Sacrifices

The wind is whipping his scarf behind him and his thin-soled shoes are slapping against the pavement as he sprints through the streets of Storybrooke, knocking off one block after another in his race from the pawnshop to Hollyhock St.

He's just about there – only another corner to turn – when a leaf smacks into his face, briefly blinding him, and he crashes into something warm and solid, feeling strong hands grab him before he topples backwards.

"Whoa," David grunts. "Where's the fire?"

"Um, I don't…" Henry trails off and glances around like he's just stolen something. "I didn't mean..."

"You okay?" And in that moment, he looks so much like Gramps, even in his concerned tone and inflection, that Henry sways for a moment under the not fairof it all. "Easy," David says, holding his shoulders again. "Maybe you should sit down."

"No, I'm – I'm okay." Henry inhales deeply but still lets David guide him to a nearby porch step, before promptly crouching down in front of him.

It was one of Henry's favorite things about Gramps. He always made sure they saw eye-to-eye.

"I know I'm a total stranger, but you can talk to me, you know," he says after a quiet moment and Henry nearly loses it. The little composure he has twists and he buries his nose in his shoulder if only to hide the wobbling of his lower lip.

He's not a total stranger. In fact, he's the one person Henry would come running to in this moment, but he can't, because he's on a mission to get the man in front of him to know him once more. To seehim once more.

He gathers himself and rubs his nose on his scarf before raising his eyes to meet his grandfather's. "I'm okay," he says with all the conviction he can muster. He usually prepares himself to see Gramps, so he can come off looking and sounding as normal as possible. But running into him on the street with no heads up whatsoever? Not cool.

"Really. I'm fine," Henry assures, plastering a smile on his face that Gramps would know was fake immediately. Luckily, this David can't tell the difference.

"Okay." The older man doesn't look convinced, but he stands anyway. "Well, if you need anything, you know where to find me."

And Henry can't help but laugh, because finding him is exactly what he's trying to do.

He stands and brushes his jeans off, nodding with renewed confidence. Because if he finds what Gold told him to find, he'll be seeing his Gramps again sooner rather than later.

xxxxxx

August is dying. Her August is slowly disappearing, pale skin giving way to dark oak.

He lies nearly prone on a cot in the back room of Gold's shop, cracking bad jokes and demanding the most ludicrous things, like chocolate ice cream with shaved coconut and twelve-year-old scotch (not at the same time). Gold manages the scotch and Granny manages the ice cream, but coconut is tough to find in Maine in early November; August eats it all the same. "Taking one for the team," he calls it, and she smiles but it doesn't reach her eyes.

Because he is taking one for the team. In the greatest and gravest sense of the phrase.

Emma paces back and forth, eyes occasionally darting over to the former Pinocchio as he slurps down what's left of the melting chocolate. Gold pours over a book as big as her pillow and Jefferson just stands in a corner and watches the steady rise and fall of August's chest.

She barely registers the fact that Gold is beginning to line up glass bottles of all different shades, before Graham wraps his arms around her from behind and rests his chin on her shoulder.

"How's he doing?" he murmurs and Emma shrugs.

"If I have to listen to one more 'knock knock' joke, I'll smother him myself."

There's a puff of hot air against the back of her neck as Graham chuckles and squeezes her tighter. She smiles despite herself, but it doesn't last long.

"I can't stand waiting," she finally admits and she feels him nod against her shoulder.

"I know."

August takes a rattling breath and she holds her own until he exhales once more. The room stills as he inhales another, launching into a coughing fit until Jefferson and Graham move to either side and shift him further up on the pillows.

"I think that's enough ice cream for me," he cracks and Emma rolls her eyes because she can see the fear behind the facade. She's done playing along with his self-deprecating games.

"None of that, blondie," he whispers, humor gone as she drifts to his bedside. "It's for the best."

