He really did not want to do this. But it was for Belle's birthday and he knew she would not want him to magic her present out of thin air. Gold sighed and entered the shop. Ursula and Cruella's Pet World, really... And both of them were sitting behind the counter, gossiping. When they saw him, they exchanged anxious looks.
'We don't sell potion ingredients,' said Ursula moving to him. 'We sell pets. And fishes. As pets.'
'Oh, I am well aware of that, dearie,' he smiled.
'So what are you doing here?'
'Buying pets, obviously.'
'The mighty Dark One buying himself a pet. Feeling so alone, darling? How come you need a pet when you have a wife?'
Gold shoot her an irritated look.
'I am buying a pet for my wife, obviously.'
'Oh.' Cruella looked back with wide eyes. 'And how come she wants a pet when she has a brand new husband? Maybe this isn't the shop you really need after all?'
Only the thought of Belle stopped him from evaporating Cruella's smile along with her face, body and the entire building. Ursula threw Cruella a warning look and got to business.
'Alright, what pet does she want?'
Gold took a deep breath.
'She liked those bunnies from the shopping window.'
Now Ursula went completely poker face and Cruella hid behind the counter choking with suppressed laughter.
'Wait a minute and don't kill her,' said Ursula in her best professional voice and went to the shopping window. Very quickly Gold found himself looking at the silvery-white bunny with little brown patches of fur.
'This is Thumper,' said Ursula holding the bunny by the skin at its neck, with her other hand under its hind legs. 'The most curious and intelligent one from the whole litter. Do you want him?'
'Yes,' said Gold. He certainly wasn't going to spend any more minutes than strictly necessary here. 'Pack also all the things it would need.'
'Sure,' said Ursula with relief. She quickly put the bunny in the cardboard box and went on to select a cage, chew proof water bottle, colorful feeding dishes, veggie basket and hay manger to be hung inside the cage, bright orange harness and leash, small carrier, packs of wood sawing for bedding, packs of hay, packs of special food, vials of vitamins and supplements, packs of calcium to chew, grooming kit with trimmers and brushes of various sizes, castle-themed playhouse for indoors, playpen for the garden, chew toys and play balls. Surely one small bunny didn't need that many things?...
All the time Cruella was choking under the counter and Gold just hoped she would choke to death. She paused only to threaten him with taking pictures from shop's monitoring system so everybody in town could see the Dark One buying himself a sweet little bunny. It would be a marvelous advertisement for their shop anyway.
'Do you need anything else for your wife's bunny?' asked Ursula with an air of perfect saleswomen and kicked Cruella quiet. As if he would know!
'I guess not.'
'Then it's 400 dollars total,' said Ursula.
He just sighed. Surely it shouldn't cost so much. But he wasn't in the mood for arguing. He was in the mood for vanishing from the shop as quickly as possible.
'You can pay me 400 dollars less for rent this month then,' he said in a menacing voice and dematerialized with the bunny and all its things. He appeared straight in the house, not bothering with the car. He could retrieve it later.
He looked at all the things on the floor and a cardboard box that was very visibly moving. Then he just magically arranged it all on the coffee table or the floor next to it and created colorful wrappings and bows on them.
Suddenly he felt very tired. Standing in the shop and enduring Cruella's jests or Ursula's carefully blank expressions without the ability to really pay them back made him feel like an idiot. But he could do that and much more for his Belle.
He just needed a little time for himself before he'll call Belle and ask her to close the library early. He sat on the sofa, ignoring thumps coming from the box in the center of the table.
'Rumple? Rumple, are you home?'
He woke up in the darkness and for a moment he didn't know where he was. He felt his heart racing and suddenly he couldn't catch his breath.
'Belle?' he managed in a pitiful, small voice.
'Rumple? What are you doing in here in the dark?' Belle entered the room and suddenly the lights were on, he was in his own home, looking at his own wife. He managed to take a deep breath.
'Belle, hello,' he smiled.
'Were you sleeping? I'm sorry, did I wake you?'
'No, no, it's alright.' He stood up. 'I... I'm the one who should be sorry, I wanted to call you earlier, I prepared... I mean...'
Belle smiled and hugged him.
'Happy birthday, Belle,' he said, burying his face in her hair. They stood like that for a long moment. She seemed to be content to just be this near and he needed to feel her close so much.
