A/N: I will not be updating this on any kind of schedule. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. (Sorry)
Richard Gold was a small, calm man. He'd never been particularly large or strong, saw no reason to get angry if he couldn't be intimidating- and that was hard to do when he barely topped five foot eight and relied on a cane to walk- and used his mind and words rather than his fists. That wasn't to say he wasn't opposed to a weapon or two. A smart man kept a gun under the counter while working in the neighborhood Gold worked in, and a lucky man never had to use it.
His business did well because he never fought with customers (even when he wanted to smack them), merely won them over with charm or beat them with logic rather than his cane. An unsatisfied customer could spell the end of his days as a tailor due to his clientele of not yet big or powerful lawyers who needed fancy but affordable suits. So far he'd managed, and his bank account and heart were both grateful for it.
It kept food on the table, a roof over his son's head, and clothes on their backs that he didn't have to make. Tailoring, making clothes, creating something from scraps of cloth- it was his passion, but not something he wanted to rely on every time one of them needed a new shirt. Making clothes was what he did for a living, and he did love it, but it wasn't something he wanted to do every second of every day, not when they could afford decent clothing made by hands other than his own.
His pawn shop pulled in most of the money, which provided the house that was now finally paid for and the clothes found in other stores, but it was Rumpled Lace that kept his heart light. Tailoring was almost an extinct business nowadays, making clothing by hand not something anyone simply did anymore, but Gold managed to create enough eye-catching things to bring in the odd customer or two.
His wedding dresses were the biggest sellers, and Gold considered that his life's biggest irony: the building he'd gotten in the divorce housed dresses for other girls to wear on their wedding day. But business was business, and he really did make some fabulous gowns if he did say so himself.
The divorce had left him a bit bitter at first, and years later he could admit that, but if he'd never been married he never would have had his son, and that alone was worth any price. Even if the price was his ex-wife.
Bae was a wonderful child, and Gold loved him with all his heart. However, he was also a curious child, as much as it pained Gold. The perpetually bed-headed five year old was still in his terrible two phase and showed no signs of outgrowing it anytime soon. He got into everything. If he could reach it, it was his, and if he couldn't, he found a way to get to it. Or in it. Or up it. Or around it. The cabinet under the sink, the small space behind the tool shelf in the garage, the half dead cherry tree in the back yard… all his territory, all very dangerous, and something Gold just could not keep his son out of no matter how many times he told him.
Gold was convinced his son was trying to drive him to an early grave, but he didn't really have the heart to stop the boy. And he remembered that freedom, even envied it, and would not deny his child that. The world was dark and dull to an adult. Bae had a few years of light left. Who was he to deny him that?
It usually worked out anyway, much to Gold's relief. The tool shelf never fell over, and the pipe under the sink had easily been replaced no problem, but the cherry tree was veering into danger territory, and its days were numbered.
That number bottomed out at zero when Gold heard a snap, followed by the most terrifying sound he'd ever heard in his entire life.
Baelfire was screaming.
Later, it would be pinpointed as the moment everything in their lives changed, but just then it was simply a terrifying moment for both father and son.
As fast as his leg would let him, Gold hobbled into the backyard, wishing for the thousandth time that he could run, and found Bae crumpled on the ground, wailing, clutching his leg, his foot at an awkward angle, and that was very, very bad.
Gold the business man was a very calm person.
Gold the father with an injured child was very much not.
The hospital was twenty minutes away, an ambulance could take twice that just getting to their house- and that would be after Gold hobbled back inside for the phone- but a panicked father had no need for things such as speed limits or traffic lights, paid no attention to honking horns or people yelling crude words out their windows.
Bae cried the entire way.
They got there in five minutes.
Bae's tears served a purpose other than tearing away his father's sanity piece by piece. The nurse heard them from the parking lot, took one look at the leg, and immediately whisked them past the info desk and into a room where Bae continued to howl, tears splashing onto his cheeks. "It hurts, Papa," he cried, clutching his father's hand.
Gold's heart twisted.
"I know, I know, son. But they're going to make it all better," he promised, stroking the small hand in his. They'd better make it better. His son was in pain, was crying, and he was completely and utterly useless.
"That's right," a new voice assured from the doorway. A young woman strolled in, clad in mint green scrubs, messy curls scooped up in a ponytail. "We're going to make it all better as soon as we know what's wrong."
What's wrong? His son had broken his sodding leg, that's what was wrong. It was obvious, even to him. Gold eyed the nurse- she didn't look old enough to be finished with college, surely she was an intern or something- but she barely spared him a glance, focusing instead on the sobbing child before her. Her eyes were kind and soft. She was entirely too calm.
"What's your name?" she cooed, fussing with the I.V.
"B-Baelfire. My leg hurts."
"I know it does. My name is Belle, and I'm going to take care of you, okay?" Bae whimpered, looking at Gold, but he was calming, his sobs quieting, and Gold felt his pulse slow from vibrate to a slight hum.
Belle bustled about the room, quickly giving Bae painkillers and a sucker to distract him, Gold some paperwork, and then they were off, heading down the hallway at a brisk trot, Belle pushing bed Bae was propped up in. Gold kept up as best he could, juggling the clipboard with the papers, his cane, and his son's hand. Though he had trouble holding on to everything he knew they could go faster, surely.
