Disclaimer: This is a not-for-profit work of fiction, I do not claim ownership of the characters or settings in this story.

Notes: This is the sequel to my story Stars In The Night, though it can easily be read as a stand alone. I'd like to make it clear first thing that this will not be a rewrite of the show. The changes that will occur in the timeline will affect events - some of them pretty major - so it should be a pretty wild ride.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think. New chapters should be posted weekly.

Beware English spellings.

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Emma.

The name ricocheted around in his head, the letters bouncing and dancing in front of his eyes. Visions of a name written over and over in magical ink, bound forever on parchment and woven into the very fabric of his being so that he could never forget.

Emma.

"What a lovely name."

The Enchanted forest. Years upon years of dark deeds and deals, all of them building, leading to the crescendo of this one great trick to fool the monster he made into thinking this had been for her. Baelfire, gone but never forgotten, forever a hole in his dark, shriveled heart. A face, a smile, a voice like a bell, pain and suffering and so much cruelty. Cora, a half-built life, hope and shattered dreams. Belle, his love, his enchantress, the woman he could never kiss for fear of losing himself and his means to finally reunite with his son.

Emma.

Mr Gold turned abruptly, cane clacking hard against the ground as he strode out of the hotel and into the crisp evening air. He had to get home. Storybrooke memories filled his head, twining around and through memories of his other self and his other name. He had made a deal with Regina for a good life, for himself and Belle. She had made good on that… to an extent. "Loopholes," he growled under his breath, stalking down the street to his sleek black car, "bloody wee loopholes."

He drove too fast, taking the corners too sharply as he sped from Storybrooke's center to the more affluent part of town. The car screeched to a stop outside his house. Their house. Salmon pink, rose bushes out the front, a perfect example of Victorian architecture. Mr Gold got out of the car and slammed the door behind him. He limped up to the front door with a scowl on his face, hating this disfigurement all the more now that he recalled what it was like to walk without it. The front door was unlocked, a faint glimmer from the hall light tinting the glass panels with a warm glow. He dropped his keys into the bowl (crystal, antique) where they belonged and headed towards the kitchen.

The house's interior was classy, luxurious. A blending of modern amenities and antique decoration. It looked like something out of a magazine, spotless and tidy. They had a maid who came on Tuesdays and Fridays to keep it that way. Lacey could never be bothered with housework and Gold always had something better to do.

The kitchen was the only place on the ground floor that showed any signs of chaos. Lacey was there at the kitchen table, her laptop open, a bottle and a mostly-empty wineglass close by. Papers and books littered the rest of the table, dirty dishes were piled neatly in the sink. Dinner would be warming in the oven, some fancy takeout place that delivered home cooking. Lacey didn't cook either. And there she was, sitting there in one of those tiny designer dresses, hair put up into a messy bun on top of her head, manicured fingers flying over the keyboard.

He stopped in the kitchen doorway, stared at her. Eventually the typing slowed, and stopped with a decisive 'clack' on the enter key. Lacey turned, a frown on her face, the corners of her lipsticked mouth turning down a little. Something about him must have struck her as odd, he must have been looking at her strangely, because the frown deepened. "Are you…?" she began.

Mr Gold – he was Mr Gold, and she was Lacey, he was not that other him… not yet – shook his head and tried on a smile. "I'm fine," he assured her, soft-voiced. She didn't look convinced. "How's the writing?"

Lacey's suspicious look remained on her face a moment before she wiped it away, reaching the wine bottle to top up her glass. "Fine," she replied, "better than yesterday. Claude seems to be cooperating with me today."

"Characters not getting away from you then, dearie?" Mr Gold (it suddenly occurred to him that Regina hadn't even bothered to give him a first name, and a wave of anger passed through him like a physical thing) cleared his throat and went to the kitchen cabinet. He pulled out another glass and went to the table. If he didn't steal some of that vintage chardonnay now he'd never see that bottle again.