"No, it's not," she mutters, but he doesn't answer. Merely takes her hand and kisses the back of it, smiling in a way that states his fate is a foregone conclusion in no uncertain terms. "This is what big brothers do, isn't it?"

And that's what breaks her: saying goodbye to yet another family member, so soon after realizing that family is what they are. All of them. August, Jefferson, Graham, Mary Margaret, Henry – wait.

"Where's Henry?" She could have sworn he was sitting in the corner, pouring over the fairytale book.

"Oh I sent him on errand," Gold casually says and immediately, Emma's hackles are up, ice shrouding every syllable.

"What sort of errand?"

xxxxxx

Henry jimmies the broken window open and swings a leg up onto the sill, biting back a cough against the dust and dirt he inhales.

It's almost for the best that he ran into Gramps on the street. It provided proof that he wouldn't be home, giving Henry the all clear to accomplish his mission.

Mom would be so proud.

He falls to the kitchen floor less gracefully than he'd like to, landing with a thump and perhaps a bruised ego.

"Ow." He rubs his elbow as he glances around the kitchen of the home he left behind. Graham's place is fine enough, but it's not this. It's not banana pancakes and Christmas pajamas. It's not swordfights and secret meetings. It's not barbecues and emergency fire extinguisher usage.

He's not sure what he expected when he came – perhaps new furniture or a fresh coat of paint (nevermind that it had only been a couple of weeks). But not much has changed, save for the school schedule that's disappeared from the front of the fridge, along with the homemade magnet that held it up. The rest looks just as it was. And that's perhaps what hurts most of all.

He knows that if he explores the other rooms of the house, he'll find more differences. But he'd also find forgotten evidence, left behind in haste; evidence that they were here. That they were a family.

What Henry needs is in the kitchen, though, and so he does not explore.

He probably wouldn't like what he found anyway.

xxxxxx

Jefferson stops laughing at August's jokes because he can no longer fake the funny. August seems to have lost the energy too, since he hasn't made one in the last ten minutes. Or perhaps he caught his reflection in the mirror above the counter and saw the wood creeping up the sides of his neck.

Jefferson hates everyone on principle, but these people here (expect Gold) mean more to him than he thought possible. His hopes and fears and strength and love was placed solely on the shoulders of one little girl and her name was Grace. But then these people, these stupid, noble, idiotic people came barreling into his life and he cares once more.

It's infuriating.

He pushes himself off of the counter on which he was perched and ambles over to August, who's currently struggling to shift himself up.

"Hold on, hold on," he mutters, before scooping his arms under the man and hoisting him higher on the pillows. "Better?"

"Much," August replies. "Have you given any thought to becoming an nursemaid?"

Jefferson "accidentally" elbows him in the chin, which he knows ends up hurting him more than the puppet for that too has turned to wood.

"Stop looking so forlorn. We knew this would happen."

"I know," Jefferson is quick to reply, but they doesn't stop the annoyingly knowing look from gracing August's face.

"I'll miss you too," he murmurs and despite all of the sass and snark and disdain that's been brewing in him for nearly thirty years, Jefferson can't come up with damn thing to say.

And it hurts.

xxxxxx

It's been the better part of two hours and Gold is still adding things to the vial over the small flame. Frankly, it's beginning to piss her off.

"How much longer with that?" Emma prods as she passes by the counter for the twentieth time.

"Well, we're still missing a pretty key ingredient, don't you think?" he quietly replies before nodding to August.

Oh. And she hates herself in that moment because the more she wishes her father back to her, the faster August must die to grant it.

"All magic comes with a price," he murmurs, as if reading her thoughts. And the knowing look in his eye is more than a little disconcerting.

"August shouldn't have to pay it. And neither should David."

"But alas, we are where we are." His smile is sickly and yet not totally insincere.

"Can we help?" Graham asks for the tenth time in as many minutes because, like her, he doesn't do sit-around-and-wait very well.

"You can't, but Miss Swan can."

"Oh?" And why hasn't he mentioned this before now?