"Have you ever had an x-ray before, Baelfire?" Belle asked, wheeling him into a large room with an intimidating looking machine at the center. A walled off section with a window waited in the corner, a stern looking woman sitting behind it. She glanced up, nodded at Belle, her mouth thin and unsmiling.
Bae shrank back against the pillow. "No," he said in a small voice. "Papa I don't like that machine. It's big 'n scary."
"It's going to be alright Bae," Gold promised, leaning over to kiss his forehead. "They're just going to look at your leg so they can see how to fix it." He'd seen several x-ray machines in his lifetime. This was familiar and made his leg throb, as if he needed to be reminded why he knew what would come next.
"Don't touch it!" Bae said quickly, whipping around to face Belle. "It hurts!" Small hands grabbed Gold's shirt, tugging frantically. "Papa don't let them!"
Gold was torn, tried to calm Bae's monsters-gonna-get-me panic. Belle needed to do her job to help Bae, but Bae was terrified, clinging to him for dear life. He couldn't promise his boy that they wouldn't touch him- they might have to, and it would hurt them both.
"Baelfire, do you know what that machine does?" Belle asked quietly, gently rubbing Bae's back.
Bae shook his head mutely, still curled into his father. Papa wouldn't let anything bad happen to him.
"It takes a picture of your bones," Belle said, pointing. "It can see right through you, and then it takes a picture of what it sees!"
Bae considered the nurse carefully. "Like Superman?" he asked.
"Exactly like Superman." Belle leaned down to whisper. "He helped us build it," she said with a wink. "Is that alright? Can I take your picture?"
Bae considered and Gold held his breath, but then his brave boy nodded and released his father.
"Excellent. When we're done I'll even let you see the pictures. This might hurt, but I will be as careful as possible," Belle promised, her voice light and cheery, and something told Gold she was speaking to both of them.
It took entirely too long, Bae whimpering and clinging to him (and to Belle, who crouched beside him and took his hand too, smiling and telling knock knock jokes until Bae giggled), but it couldn't have been longer than an hour before they were all back in a room, a fresh cast wrapped around Bae's leg ("Superman blue" had been requested, and Belle had personally hunted for the color).
He'd broken his tibia, just a crack, a bit more than a greenstick fracture. It was enough to need a cast and crutches, and later a walking boot.
Gold was cutting down that damn tree as soon as he got home, with an axe if he had to.
"You're nice," Bae declared suddenly, sucking happily on his third grape flavored lollipop. He'd be up all night, hyped up on sugar, but Gold really didn't care at the moment. "I like you."
"Why thank you," Belle said, sounding genuinely touched. "I like you too." She grinned at the pair of them, eyes sparkling. "Can I borrow your father for a few minutes? We'll be right outside."
Over his fear of the big machines (they were okay if Superman had helped), eyes glued to the cartoon playing on the tv in the corner, Bae gave a very absent "M'kay".
Gold shuffled to his feet, setting the yet-to-be-filled-out paperwork on the chair. He left the door open enough to see Bae if he turned his head and smiled at the sight of his son watching tv like it was any other day. Minus the cast, it could have been, but there was a cast, the air smelled like disinfectant, and a nurse was a nurse no matter how pretty she was.
"How are you doing?"
Gold sagged against the wall, the tension of the past hour melting to leave him feeling tired and very old. "I feel like the worst father in the world," he admitted. "I've been meaning to get that tree cut down for weeks, but I kept putting it off and now-"
Belle shook her head, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You couldn't have known this was going to happen."
"I feared it might."
"I'm afraid I'll get hit by a car one day while I'm walking to work, but that doesn't stop me from walking." She gave him a gentle shake and a small smile when he looked at her. "Parents always fear for their children, but accidents are accidents, and they do happen. The best thing you can do, for the both of you, is to make sure he's comfortable."
"And cut down the tree," Gold muttered.
That got a laugh out her, and Gold was startled by the sound, surprised even more by the laugh that wanted to escape him.
"He'll be here for a few more hours yet, but I'll come check on him before you go." And then she smiled again, a beautiful, natural smile that made him smile back.
"Thank you," he said earnestly. "He was so afraid at first."
"It's a bit scary, all the machines and white walls and people running around with serious faces." She peered around him, smiled wide. "He seems to be alright though."
She didn't tell him it was part of the job (and he wouldn't have believed her if she'd tried to convince him that's all it was- something told him she actually cared about each and every patient). She nodded when he thanked her again, gave him a hug to calm him that only made his heart rate increase, and snuck Bae another lollipop before dashing out.
"Papa?" Bae asked sleepily.
Gold ran his hand over Bae's unruly hair, fluffed it up to a truly impressive height. "Hm?"
"D'you think Belle's a superhero?"
Bae nodded, eyes sliding shut. "She knows Superman."
Gold smiled, picturing Belle with a cape pinned to her scrubs, a mask framing those beautiful, compassionate blue eyes, flying around the halls and saving lives.
"Yes. I think she's a superhero."
Bae grinned. "Me too," he whispered.
His child slept, unbothered by pain, dreaming, he hoped, of bright red capes and bullet proof men. And maybe a curly haired nurse with a dazzling smile, who could calm children with just a few words, a truly impressive power.
And Gold decided that, yes, Belle was definitely a superhero.