Lacey reluctantly filled his glass after her own, finishing the bottle. She would open another one before dinner. He would once again neglect to address the fact that his wife was a functioning alcoholic. "They're behaving. For now."

"Good, good…" If Emma was in town then it had been twenty-eight years since the curse had been cast. Twenty-eight years of mundane marriage with an alcoholic writer whom everyone thought was a gold-digging skank. Twenty-eight years of the same routine. Things would change now that she was here. Mr Gold frowned into his glass of wine, half-formed plots ticking away in his skull. It would be hard, he knew, to get Emma to believe. Henry would be the fulcrum on which that little detail turned, he was sure of that.

He voiced a dark little chuckle at that. Imagine, Henry turning out to be the son of their saviour. Destiny did work in mysterious ways.

Lacey was looking at him strangely again. "Are you sure you're alright?" she asked, a note of suspicion in her voice. "Did something happen at work?" Her eyes narrowed further. "Is it Regina?"

Mr Gold had to smirk. At least that detail hadn't changed. Belle had never liked Regina either. "No, not at all. Our charming wee mayor has been behaving herself of late. It's nothing, Lacey. Really. Go back to your writing."

Mr Gold set his glass down on the table, the liquid inside practically untouched. He walked away from the kitchen and headed instead to his study, a small cluttered room that had (ironically, in a way) once been intended for use as a sunroom. Heavy curtains lined the windows now, a sturdy book shelf sitting squarely in front of them so they couldn't be opened or moved. His qualifications and certificates hung in frames behind the desk, proof of a fake history of attendance at a prestigious law school. There was a wall safe behind one of them. The combination was an anniversary. He put the cash from the hotel in the safe, slammed it shut, and took a seat at his desk.

He had a lot to think about.

Emma.

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There were a lot of things in the shop that had once belonged in the Dark Castle, and more still that had once belonged to various current inhabitants of Storybrooke.

Mr Gold prowled through the shop with grim purpose, looking through cases and cabinets, poking in old chests and the boxes in the back full of goods that required repair or cleaning. Each item in the shop was carefully catalogued in a large leather ledger on the counter, complete with falsified histories and certificates of authenticity. The spinning wheel he had once thought only a curiosity from the sixteenth century, books, vases, a small china teacup, all of those were easily found. The one thing he was actually searching for eluded him.

He found it, eventually, tucked away in the drawer beneath one of the jewellery display cabinets. A solid gold lacework choker, carelessly wrapped in tissue paper and left underneath a stack of papers. Mr Gold unwrapped the thing carefully and ran his thumb over the stone in the center. Dead and gray, it looked like smoky quartz that had been polished to a perfect shine. There was no magic in this world. If he had ever needed proof of that, the cold gray stone confirmed it.

Mr Gold tucked the choker into the pocket of his suit jacket. He already knew where that other item was. The one that was currently useless, but that would no doubt come to bite him one way or the other if it ever got into the wrong hands. He would deal with that later. It was safe enough for now, at least as long as the Mayor still believed she was in control of this little game.

A calculating smirk twisted his lips as he contemplated the lady mayor. He might need to be careful there. As long as she believed he was still under the influence of the curse he was safe. If she found out… if she believed him to be a threat…

First things first, he needed to get the lay of the land. Information was key, without information speculation was useless. And the best place for information about the mayor's attention, as much as he despised it, was the Mirror.

Mr Gold flipped the sign on the shop to closed and strode out onto the street. A short while later he sat at Granny's diner, the Mirror spread out in front of him, a cup of coffee at his right hand (and the unsubtle glances of other patrons all around him). The front page told him all he needed to know. A trash story about Emma Swan, speculating upon her unsavoury character. Mr Gold read through the whole thing, taking it all with a grain of salt. No doubt there was some truth there, but the Mirror was written with a heavy bias on what Mayor Mills wanted everyone to think. With Emma on the front page that meant Regina was focused on her and her alone.

He left the diner with his coffee untouched, the paper folded up beside it and a few crisp bills underneath the cup.

More investigation was required before he would be satisfied.