Then he remembered the presents. And the cake that he didn't have the time to pull out from the refrigerator and onto the plates. And the tea that he didn't made.
'Rumple?' Belle must have sensed his nervousness.
'I...' he turned towards the coffee table. 'I have something for you.'
'Oh, I see,' she smiled widely. 'And I can't wait to unpack it all. You have made a very thorough job with packing, I can't tell what can be in all those boxes,' she smiled even wider, in anticipation, and Gold smiled too. 'Well, except that one.. what's that?' She reached for the box and took it, looking curiously. Gold felt all the blood rushing down from his head leaving him dizzy and then returning when he blushed bright red.
The box with the bunny. Well, it wasn't the box with the bunny anymore. It was very much without it.
'Rumple, what's going on?'
'I...' he sat down on the sofa, not sure if he should cry, beg for forgiveness or just pass out and not have to deal with it.
'Rumple, are you alright?'
She kneeled down in front of him. She was still holding the box. And she expected answers.
'Thumper...' he managed.
'Oh, Belle, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I've ruined everything...'
'Hey, hey, stop that, alright, stop that,' she put the box down and now had both hands holding his own. 'You didn't ruin anything. Everything is fine. But tell me what is going on, okay?'
'I've bought you a bunny. You liked them so much yesterday when we went shopping.'
Belle's face lighted with joy like a Christmas decoration.
'But I have fallen asleep and the bunny must have chewed through the box and escaped...'
'Hey, that's alright, we'll find him,' Belle smiled. 'Oh, it's even better when I must look for him.'
She had such a wonderful look of anticipation, like Bae had on his birthdays, like... Gold forcefully stopped himself from thinking along that way. He had a bunny to find. Whatever that sounded like...
The most curious and intelligent from the whole litter as Ursula said. Indeed. By the time they found the little bugger on the first floor, in the overthrown trash can under Gold's own desk and chewing on Gold's papers, Belle was throwing him alarmingly concerned looks. It shouldn't be this way. She shouldn't be concerned, on her own birthday, over what emotional effect not finding the bunny will have on him. No. This was ridiculous. And this was supposed to be for her and he managed to ruin it. He fought the urge to find it by magic. Belle didn't want to find it by magic. She said it's just a little bunny, probably scared in new, unfamiliar place and magic will frighten it even more.
That and of course Belle thought that even a bit of magic might be too much if not really necessary. But after first ten minutes of searching he started to think that the bunny must be either dead or dying and he didn't want Belle to find that on her birthday.
It was then even more irritating when they found it safe and very self-satisfied. Especially when it turned out that it used Gold's rug as a litter box.
But Belle was in such awe.
'Oh, he's so sweet!' she exclaimed, carefully lifting the bunny and hugging it close. Gold smiled, showing her how to properly hold the animal. 'Thank you so, so, so much! You said his name was Thumper?'
'Yes, that was what the... saleswoman said. She said he is the most intelligent and curious one among his brothers and sisters.'
Belle's face brightened even more.
'I've bought him all he needs, I hope, but if there is anything else we can buy it tomorrow.' It would be a pain to go there again but this was for Belle. And he'd gladly buy her the whole shop if she wanted, especially after all this mess.
'Do you want to hold him?'
Gold blinked. Not really and it sounded really weird for a moment, but he obligingly reached for the bunny.
Thumper had other ideas and put his little claws into Belle's sweater. Belle looked at Gold apologetically.
'He loves you already,' he said quickly and with a smile. But this wasn't right. It was ridiculous, being rejected by irritating little bunny shouldn't be this unpleasant. All the same, when they went downstairs to look through all the bunny utensils, Gold realized that he felt jealous. About Belle's attention of course. But also a bit about bunny's attention, to his eternal shame.
Later that day that rabbit proved to be even more of a menace.
'Your rabbit hates me.'
'Nonsense, Rumple, you just frightened him.'
'He bit me.'
'Well, you interrupted him eating.'
'He was eating my papers. And not from the trash can this time!'
'So don't leave them everywhere he may see them.'
'He's so cute!'
'What a beautiful bunny!'