"You're the savior – "

"So they say," is her quick retort and he seems to almost delight in her derision.

"There is one more ingredient I need. A magic powerful enough to transcend realms and break any curse. Luckily for you, I happen to have bottled some."

"Oh really?" Graham takes a step closer and she can practically feel the waves of 'bullshit' rolling off of him.

"Oh yes. True Love."

Her immediate reaction is to snort because True Love, really? But to her right, Graham has straightened, looking at Gold like he's suddenly wielding a weapon no one thought to bring into play.

Gold continues, barely hiding his glee. "From strands of your parents' hair, I made a potion more powerful than all that have come before it. So powerful, in fact, that when I created the dark curse, I placed a single drop on the parchment. Just a little safety valve."

And suddenly, it all clicks into place. "Me. That's why I'm the savior. That's why I can break the curse."

Gold gives a high-pitched giggle and Graham practically growls. "You're a quick study. And it just so happens to be your lucky day. I didn't use all of the potion. I saved some for a rainy day."

"Well it's storming like a bitch, where is it?"

She's pretty sure the barely audible laugh behind her came from August and as happy as she is that she can still make him smile, her wrath for the man in front of her is growing by the second.

"Where it is, isn't the problem," Gold says. "Getting it is what should worry you."

"Cut the crap," Graham blurts out. "What do we do?"

"Not you. Her."

"Like hell – " the sheriff begins, but Gold cuts him off.

"It has to be Miss Swan. The product of the magic has to be the one to find it."

Finding this could help break the curse. Finding this could bring David back. It could save August if fate gives her enough time.

"August is doing this because David fell over the line," she begins quietly. Dangerously. "David fell over the town line because of you. That is one detail I have not forgotten."

"Good," Gold says and he seems to actually mean it. "Hold onto that anger because where you're going, you're going to need it. Along with this." And with that, he opens the case on the counter in front of him as the sharp sword within catches the overhead light, briefly blinding her.

She's seen it before, hanging from David's hip as he stalked out into the night on some mission with Graham, but she asks anyway.

"What is that?"

"Your father's sword. Now," Gold continues as if he hasn't just rocked her world, "follow these instructions to a T. No sidesteps. No shortcuts. It'll help you get to where you need to go." She takes the proffered piece of paper and stuffs it into her pocket.

"That sword was in the sheriff's station," Graham says lowly.

"Which is public property," Gold replies jovially. "I am the public."

"We sure about that?" Jefferson mutters from across the room and August chuckles before promptly coughing.

Emma moves to his side and places her palm on his hard chest, no longer feeling the telltale thump beneath her fingertips.

"Give 'em hell," August says and a tear falls on her cheek, which she hastily wipes away. She silently thanks the man in front of her for saying nothing.

"Don't you dare go anywhere until I'm back," she tries to threaten but it comes out more as a plea.

"Promise," he replies and both of them know it's one he won't be able to keep. The wood is spreading too quickly.

"Good," she says instead, deciding to believe in the fiction rather than face the reality, as she squeezes his hand and places a kiss on his forehead.

She does the same for Jefferson, as much as he might squirm at the show of affection. She kisses him on his other cheek just for good measure and he rolls his eyes if only to hide his smile.

Graham is next and if the way he takes her elbow and steers her outside is any indication, it won't be a simple "See you soon."

"You might be the savior and whatnot, but I'm not letting you do whatever the insane thing is that you're about to do."

"But look, I have a sword," she says lightly, holding it up and nearly taking off his ear.

"Yes, I see that." He stares at her for a moment before digging in his pocket for something. "Here," he says, placing the deputy badge in her palm.

"What are you doing? David's coming back for this."

"And until he does, I want you to have it. And this." He places a gun in her hand and watches as she gingerly turns it over. "Don't mess with me, I know he taught you how to use that."

She pauses and looks at him under her eyelashes, before expertly ejecting the mag, checking the bullets and reloading it like a seasoned veteran.