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Early evening gave him his opportunity. The Mayor's office was close enough to his shop that walking there wasn't any trouble. By now the entire town had heard about Emma's stunt with the Mayor's prized apple tree. Mr Gold had chuckled at that, he should have expected any daughter of Snow White to be a spitfire. That this would give him an opportunity to see the mess in person was just a bonus.

Sure enough the yard was in a bad way, apples having rolled in every direction from the branch that had been lopped off neatly at the base. Regina was there too, carefully placing her treasured apples into a basket and looking all too self-satisfied to be aware that Emma Swan was still in town.

Mr Gold shook his head as he walked up to her. "What a mess," he drawled, full of false sympathy.

Regina straightened, smoothed down her skirt, and stood. "Not for long," she said with a cool smile; "What can I do for you, Mr Gold?"

"I was just in the neighbourhood," he replied smoothly, his ability to lie unimpeded by two sets of memories, "thought I'd pop by. Lovely to see you in such high spirits."

"Well it's been a good day. I just rid the town on an unwanted nuisance."

Mr Gold's smile didn't waver. "Emma Swan?" he guessed. "Really?"

"Yes," the mayor nodded, a satisfied smirk on her lips, "I imagine she's half way to Boston by now."

"Oh, I wouldn't bet on that," Mr Gold said calmly, his tone never changing, "I just saw her strolling down the main street with your boy. Thick as thieves, they looked."

The smirk vanished from Regina's face, replaced by a flash of anger. "What?"

"Perhaps you should have come to me," Mr Gold replied, picking his words to needle. "If Miss Swan is a problem you can't fix I'm only too happy to help… for a price, of course."

"I'm not in the business of making deals with you anymore," the mayor said coldly.

"To which deal are you referring?"

"You know what deal."

"Oh, right. Yes. The boy I procured for you. Henry." Mr Gold paused a moment as if thinking, when in truth he was studying her reaction to his words. "Did I ever tell you what a lovely name that was? However did you pick it?"

Regina's eyes narrowed at him dangerously. "Did you want her to come to town? You wanted all this to happen, didn't you? Your finding Henry wasn't an accident, was it?"

So she did suspect that something was different. Or she was merely reacting the way paranoid evil queens reacted when things didn't go to plan. Unphased, Mr Gold frowned at her. "Whatever do you mean?" he asked mildly.

"Where did you get him?" Regina demanded. "Do you know something?"

"I have no idea what you're implying." Innocent did not sit well on him in either guise, and he knew it.

"I think you do. Who is this woman? His mother, this… Emma Swan?"

Mr Gold smiled placidly at the mayor. "I would say you think you know exactly who she is," he observed, and began to turn away from her. "I really must be going. Prior engagements and all of that, you know how it is."

He didn't get two steps before she was in front of him, barring his way with her most intimidating glare. "Tell me what you know about her."

Mr Gold considered giving her an answer that she'd like. He considered continuing to play innocent just to infuriate her. In the end he decided on the middle ground. An ambiguous sort of answer, but one that was well within the character she had made him here. "I'm not going to answer you, dear," he told her calmly. "So I suggest you excuse me. Please."

Regina stepped out of his way, a look of shock on her face. She stood there as if rooted to the spot as he walked away, and didn't seem to move until he had gone.

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Tonight he is better prepared for the shock of seeing his wife and knowing who she is and what she is to him. Tonight Mr Gold greets her in his usual manner, if a little warmer than usual, and does not steal her wine.

At dinner he feels the choker in his jacket pocket and considers giving it to her then… But it has to wait. If Regina were to see it, so soon after his needling her, she would know. He wanted her to be uncertain still, felt that her focus was better suited to the problem of Emma. He had a feeling that the harder Regina pushed the harder Emma would push back.

Emma needed to push back.

Mr Gold left the choker in his pocket. He tucked it away in a drawer of his nightstand while Lacey was in the shower that night, promising himself that he would give it to her. Sometime. Just not now. Not yet.