Thumper, her birthday present from Rumple, was basking in the wonderment of Belle's guests. Belle was basking in the simple fact that she had friends to invite and nice, welcoming home to invite them into. Rumple was a bit grumpy over it, trying to persuade her otherwise, but agreed after some tender kisses and looks. He didn't really look as if he was able to deny her anything and Belle was grateful for the warm feeling it brought. It was pretty much the same with the sweet, little bunny. It was enough that she expressed her awe over these cute creatures during their shopping trip and a few days later Rumple presented her with a rabbit and a collection of rabbit's utensils worth a small fortune. In short words, it was wonderful.
So presently Rumple was in his shop and Belle was sitting over tea in their living room with Diana and Marian. Ruby had to work, but Marian didn't work anywhere yet and Diana's working hours in the hospital were conveniently irregular. That way they've been able to meet during the day, immediately after closing the library, without awkwardness of either of them meeting Rumple.
Marian picked Thumper up and was petting him gently, holding him on her knees.
'That's a very cute birthday present, Belle,' said Diana, feeding Thumper a carrot. 'Who knew that Mr. Gold would think of something like that.'
Belle sighed and reminded herself that they had best intentions. But when light, nice topics of conversation run out, what remained was pretty ugly. Still, baby steps.
'He's very considerate and caring, he saw me admiring these bunnies earlier during the shopping trip.'
Marian looked at her seriously.
'I still feel a little bit uneasy in his home, Belle. I know we came to you, for your birthday, but the very fact that with any other friends we would celebrate it with both of you... I'm sorry, Belle, I don't want to hurt you. But you too went through so much at Regina's hands, I guess it makes me a little protective.'
Belle smiled, a bit blank.
'No need, really, but thank you for the sentiment. You seem to think I'm in some sort of danger from Rumple. I'm not, really.'
'I'm sorry. But Robin showed me a movie yesterday.' Marion looked a bit shell-shocked from the amount of modern devices around. 'It was called The Godfather. And I just thought... Have you seen that movie, Belle? I understand it's a well known one.'
'Yes, I have...' replied Belle, groaning inwardly. When did this little party went in such a nasty direction?
'Then I can't help but think about the ending. Are you sure that your husband tells you everything?'
'Yes, I'm sure he tells me everything important.'
'I thought that even if he's nice to you, if he changed for you, he still might be the old Rumplestiltskin for other people. The Rumplestiltskin who tortured Robin. Are you sure he told you everything he did in Neverland for example? I mean, you have no way of checking.'
'I don't need to check,' said Belle, exasperated. 'I trust him.'
And that she did, she trusted him to be a better man, to not kill in vengeance, to not hide from her important things, to let her into his life.
But Marian's words awoke something in her, as much as she hated that. She still couldn't shake this off when this evening they settled into their bed.
Neverland. Bae mentioned that Tamara died in Neverland. To this day Belle didn't think of it much, but now she wondered if Rumple had had something to do with that. He had believed that Tamara had killed Bae in that moment... But no, he couldn't have. He would have told tell her, right?
She wondered if she should ask him about Tamara. If she could ask him. Because if he had killed her in vengeance? Belle felt very acutely that she was such a coward. She didn't want to ask. She would have to draw consequences, of killing and also of not telling her. And she didn't want to. She wanted them to be happy.
But she was afraid he really had killed, that much she had to admit to herself. And she was afraid she'd have to leave after learning that, because she didn't want to be naive, lied to and manipulated. And yet she was a coward.
And they still didn't talk.
But, on the other hand, if he's innocent, such a question might hurt him. And now, when he was grieving and recovering from past year, she really didn't want to hurt him.
She would simply have to wait a bit for an answer. And if he did kill her... Then they would talk. And they would see to it together. This would be difficult, but maybe better than leaving, like she did after his attack on Regina. Then it gave her much needed independence, a feeling of standing on her own feet in a new world. Now she had it – she had her job, the apartment over library, much more knowledge, an income (which now admittedly fed her own book collection), she could live on her own any moment, she wasn't dependent on her husband. And leaving would be always an option if he was... unrepentant.
Belle was looking at him strangely. Gold was feeling uneasy under that stare. They were lying in bed, she was reading a book by the light of the lamp on their nightstand, while he turned his lamp off and settled on the pillow, snuggled close to Belle.
She was petting his hair with one hand, but she kept casting him those weird, quick looks. As if she was trying to decide something.
As if she wasn't sure of something. What Belle might have doubts about?
'Belle, is everything alright?'
'Yes, Rumple, of course.'