"You mean, like that?"

He manages to pick his jaw up from the pavement and crashes his lips to hers.

"I'll admit that was kinda hot," he whispers between breaths, and as much as she's enjoying this, she really does have a mission.

"I have to go."

"I want to come."

"I know. But you can't. Still, I appreciate the thought all the same." She hopes that appeases him and that he won't do something heroically idiotic like follow her. Gold said it had to be her and only her. "Tell Henry he's in big trouble for not checking with me before leaving."

"Oh trust me. I will." And there's that paternal look she used to only see in David's face. That look of 'I love him unconditionally, but he's grounded if he steps out of line' that's been growing more and more prominent on Graham's face the older Henry's gotten. And it's only now, in this moment, as she's getting ready to do something profoundly stupid, that she realizes it:

"You're a great father," she blurts out, smile widening as he blushes and inspects the undone laces of his boot.

"Henry makes it easy," is his reply and she loves him a little bit more for that. "Be careful."

"I love you," she replies and his eyes widen because she's never actually uttered those words before. It takes her a moment to realize that's what actually left her mouth and when she does, she has no regrets.

She knows he's never needed to hear it. He's seen it every time he's looked into her eyes, but it needed to be said all the same.

"I love you, too, you crazy girl." He kisses her again, soft and slow this time. More of that 'see you soon' and less of 'goodbye.'

She lets go of his collar after a moment and lowers herself from her tiptoes, licking her lips and blushing slightly at the sheer joy in his eyes. She glances down at the paper in her hands before crossing the street in the direction of the clock tower.

"The sword suits you," he calls after her and she positively beams.

xxxxxx

The smell of sausage and syrup lingers in the air even though the breakfast rush is long since over. David's feet brought him in the direction of Granny's, despite the fact that he's not all that hungry.

This new world is lonely and truth be told, he's not all that good at it. He misses having people. People to care for and love. The part of him that is forgotten and buried would say that's what made him a good shepherd, prince, deputy, husband, and father, but this David knows none of that. He doesn't realize how he excelled at leading. At loving.

He gives an awkward nod at Archie who looks at him with sympathy in his eyes and at Leroy who chooses to ignore him all together. He'd take the indifference to the pity any day.

It's only once he's seated with his nose buried in a menu that he smells her perfume. Or maybe it's her shampoo. Either way, without looking up he knows that Mary Margaret is here. That she's close. And sure enough, the man to his left finishes his burger and stands, revealing her sitting on the other side.

"Hi," he says rather dumbly and she jumps nearly a foot in the air.

"Hi," she replies, turning slightly towards him but not meeting his gaze. He decides to bridge the gap and takes the man's empty stool, settling in beside her.

"Do you mind if I sit here?"

"No," she squeaks in an entirely too endearing way.

He goes back to his menu and scans the sandwich options, eye occasionally glancing to the book in her hand and more importantly, to the page that does not turn.

"I'm sorry about that night," he murmurs, placing the menu down and deciding on a meatball sub.

"What? You didn't do anything. If anyone should be sorry, it's me. And I am," she whispers, dropping the book and twisting the ring on her middle finger.

A ring he's seen before.

"I don't know what came over me," she continues, breaking his gaze from the green jewel.

It's been a couple of weeks since he's seen her and she looks just as beautiful as ever. He's not sure what it is about her that seems to call to him, but he's drawn closer and closer like a moth to a flame, and he's very aware of the possibility that he's about to get burned.

It's shocking how much he actually doesn't care.

"Anything for you, David?" Ruby asks as she comes over, careful gaze darting between the two of them.

Busted.

"Um, coffee please. To go."

He hates the words even as they tumble from his mouth, but there's only so much heartache he can take. And that's what this is, this feeling of utter desolation in the middle of his chest.

Heartache.

The coffee is placed before him with yet another sympathetic smile and as much as he appreciates the sentiment, he feels the walls closing in on him, knocking the air from his lungs like a well-aimed punch.