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When he heard that John Doe had woken up, he knew it had something to do with Emma's influence. She was changing things already. The clock had just been the start. The days, Mr Gold noticed, no longer seemed to repeat themselves. Things were changing, and Regina was becoming more and more overt in her attempts to get rid of Emma Swan.

Mr Gold kept his distance but kept an ear to the ground and watched for trouble. He subtly moved things around in his store, removing some of the more useful artifacts from the front room. He was so caught up in planning for the future that it completely slipped his mind that now time was moving again he might need to deal with things that had happened in the past.

At least until the sound of breaking glass stopped him half way to his car one evening. He turned on his heel, frowning deeply as he walked back to the shop. The front door was ajar, glass lying on the floor from the broken glass panel near the lock. He stepped over it, careful not to crunch any under his cane or his feet, and into the shop. There was a light on in the back, the soft glow of the lamp and not the ceiling light. Mr Gold walked into the office without a second thought, incensed at the idea of someone daring to break in. Even in this world people knew better than to steal from him.

He identified the culprit immediately and was struck with a vague sense of déjà vu. "What are you doing?" he asked the blonde, pregnant Ashley, voice dry.

The girl whirled around. She'd found the safe, the one that housed all of the legal documentation for the store as well as some of the paperwork for the… less savoury deals he'd made in this world. She looked terrified but stubborn, her hand shaking as she quickly brought it up in front of her. He barely registered what she said to him as a burst of stinging pain in his eyes caused him to jerk back. The movement set him off balance, his bad leg crumpling beneath him. He felt his head catch the corner of his desk, and the next thing he knew he was waking up on the floor, keys gone, and a terrible headache pounding behind his eyes.

Mr Gold sat up gingerly, fumbling for his cane. He reached up a hand to touch his temple and his fingertips came away tacky with blood. He cursed under his breath and struggled to his feet, eyes still watering in the after-effects of the mace she'd used on him.

A few shaky steps brought him to the wall safe. He flicked through the documents inside and cursed again when he noticed what was missing. "Changing your fate indeed," he said acidly.

He sat down at the desk, pondering his options.

The contract was legal and binding, according to his records there was even a happy couple lined up who had paid a decent sum of money for their part of the contract. Whether or not they were real, of course, was another question. He could have her arrested for breaking and entering, even for assault, and get the contract from her then. But it would cast a terribly unfavourable light on his character, and Lacey… wouldn't like it. At least, she wouldn't like hearing everyone's opinions of it for the next few years.

On the other hand… Here was an opportunity. Emma Swan was a passable detective, she was young, and more likely to be able to bring Ashley in without causing a scene. And no matter what way things turned out (and he suspected they would not turn out in favour of his contract) it gave him the opportunity to test Ms Swan's mettle. In the end, whether he wound up owing her or she owing him wouldn't matter, opportunity only bred opportunity.

Mr Gold picked up the phone on the desk and dialed home. Lacey picked up on the fifth ring, sounding just a touch drunk (a bad writing day then). "Lacey," Mr Gold said, "listen, I'm going to be late home. Don't wait for me, I'm not sure when I'll be getting in."

"Did something happen?" Lacey asked him. "Are you ok?"

"Someone broke in at the shop. They got into the safe, and it's important that I get what they stole back."

"Ok. Don't track blood on the carpets, we just had those cleaned."

"This isn't a gangster novel, dear. I'm not going to kill anyone."

"Well, whatever you do. Don't be home too late, ok? Bye!"

She hung up before he could say anything else. It was just as well. The words 'I love you' had been clawing at his throat, and saying them would have struck her as unusual. The Mr Gold she knew was not known for his phone manner, or for his verbal declarations of affection.

It didn't take him long to find where Emma was staying, or to drive to Mary-Margaret Blanchard's apartment building. It took him a little longer to get up the stairs to her floor, but that was time well spent silently rehearsing what he would say. Finally he rapped firmly on the door and stepped back a polite distance to wait for an answer. Moments later the door opened with a creak to frame Mary-Margaret in all of her shy glory.