She seemed embarrassed.
He hated how pitiful this sounded, hated the fear that gripped him suddenly. Belle was embarrassed, because he wasn't meant to know. He wasn't meant to know, because she somehow saw what he was. Either she saw the coward or the monster. And she wondered if the marriage was a good decision.
And it wasn't. Because he was both the coward and the monster. The monster lashed out, but the coward dictated directions and goals. Being a monster was the only way to not be afraid. But this wasn't what Belle would want. Belle would want a man who is not afraid and who doesn't need the monster, who is brave and kind as she is.
He felt her hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently.
He looked at her questioningly.
'You were miles away in your head.'
Belle smiled at him. She looked as if she made the decision, she looked lovely, and strong, and determined. And she was smiling at him. And she turned off her lamp and wrapped him in her arms. So maybe not everything was lost.
Maybe she'll have him for a little while longer then.
The next day in the shop, Gold found a little, golden pendant with pearls and sapphires. It was a tiny, masterfully crafted thing and it belonged once to a queen who traded it for a medicine for her child. Though Rumplestiltskin wouldn't admit it to anyone, the chosen payment was dictated by two things – he wasn't able to charge much for curing a child and he imagined immediately how fitting the little trinket was for his maid.
Yet it was shortly before the aborted True Love's kiss and in subsequent rage he destroyed the thing. But it wasn't irreparable. Even if he had to spend a better part of the day repairing it without magic, he will have something that he could give his beautiful Belle. This wasn't much, but he didn't really have more.
Sitting at his worktable and falling into familiar routine of manual work, he let his thoughts drift. This was just a little bauble, really nothing. But many years ago this could have fed him and Bae for such a long time! His precious boy would get proper food and new clothes. He would undoubtedly ask his papa for a new toy and sweets, and Rumplestiltskin would buy him whatever he wanted. Bae would thank him, would smile at him and Rumplestiltskin would feel strong, needed, able to care for his boy.
He blinked a few times to chase the tears that obscured his view. He wouldn't want to ruin Belle's present. At least this way he would show Belle that he's so grateful for her presence in his life. He would feel like a proper husband, showering his wife in gifts.
The bell at the entrance door interrupted these thoughts. Gold sighed. At least he wasn't crying anymore.
Before he had time to get up, Henry peeked into the backroom.
'Hello, Henry,' Gold smiled. Henry looked so much like Bae at this age, how was it possible, he never noticed that before the discovery that he's his grandson?
'I wondered if this is good time to talk?' the boy asked quietly and slowly.
'I suppose,' Gold agreed, not seeing any better time in the future. Perhaps it would be best to get it done.
'Great!' Henry grabbed a chair and sat on the opposite side of the workbench. 'What's that?'
'Present for Belle. I need to put the pearls back into their place. I will continue this as we speak, is that alright?'
'Sure. I kind of like watching how things are repaired anyway. I wonder...' he hesitated.
'Did my dad like working like that? He seemed to be very practical.'
'He was. Resourceful and smart. He was able to do many works around the house.'
'Have you taught him spinning?'
'He really didn't have patience for that one. I imagine he would be a craftsman if...' he sighed instead.
'I don't even know what he was doing for living in New York...'
'I don't know too,' admitted Gold very quietly. There was a long period of silence following that.
'Sometimes...' said Henry finally, 'sometimes I think I'd rather not know him at all. It could be easier than knowing and losing him so soon.'
'I wouldn't want tha,t' said Gold firmly. 'Every memory of my boy is precious.'
In fact he contemplated taking memory potion early after being freed from Zelena. But he quickly dismissed the idea, scared that he even thought of erasing his boy in such a way. He still felt deeply ashamed of considering it. He wouldn't be so vulnerable, of course, and the coward in him screamed in terror, but all other things aside, it would be painfully noticeable for everyone if he were to remove his memories of Bae. And so, so pathetic.
He felt his cheeks burning in shame, but Henry didn't comment on it.
'On the other hand I want to remember what a hero my dad was. He died to save us all.'
'Yes, Henry,' whispered Gold. 'My brave boy.'
His brave boy. Gold felt acutely how he had failed him. It wasn't Bae who should have died.
They talked for a while longer, Henry asking for mundane bits of his father's life in the Frontlands.
'I have to go,' sighed Henry finally, looking at his watch. 'I have homework to do. Thank you, grandpa. For everything.'
