaves them there, David and Mary Margaret and the child they will raise and raise well, he knows. Family. More family to them than they'll realise for many years, but will eventually.

The wind whips at him the moment he steps out into the street again, stirring the leaves in the Nolan garden and making them fall into new patterns. He watches for a moment, lifting his gaze to the birdhouse above.

Certain things never change, Mr Gold knows. But everything else might still.