He drops a couple of dollars and nods his thanks at Ruby, before he's rendered completely immobile by the uncertainty that washes over him. The vulnerability that only seems to hit when he's looking at her.

"Bye, Mary Margaret."

"Goodbye, David." Her lips form a smile that doesn't reach her eyes. "If you need anything – "

"You'll find me," he finishes and he knows that truer words have never been spoken. "Always."

The smile lights up the rest of her face and he grins, wide and sincere, as he picks up his coffee and doffs a non-existent hat. The bell jingles over the door and he steps out into the biting November breeze.

He's not sure what makes him look in that direction, but he turns to the right just in time to see Emma kick down the door to the old clock tower and disappear inside.

That's odd, he thinks.

And why on earth is she carrying a sword?

xxxxxx

Light streams in through tears in the newspaper-ed windows and she coughs as a lungful of dust finds its way into her mouth.

Pulling out the piece of paper in her pocket, she steps toward the designated wall and presses her palm against the mirrored panel Gold's rudimentary drawing indicates. It begins to rise and she curses as she jumps back and nearly trips over a book return cart.

Various cranks whir before settling into place and she's not sure she could close her jaw even if she wanted to. The metal doors slide open, revealing a lift that she's pretty sure has seen better days. There's a lever in the far corner, along with various lights and buttons which Gold's instructions forcefully indicate she should not touch. Fair enough.

The elevator clanks in a loud, wheezy way that makes her think she's a moment away from plummeting to her death, but by some miracle, she makes it to the bottom, coughing slightly as she raises the metal grate and steps out onto dirt and stone.

Work lights fall from the cave like tear drops, but the immediate vicinity is all the light they afford. Only after reaching for the gun and feeling it secure at her hip does she move forward into the darkness.

She carries the sword too. A little more awkwardly. A little more unsure of herself. The last sword she held was wooden and she had lain David flat on his back with it in the wee hours of the morning. It wasn't until later that she realized he let her win.

Like fathers do.

A spark of light catches her eye and she drifts closer to inspect, before halting abruptly because even in the dark, that structure of wood and glass is unmistakable.

She's staring at her mother's coffin.

She's about to open her mouth to say something, anything, to ground herself in this rather surreal moment, but what comes out is not her voice.

It's a growl.

She turns with enough time to think, "This is how I die," but just as she feels the heat of a thousand fires on her face, she's tackled to the ground and out of harm's way as fire flows around them.

"Are you okay?" David is cradling her head in his palm as he presses her into the stone and she manages a nod, which he follows up with a rather blunt and un-kingly, "Holy shit."

He's panting, still protecting her as brackets her head with his arms. His eyes are wild, like he's not entirely sure that he's awake right and she sympathizes. Her brain is saying this isn't real, but her body, her soul is saying Run.

"We have to move," she manages and he must agree because he rolls off of her and helps her to her feet. And not a moment too soon because the monster – the dragon? – appears on the other sign of the stone column and scorches the ground they were just lying upon.

"Is that…?" he begins, eyes never leaving the monster that paws at them with a claw.

"Uh huh," is the only response she can manage as she raises the sword in front of her. David's eyes immediately find it, staring as if seeing an old friend, and for the first time in a long while, she feels a resurgence of hope.

"This can't be real." Clearly David does not feel the same.

"It is."

"No, it's ridiculous. Ruby must have spiked my coffee or something."

"David, please!" she begs, turning to him and gripping his arm with her free hand. "Please. Please just listen to me. I need you to listen to me."

But a roar echoes around the chamber and she gives into her flight or fight, muttering a "Too hell with this" as she drops the sword, tugs David around the corner, and pulls out the gun.

The shots bounce off the dragon's skin like raindrops on an umbrella and she curses as another breath of fire sends them scurrying behind the next boulder.