Gold smiled, a bit surprised.
'You're welcome, Henry. If... if you want, we can talk more one day,' he added tentatively. Henry smiled.
'I'd like that.'
He stood up and turned with all the enthusiasm of a young boy and didn't notice the ornate vase on the table behind him. It fell and shattered unceremoniously.
'It's nothing,' said Gold quickly, before Henry would have gotten any ideas of not returning to the shop in fear of angering him, of something like that. Gold waved his hand and the antique was whole again.
'Cool,' smiled Henry. 'Can you perhaps... teach me?'
Gold inhaled sharply, feeling lost. For a moment he looked everywhere in the room instead of his grandson.
Bae hated magic.
'I think you should talk about that to your mothers. Both of them have their own magic.'
Not the cursed one.
'But you're Rumplestiltskin. You know everything there is about it.'
'Still, this isn't something for me to do or decide. Talk to them. I'm serious.'
Henry seemed disappointed but he didn't argue anymore.
Perhaps he won't come back, Gold thought, when the boy bid his goodbyes. Perhaps that would be for the best. Gold was tired and drained, even if talking about Bae with Henry felt surprisingly nice. And less connections meant less vulnerability, less break-ups when Henry would see the monster in him and less options for his enemies to explore to hurt him and his family.
Yes, it would be for the best if Henry didn't come back.
This has to end, decided Gold, returning home with a stack of books from the shop in his car. The curse, the dagger, was a liability and he couldn't afford to have one.
He needed a way to have his magic but get rid of the dagger which could control him.
Maybe the mirrors would be helpful, especially the so-called Nightmare Mirror. It was in Kay's possession right now, but that won't be a big obstacle.
He sat for a while in the car, pondering what to tell Belle. He surely couldn't admit that he was so scared that he'd do anything that it takes to have power without any means for anyone to control it. If anything, Belle would be angry. She didn't like the fact that he had the power in the first place. Bae didn't like it. It was the very thing that destroyed their life, even if it helped save Bae from the war and even end the war. Belle would expect him to be able to protect her without magic, something that he just wasn't able to do.
But now he wasn't also able to focus long enough to do all the research with all the books. He loathed the fact, another damn weakness. Still, he needed Belle's help.
He let himself imagine for a moment that he is, in fact, able to get rid of the whole curse. But anyway, True Love's kiss didn't work, crossing the town line meant leaving Bae's grave and whole life behind, and anyway his heart wasn't getting any better. Nor his leg for that matter, or those nightmares which kept him from sleeping at all these days. No, the mirrors had to work. Had to.
And he really liked being the Dark One, the showman, the dealmaker, the one that knows, has power and is smarter. It was such a wonderful role to play, a safe one.
'Oh, right!' exclaimed Belle when he presented her with new books and half-hearted story of a dangerous artifact in hands of rebellious teenager boy with resentment towards him and by extension her. 'I've found something the other day! I'm sorry I didn't tell you, there just were so many other things.'
He was grateful that she didn't mention him hitting her explicitly.
'What did you find, sweetheart?'
'One of the books mentioned Red Fairy as the original creator of the mirrors. Not the Dark One.'
'Do you know anything about her?'
'No.' He shook his head in astonishment. 'There is Blue of course, Tinker Bell was Green, there is a legend of White Fairy being the first, ancient one, and of course the story of the Black Fairy that no one likes to talk about. But I didn't know anything about Red one.'
'She must have lived at least a thousand years before, when the first Dark One did.'
'And perhaps fairies didn't want her story to be widely known. If she's the one who created mirrors, then they may be not very proud of her.'
Belle took new books and was furiously flipping the pages.
'Did you find what she was using them for?' asked Gold possibly innocently. Perhaps there was something more the mirrors could do. He already knew that the dagger can't be thrown into either of the mirrors the way that people can be devoured, he tried that already, in the Dark Castle, very carefully as not to do it for real, only check the possibility. Both mirrors repelled it forcefully. But perhaps they can be used to destroy it somehow. He didn't really have the time to experiment.
'There is something about bringing the darkness from everyone who looks into the mirror, but we knew that already. Which is perfectly understandable by the way, seeing as the mirrors show the regrets or the warped, evil vision of reality. It's like taunting someone with them, no wonder people let their emotions rule them. But nothing more.'