"Miss Blanchard," Mr Gold greeted her, "is Miss Swan here?"

Mary-Margaret glanced back over her shoulder. Footsteps sounded, and a second later Emma was standing next to her at the door. Mr Gold held out his hand for her to shake. She had a firm grip, which he took as a sign in her favour.

"Hi, my name's Mr Gold. We met briefly on your arrival."

Emma nodded. "I remember," she said, voice reserved.

"Good." Mr Gold smiled at her, "I have a proposition for you, Miss Swan. I, uh… I need your help. I'm looking for someone."

From the look on her face, Mr Gold would guess she hadn't heard about his wife. "Really?" she replied, obviously searching for a polite way to turn him down. "Um…"

Mary-Margaret was clearly not helping. In fact, if anything she looked more awkward than Emma did, a strained smile on her rosy-cheeked face. "You know what?" she said, far too chirpily, "I'm going to go jump in the bath!" With that Mary-Margaret quickly disappeared further into the apartment, leaving Emma alone at the door with Mr Gold.

Mr Gold reached into a pocket and pulled out the photograph of Ashley that he'd managed to track down, holding it out for Emma to take. "This is her. Her name is Ashley Boyd. And she's taken something quite valuable of mine."

Emma took the photo. She looked at it, recognition clearly sparking in her eyes. She'd met Ashley before. Frowning, Emma looked back up at Mr Gold. "So why don't you just go to the police?"

Mr Gold had this answer prepared, and delivered it with smooth precision. "Because Miss Boyd is a confused young woman. She's pregnant. Alone and scared. I don't want to ruin this young girl's life, I just want my property returned."

"What is it?" Emma asked dubiously.

"Well," he paused for a small humourless smile, "one of the advantages of you not being the police is discretion. Let's just say it's a precious object and leave it at that."

"When did you see her last?"

"Oh, about an hour ago. That's how I got this." He gestured with his cane to the side of his head where he knew a lovely bruise was blooming to life around the site of the small cut at his temple. "She didn't seem herself, she was quite wound up. Rambling on and on about changing her life, I have no idea what got into her. Miss Swan, please, help me find her. My only other choice is the police, and I don't think anyone wants to see that baby born in jail, do they?"

It was a sore spot and he knew it. Anyone who had read the implications in the Mirror knew it. For a moment Emma looked shell shocked, then her face closed off, her expression clouding over. "No, of course not."

"So you'll help me then?" he pressed.

Emma glanced down at the photo, then tucked it into her jeans pocket. "I'll help her."

Mr Gold smiled. "Grand."

Emma was about to reply but was cut off by another unexpected intrusion as Henry bounced up the stairs and to the door, talking as he went; "Hey, Emma. I was thinking we…" he stopped short upon seeing Mr Gold just inside the open door, mouth snapping shut.

Mr Gold pretended that he didn't find anything unusual about Henry's behaviour even if the boy was, at present, the one person in town most likely to guess his true identity. "Henry," he greeted the boy kindly, "how are you?"

The boy looked hesitant, as if unsure he should answer even such a mundane question when it was posed by him. "OK?" he said eventually, more a question than an answer.

"Good," Mr Gold replied, and nodded to him. "Give my regards to your mother." He walked past Henry and through the door, pausing a moment in the hallway to add; "And Miss Swan… good luck."

As he left he could hear Henry questioning Emma. He had to smirk to himself when he heard the boy ask Emma if she knew who he was. Of course she didn't. Nobody did. The smirk fell from his face. He had a house to get back to, a wife to reassure, and time enough to wait before Emma delivered.

Lacey was waiting for him in the living room, ceiling light and all of the lamps on, an open bottle of nail polish on the coffee table telling him what she had been doing to occupy herself. She stood when the door opened, abandoning half-painted nails to look him up and down. When she saw he wasn't dragging mud or blood in through the door her gaze drew upwards until she saw the cut on his temple. "What happened?" she demanded, harrying him along until he was sat on one of their pristine antique-style couches. "You said someone broke in, you didn't say they clocked you one."