"Is this normal for Storybrooke?" He's giving her an incredulous smile that seems to say I don't know what the hell is going on but I'm rolling with it as best I can and she feels the sharpest pang of longing, because that's him. That's her David. Always game. Always protective.

Or maybe that's just David in general, she thinks as he tugs her out of harm's way for the third time in as many minutes. She checks the mag in the gun and counts the remaining bullets. Not many, and certainly not enough to do any damage to that.

He seems to understand because he stares at the gun for a moment before taking off, yelling, "Here! Over here!"

"David, no! Goddammit." If he gets himself killed before she can get him back, she'll never forgive him.

He draws the dragon's attention for just a moment, but it's enough time for her to fire off three more shots.

"This is pointless!" she yells to him once he's found refuge in an alcove and yet he doesn't look defeated. Rather, his eyes flick to the sword on the ground, as if pointing out the answer right in front of her face.

He taught her how to use it. It's time she make use of the skills.

Without giving herself a moment to register the complete idiocy of what she's about to do, she dives for the sword before rolling onto her knee, and hurls the heavy weapon with every ounce of strength she has. The dragon rears up in time to get pierced in the belly, flame spreading from the wound out until the monster disintegrates in a flurry of embers and ash.

She's panting like she's just run a marathon, eyes scanning the dark for any trace of flame. But all that remains in a pile of cinders with a golden egg resting on top.

She should go to it. It's what she came down for after all. But at the moment, all she can do is stare at her father's sword: the weapon that's saved her life twice now.

Strong hands land gently on her shoulders before David takes a knee in front of her. "Are you okay?"

She nods, but even she knows it was a piss poor effort.

"Hey." His palms move to cup her face and wipe away the ash that's landed there. "Are you okay?" he asks again, never moving until her gaze meets his.

"I should ask you the same thing," she quietly replies and he smiles.

"I'm convinced I'm in the middle of some sort of brain aneurysm left over from the concussion." He's joking and yet she can see he's grasping onto to any tether that might explain what the hell just happened.

"There's so much I wish I could tell you," she quietly replies in an ironic twist on all the times he's said some version of that to her:

"I can't tell you exactly. Not yet."

"Like I said, there are many things you'll just have to take on faith."

"In due time, you'll know. You'll know every boring fact behind every scar here. But now, now I need you to trust me."

"Do you trust me?" Her heart hammers against her ribcage as she watches his face for the answer.

"Yes," he replies after a moment and she nearly sags from the relief.

"Okay." Her voice cracks and she attempts to swallow around the rather large lump in her throat. "Let's get the hell outta here."

"Agreed," he says as he picks up the sword and the egg, holding both out so she may take one. She picks the egg, deciding the sword is a better fit on him anyway, and they head for the exit.

"How'd you get down here, by the way? I didn't hear the elevator go back up."

"Climbed," is his nonchalant response and she stops.

"You climbed?"

He shrugs. "Sure." He continues on, but she stands there staring at him because she's slowly realizing that there are layers and layers of her father that she hasn't even scratched yet.

And so absorbed is she in this realization that she doesn't see him make a detour as if drawn in a trance.

"David?"

He doesn't answer as he runs his hand over the smooth wood, carefully avoiding the broken glass as it catches what little light the cave has to offer.

"What is this?"

Understandably, it takes her a moment to reply. "I don't know."

And although she knows the lie is necessary, it's one more item on the long list of things she wishes she never had to do.

He stares at the coffin for a long moment, as if memorizing its contours. As if forcing its significance to register.

But she knows it won't and it doesn't, so she leads the way to the elevator and tries not to think about the ache in her chest as he lifts the lever to return to the surface once more.

xxxxxx

Gold limps into the former library, quite pleased that his instructions were clear enough for the sometimes obtuse Emma Swan. He smirks at the elevator and its ornate architecture, wondering when Regina will ease up on her flare for the overdramatic.

He can hear her in the elevator, but that's not what piques his curiosity. No, there's another voice with her – one that he recognizes all too well.

Oh it's just too perfect.

