Henry was too old to fear the dark, and he knew that. Well, he could fear it just as he feared nightmares; you never really outgrew the terror a nightmare brought, but you were supposed to outgrow the urge of wanting to jump into someone else's bed. He thought he had outgrown that a long time ago, until his time in Neverland.
A lot of things had changed after Neverland. He had nightmares all the time, he never wanted to be left alone, and more than anything and probably the most childish thing by far, was that he now feared the dark.
He used to be the kind of kid that would shut all the drapes in his room and dive under his blankets just to see how dark he could make everything. He loved to try and navigate pitch black rooms, and once, when he was little, he ventured out into the forest at night, and he didn't even bring a flashlight.
No one asked him why when he wanted a night light. For some reason they just gathered that it was a better idea not to ask anything about Neverland. Even Emma, who for the first two weeks always had that desperate look, yearning to know what her son endured, kept silent. They simply bought him a nightlight and didn't ask any questions.
He hated the dark. When the sun started to set he felt this dim, panicky feeling unless he was close by someone he knew. If he was with either of his mothers he'd silently grip their hand, or scoot a little closer. He never cried and if anyone asked what was wrong he never said he was afraid. He'd simply say he hated the dark.
Here, unable to sleep on a stormy night, in a large bed at his grandfather's, Henry was suddenly plunged into darkness as the power went out. Street lights went out, the dim kitchen light went out, and his night light went out.
The boy jolted in the darkness, feeling a familiar lump of terror in his throat and instinctively listening for the shadow's sinister chuckle, or look for its dark silhouette.
Darkness in Neverland meant terror. It's when the mournful chorus of children cried out through the night, when the shadow was free to roam and he had nowhere to hide, and where the pit was.
If anything was more frightening than the shadow it was the pit. Nothing in his life by far compared to the horrors of the pit, not even the room of fire. Technically speaking, nothing in the pit could physically hurt you, but it didn't need to hurt you to frighten you.
The pit was where he was sent to when he refused to co-operate. The pit was nothing but this dark, almost supernatural hole in the earth that opened when the shadow beckoned it. The blackness was so thick you couldn't even see your own hand.
In there your mind would slowly start to go with the effects of the dark magic. Your very soul would erupt, and you were forced to think about your worst fears, and the most frightening experiences of your life. There was no way to fight them; he was never able to think back to happy memories in Storybrooke, the magic never allowed that.
He sat there many times, and once for almost two hours after he had tried to fight the shadow away with a stick. He bent his head forward in his knees and cried and whimpered for his family, shaking in the freezing abyss.
The darkness in his room right now was just like the pit, pitch black and all alone.
Henry scolded himself, telling himself he was too old to be afraid of the dark and that he was home and safe, but it had little effect on his fear. And eventually he gave up and pattered his way down the hall to his grandfather's bedroom.
The journey, although not even twenty feet away still felt long and terrifying as he tried to find the room through the darkness. Lightning flashed now and then, providing a brief-lived source of light, and he rushed into the bedroom, not feeling safe until he could feel the twin lumps under the covers.
Rumplestiltskin stirred when he felt another presence on his bed, and a flash outside illuminated Henry's terrified face. "Lad, what are you doing?" he asked, somewhat groggily and gruffly. "It's the middle of the night."
"I..." His throat closed up, clogged with tears and fear. "I don't want to sleep in that room."
The man couldn't help but roll his eyes as he shoved himself up onto his elbows and glared at the child. "Henry, it's just a thunderstorm. It's not going to hurt you."
"The power went off..."
The grandfather fell silent, mouth parting to make a silent "oh". That was all the reason he needed. He knew more than anyone else in the boy's dysfunctional family did, both he and his Bae. Baelfire knew it because he had experienced the same ordeal his son had, and Rumplestiltskin was the only one other than the boy's father that he talked to.
Despite how estranged Rumplestiltskin made himself, Henry always chose to talk to him above anyone else. He never knew why, and he never asked it. Perhaps it was because he was the only one that didn't put him in front of a cup of cocoa and simply tell him everything would be okay. He never sugar coated anything and was always brutally honest. Rumplestiltskin did something that no one else did: he spoke to Henry as an adult and not as a child. Or maybe it was because he kept everything the child told him secret, and he didn't talk about it among the family to find out what to do.
For whatever reason, Henry always went to him when he needed to talk to someone, and he knew more about the incident in Neverland than anyone else did. Often he wished he knew of the psychological abuse when the shadow was still alive, so he could be sure he killed him in a much slower way.
"I...I can't get my nightlight back on," the boy stammered, hating how young and weak he sounded. "It's so dark I can't see a thing."
Rumplestiltskin gave a quiet nod of understanding, feeling the bed shake where the frightened child was kneeling.
There was a lot of options for this dilemma, the easiest being to simply light a candle for his grandson's bedroom, or find him a flashlight. Somehow though, he knew it wouldn't be enough to soothe the boy's fears. He had enough experience with frightened children to know what the boy really wanted, and was just too proud to ask for.
So without saying a word, Rumplestiltskin pulled back the covers for him. Henry stared in surprise, but he needed no invitation as he practically pounced onto a spot in between his grandfather and step grandmother.
Rumplestiltskin rolled over to face the boy, and saw Henry looking down at the sheets in shame.
"I'm too old to be afraid of the dark."
"You're never too old to fear," the man responded.
"Well I'm too old to fear some stuff," Henry mumbled back, "like the dark and storms. And I'm definitely too old to be sleeping with my grandparents."
Eyes shut tiredly, the man smiled serenely. "Henry, you can't outgrow fear. You can leave some of it behind, but you'll always find something new to fear. I have fears, so does Belle, and so does everyone in your family."
"Some people are born fearless."
"No they aren't. Being born without fear doesn't mean you aren't afraid of something. It simply means you won't let it affect you. You won't show that it hurts you, and it takes someone strong to do that. You're as close to fearless as they come. There's a lot that you fear, but you still manage to do so much, and help as many people as you can."
"I can say with full honesty that you are one of the bravest lads I've ever known. What so many would run away from, you run into with open arms. That's something to be proud of. So what if you get scared of the dark sometimes? You face everything else with courage."
The boy's eyes widened in admiration and gratefulness as he scooted closer to Rumplestiltskin, until he had his face buried into the man's chest. He could feel his grandfather instinctively tense, but he kept cuddled in.
"Night, Grandpa," he mumbled into the man's chest.
Rumplestiltskin gradually relaxed, feeling strangely comforted by the foreign little body pressed against his. It reminded him of another little boy that used to cuddle into him at night so long ago.