"The desk 'clocked me'," Mr Gold corrected dryly, "the assailant had a can of mace and, I must say, very good aim."

Hands on her hips, Lacey glared down at him. "You said it wasn't like a gangster novel either."

"Do gangsters often mace people in your books, Lacey?" he asked the question mildly, but felt bad just the same when he saw how her face fell. Lacey wore her emotions for the world to see, so unlike Belle who kept most of hers under a carefully crafted mask. Mr Gold sighed. "I didn't mean that. I'm sorry. Sit down." He patted the couch next to him encouragingly. Reluctantly, pouting a little, Lacey sat. "It's all under control," he assured her, reaching out to take her hand. "Ashley Boyd stole a contract from me, that's all. No excitement, nothing to be concerned about. She'll give it back or someone will owe me for her debt."

Lacey was staring down at their entwined hands. It occurred to him that as far as she knew they never just sat and held hands. She looked at him. "Ashley Boyd? The pregnant maid at Granny's?"

"That's the one."

"Why would she have a contract with you?" Lacey asked, then barely a second later understanding dawned. "Henry. You got Henry for the mayor. Ashley was going to adopt out the baby?"

"She was," Mr Gold confirmed. He was quiet a moment, watching her. There was a lot of his Belle in this woman, a lot of her best and worst qualities bundled together into a combination that was similar, but not quite right. The part of him that was Mr Gold loved this woman, though he had never been good at showing it. The part of him that was Rumpelstiltskin found her a pale imitation.

Mr Gold reached out and picked up the bottle of nail polish. He put Lacey's hand down on his knee, unscrewed the cap, and carefully began to paint the nails she'd missed. "Ashley signed a contract with me some months ago," he continued, ignoring the odd look on Lacey's face (somewhere between surprised, happy, and strangely bittersweet), "she also accepted a rather large sum of money from the adoptive parents I had lined up for her child. She could dissolve the contract legally, perhaps even enter into a payment plan or loan to pay the money back, but instead she chose to break into the shop, steal the contract, and assault me in the process. I have Miss Swan on her case."

"Miss Swan." Lacey didn't sound like she thought that was a good idea. She sighed. "Well, you always know what you're doing… It'll piss Regina off at least, knowing you went over Graham's head and that you employed Emma Swan to do it."

"And we both know how much I love pissing off our good mayor."

They shared a grin at that, and for a moment it felt as if he were back in the Dark Castle. The sensation was almost like vertigo, the bottom dropping out of reality for just a moment. It passed just as quickly. Nails finished he relinquished his wife's hand. She inspected the nails carefully, then put her other hand down on his knee. "Now you have to do the other one," she informed him, a cheeky smile making her face light up, "or it's going to look strange."

.


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It was ten thirty in the morning when he got the call from the hospital. When the contract had been signed he had been listed as Ashley's next of kin at the hospital registry so that he could be there to facilitate the hand-over and adoption when the time came. Apparently Ashley hadn't thought far enough ahead to have that changed. Or perhaps it had just been overlooked in her plans to run away and start a new life.

Mr Gold closed the shop and went to the hospital. At this point it didn't much matter whether or not Ashley kept the baby, but a contract was a contract and either way he was going to be paid. In this world and in the other nobody broke deals with him, not without some sort of consequence.

At the hospital he was directed to the maternity ward – which in a town like Storybrooke was basically just a small selection of rooms close to the paediatric ward. He saw that Emma was waiting outside long before she saw him, the blonde far too occupied with her son and with worrying about the condition of Ashley and the baby. As Mr Gold approached them a doctor appeared, a reassuring smile on his face. "Miss Swan. The baby is a healthy six pound girl and the mother is doing fine."

"What lovely news," Mr Gold smiled, adding a hint of ruthless for effect. "Excellent work, Miss Swan. Thank you for bringing me my merchandise."