With the flick of his wrist on the panel, the elevator grinds to a halt and he smiles at their startled exclamations. Affecting his greatest air of innocence, he pokes his head into the shaft to find father and daughter staring up at him with matching expressions of confusion.

"Miss Swan?"

"Gold, what are you doing here?"

"I've come to check on you." He glances around and pulls a rusted cog from the panel, holding it up for them to see. "And I'm glad I did. The elevator seems to be on its last legs."

"Okay, I'm climbing up." She gets a foot on the wall and tucks the egg further under her arm, as David automatically moves to help hoist her up.

"No, there's no time," Gold says, biting back his impatience. "You can't possibly scale the wall and carry that."

"I can try," is her response and he nearly rolls his eyes at how alike the prince and princess are. Incredibly stubborn.

"No you can't. Just toss it up. Your family is going to be fine." It's cheap to play the family card, especially when it refers to both the man at her side and the puppet in his shop.

"Okay," she finally says. "You hold onto it. We'll be right up." And with a gentle toss, it flies through the air, landing in his palm with ease.

He feels its weight, reveling in the sheer power encased in such a small thing. Not unlike the young woman who's looking at him like the hero he is not. "Sorry, dearie," he simply says, watching the implication harden her once-optimistic features.

"Gold, you son of a bitch!"

Hero to villain in no time flat. He tosses the egg and gives a little twirl of his cane as he exits the library, ignoring the cries of the savior that echo around the tower.

xxxxxx

If Graham's calculations are correct, August has maybe minutes.

His attention is split between worrying for the man in front of him and for the woman who's potentially risking her life just across the street. And so caught up is he in his worry that Henry bursting through the front door nearly has the sheriff pulling out his gun.

"I've got the last ingredient!" he cries, holding up David's prized WORLD'S BEST GRANDPA mug and waving it around like a victory flag.

"That's great, kid, but Gold just went to go get the last ingredient."

"Um, I'm the last ingredient, you morons," August jokes. "I'm not exactly doing this for my health."

"Sorry, Uncle August," Henry says, simultaneously looking contrite and yet bouncing on his heels with barely contained energy as he turns back to Graham. "But I read the potion recipe. He's made it all. See? Double check."

Graham goes over to the old book Gold had been reading over and carefully scans the ingredients. Sure enough, everything's there, with the exception of August's hair.

And if that's the case, then what the hell is Gold going after?

"Shite."

xxxxxx

David makes sure his foot is securely wedged in the corner before nodding to Emma and allowing her to place her foot on his thigh. He's got a good grip on the wall and he braces her weight as she uses him as a stepping stone. Just a little further and she can reach the opening. With one little boost, she gets there and manages to hoist herself up.

He follows closely after, his height giving him a small advantage as he too reaches the landing and pulls himself rather gracelessly into the room, coughing into the linoleum floor.

"What the hell is this place?" he asks.

"Going by the abundance of out of date books, I'm going to say a library," she retorts and he rolls his eyes.

"Hilarious."

It wasn't a particularly clever comeback and yet she's looking at him like he just told the world's best joke.

"Am I ever going to understand what's going on?" he says, sobering up and watching as her face falls a bit.

"I hope so." But with a firm little nod, she amends, "Yes. You will." It seems to say, 'I won't give you any other option' and he finds he's okay with that.

"Now what?"

"I find Gold and kick his ass."

"Need help with that?" he offers even though he's never been a particularly belligerent person.

But she says, "Yes, please," and his first thought is, 'I'm there.'

And so focused is he on her and the strange familiarity he feels when he's with her, he doesn't immediately notice the commotion beginning to brew on the streets.

Emma does, though. Her back straightens and her eyes focus as they step out into the light and scan the scene.

Something is very wrong.

The sword is heavy at his side and the ringing is loud in his ears. So loud that he barely registers Emma screaming, "Dad!" before his sight and sound are taken in a cloud of purple haze.