'Will you keep looking, Belle?'
'Sure. I'm awfully curious myself at that point about their whole history.'
Next morning, when Belle already left for the library, doctor Andersen called.
'You can come today at five p.m. to my office. Other patients would be done at that point.'
'Alright. I will be there,' he said shortly and ended the call. This was going to be unpleasant in many ways and he had yet to find suitable excuse for being home late. He had to know, though, even if the possibility he'd decide to give up his magic was very little, and even then, that he'd be able to found a way of doing that.
It didn't help than on his way to the hospital he spotted Regina and Miss Swan arriving in Emma's yellow bug. And he was almost sure that they saw him as well.
Snow Queen looked at him icily when he entered her office and took a seat.
'I'm listening, Mr. Gold.'
'Don't talk to me as if I am your wayward child or something. I suppose you can save that tone for Kay.'
Dr Andersen slammed her palm on the desk.
'I understand that you need my help, Mr. Gold. So I suggest we stick to business. Tell me about Kay.'
He glared at her the best he could.
'Your Kay sneaked into my castle with intention of robbing me of one of my possessions. Was the magical key yours?'
'What key are you talking about?'
Gold fished the small brass key from his pocket.
'I never saw it. You say Kay had it? Why do you have it now?'
'I acquired it recently for the very violin he again tried to steal, from my shop this time. Sheriff Swan helped him to concede a deal. You may be grateful that I agreed to that price and didn't pursue the legal path. You wouldn't want your precious boy to be officially a thief.'
'I'm sure he had his reasons,' said dr. Andersen with calm, almost poker face. Too calm.
'Yes, I think that too. He must have understood that the future you have planned wasn't what he wanted.'
Snow Queen cringed visibly.
'I never wanted to hurt him.'
'I know,' said Gold much more warmly. Partly because that was a good moment to start building the truce between them, but partly because he, well, knew.
'What happened in your castle?' came a quiet question.
'We made a deal. I needed a skilled thief to steal something for me. Something that I would never acquire through a deal. He agreed, but when he returned he said that I wanted to trap him in the mirror from the beginning and proceeded to try to trap me. And it was him or me, the mirror was open.'
Snow Queen was silent for a long time, staring at her desk with calm, unreadable expression.
'Yes, I believe you,' she said finally. 'What could happen during his... task, that he changed like that?'
'I suppose he was caught and lied to by the person he was meant to steal from. It's not that hard to imagine that he believed that everybody wanted to just use him for their own goals. And because of his suspicious he was indeed used, but failed and ended up in the mirror.'
Snow Queen shook her head.
'Yes, indeed, I can imagine he believed you want to use him for your own goals. He knew from me that the mirror can devour people.'
'And that its power can be increased by that?'
Dr Andersen snorted.
'There's no proof of it. And he himself surely isn't powerful enough to make a difference.'
'I thought that too, but now I'm not that sure about that. Magic is about emotions and he surely has his darkest emotions raging.'
'Still, no proof. But yes, he might have believed it.' She leveled him with a sharp stare. 'Who was that person and what did you want to steal from her?'
Gold stiffed. But that was why he was here, right?
'Ah, that brings us to the price for that little tale.'
'It was Zelena. And I needed the Elixir of the Wounded Heart.'
Dr Andersen just nodded.
'So you had heart problems even then. What Zelena could have done to my Kay?'
'She surely lied to him and manipulated him. I suppose she convinced him to trap me in the mirror and bring her me and the dagger.'
'Your dagger, yes.' Snow Queen sighed. 'Pesky magical objects that in fact own our power, right?'
She lost all her ice powers with the mirror. Still, it wasn't the same.
'Before we talk any more, let's make sure we understand each other. Everything that is happening here, everything that is said and done cannot leave this walls. You understand that you are bound to secrecy. One word of this and you have no idea what I will do to you.'
She didn't seem impressed.
'No. You only.'
She sighed impatiently.
'Well, I assume you are here about your heart and that it's bad, you wouldn't have come otherwise. If it's bad then there is a high risk of medical procedure that I couldn't be doing alone and if I'd try it would be a crime. So you're free to go away any moment.'
'Let's assume that it won't come to this.'
Dr Andersen's gaze clearly said: those demanding patients and their unrealistic expectations.