The words were specifically chosen to incite anger, and they did. He could see the change on Emma's face immediately. "A baby?" she repeated, "that's your merchandise? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Well because at the time you didn't need to know."

"Really? Or did you just think maybe I wouldn't take the job?"

"On the contrary." Actually, she had hit the nail on the head, but she didn't need to know that. "I thought it would be more effective if you found out yourself."

"Effective?" Emma repeated in disbelief.

"I thought that perhaps after seeing Ashley's hard life you might find that the alternative made more sense. I mean, if anyone could understand the reasons behind giving up a baby, I assumed it would be you."

"You're not," Emma told him forcefully, enunciating each word, "getting that kid."

"Actually, we have an agreement. Or, more accurately," Mr Gold drawled the word, aware that each thing he said was only making Emma more determined to help Ashley keep her child, "we have a legal contract. My contracts are always honoured. If not, I'm going to have to involve the police and that baby is going to end up in the system. And that would be a pity. You didn't enjoy your time in the system did you, Emma?"

'It's not going to happen."

"I like your confidence. It's charming, really. But," Mr Gold held up a finger, "all I have to do is press charges. She did, after all, break into my shop and assault me."

Emma's eyes narrowed. "Let me guess – the thing she stole was a contract?"

"If it were, her possession of a single copy does not nullify the contract."

Emma stared at him, her glare not wavering. "You know that no jury in the world will put a woman in jail who's only reason for breaking and entering was to keep her child. I'm willing to roll the dice that contract doesn't stand up. Are you? Not to mention what might come out about you in the process. Somehow, I suspect, there is more to you than a simple pawnbroker. You really want to start that fight?"

While a part of Mr Gold was thoroughly annoyed at her implications about his legal expertise, the rest of him was too busy being thrilled at her stubborn goodness. Perhaps it wasn't as pure and all-encompassing as her parents had been, but it seemed Emma Swan did have a bit of a saviour complex. Perfect, if she was going to stick around long enough to break the curse. "I like you, Miss Swan," Mr Gold said mildly, "you're not afraid of me, and that's either cocky or presumptuous. Either way, I'd rather have you on my side."

Emma's glare faded just a little, though she still looked sceptical. "So she can keep the baby?"

"Not just yet… There's still the matter of Miss Boyd's contract."

"Tear it up."

Mr Gold chuckled. In the real world contracts weren't nearly so easy to dissolve. "That's not going to cut it, I'm afraid. You see, when Miss Boyd received payment it wasn't from me…" He paused, waiting for Emma to catch up, and only continued when he saw the sudden understanding on her face. "It was from the joyful couple expecting to adopt her child. I was merely a facilitator, a middle man to take care of all those pesky legal details. I'm afraid that breaking her contract will mean she will owe quite a bit of money. After all, it's hardly fair on these people to lose both their baby and to be charged for it. So…" Mr Gold leaned forward a little, his smile turning sly, "I put it to you now. If you want Ashley to have that baby, are you willing to make a deal with me?"

Emma broke eye contact with him to glance back at Ashley's room. "You're saying you'd be willing to pay off the couple… to make sure they didn't pursue legal action."

"That's right. Ashley's debt would be cleared, and she will have no fear of any legal ramifications. Both for breaking her contract and for breaking and entering."

Emma looked back at him, and the look on her face was so familiar that for just a moment he felt the urge to let loose a familiar giggle. The urge passed, instead he waited patiently for her to speak. "What do you want?"

"Oh, I don't know just yet. You'll owe me a favour."

"A favour?" Emma's sceptical nature made her pause. For a moment it looked as if she wouldn't accept, but then the cry of a baby and the coo of a new mother interrupted the silence in the hallway. "Deal."

"Lovely." Mr Gold smiled at her, showing teeth, and then turned to walk away. He suspected the couple who had intended to adopt the baby were a construct of the curse. Even if they weren't, with just a little legal footwork he had the means to nullify the contract. And now Emma Swan, Storybrooke's saviour, owed him a favour. He'd be saving that.