'Alright, Mr. Gold, I'll just tell you when something can't be done just by myself. Now tell me what the problem is. I have your old medical records from before the curse's breaking. You had coronary heart disease. Is it why you're here today?'
'Why can't you heal yourself? I have heard you had reattached Victor Whale's arm. Surely you can deal with your own arteries?'
He smiled sadly.
'I wish I could. But this isn't just a coronary. The whole problem is caused by my curse. It's destroying my heart.'
Snow Queen raised her eyebrows.
'Then maybe it would be more fitting for you to have a heart failure, not coronary,' she said with the cold interest of professional and workaholic. 'Though the notion of a dirty heart is also nice. Are you sure?'
'Of course I am.'
'I've been using the mirror's power for years without any effect like that,' she said doubtingly.
'Your mirror can't compare to my curse. But perhaps, if you want, we might check.'
He was curious. This might be valuable information.
'What do you mean?'
'I could pull your heart out. We'll see how it's holding. And we'll compare it to mine.'
Snow Queen hesitated for a moment.
'Perhaps I'll regret it,' she said eventually. 'But yes, I want to see my heart. See that it's not that corrupted.'
Gold stood up and circled the desk. In a moment they were staring at red, pulsating heart. It had patches of dark, but surprisingly small ones.
There was the other thing though.
'It's covered in ice...' whispered Snow Queen.
'The mirror's price. I'm sure that there was a time when you've been much more spontaneous and was feeling everything more sharply.'
'Yes,' said Snow Queen sadly. 'But I took the mirror for a reason I don't regret. '
'Don't we all...'
She looked at him sharply.
'And perhaps you won't crush it that easily now,' she remarked. 'Put it back.'
He pushed the heart into her chest again.
'You know, Mr. Gold, for me as a cardiologist, this was doubly amazing. To look at the heart like that...'
'Prepare then for something not so pretty, dearie.' He sat back and pulled out his own heart, failing to withhold the grimace of pain.
Dr Andersen almost gasped. The heart was like a lump of coal, with only small flicker of red.
'Alright, I have to admit that you can't compare that.'
'See, dearie?' He grunted when he pushed the heart back in its place. 'I lived with it for too long, did too many dark deeds.'
'So to get it straight, you think that all your physical problems are caused by the curse?'
'Why did you come to me then?'
'I need to get rid of the curse's effects. I just want to see where I stand. What would it be like to deal with it with the curse gone, with no magic. Mind that's only a remote and improbable possibility, but still I want to know.'
'Alright. I can check you up, run some tests. Still, why not cure it with magic? Perhaps the magic that your curse is giving you won't work in the long run, but you're hardly the only magician in town. '
'Are you offering your healer's magic? I remember you've had them when we first met.'
Dr Andersen snorted.
'Mr. Gold, I may have some healing power, but it's more like curing cold. If you want me to heal your heart, I have to try angioplasty. I thought maybe someone else with magical power can help? The Mayor perhaps? Or Sheriff Swan?'
Gold looked at her with serious expression.
'No magic will heal that. The curse has its price and won't be fooled.'
And the sooner he'd be free of it, the better his chances to survive. If there's no way to find a convenient loophole, that is.
'Why the Elixir of Wounded Heart then? And how come you appear to be quite healthy now?'
'Elixir never was meant as a permanent solution, just a mean to prolong my time. And as for now, I'm obviously using curse's magic. But it's a short-sighted solution, you understand.'
'Yes, you alleviate your symptoms, but your heart is blackening even quicker.'
'What will happen when it's black completely?'
'I'll die. And the curse will take over my body. There will be only the Dark One and it's not a possibility you want to contemplate. I can be cruel and devious, but the Dark One is just the darkness, not a person.'
Dr Andersen sighed.
'I must say you've always been a difficult patient. Alright, take your jacket and shirt off. We will see what can be done.'
There was few things that could made Emma Swan as proud as being asked to accompany Regina to the hospital, for the first doctor's appointment and the ultrasound of the baby.
'I'm still not sure why I even agreed to that,' grumbled Regina, who clearly was under impression that her information of the appointment's date wasn't an invitation and asking for company.
'Because it's just nice to have someone with you,' replied Emma, sitting comfortably in a chair next to the doctor's office door. It seemed that half of the town decided spontaneously to have babies because the crowd and the queue were unbelievable. All the more reason to not come here alone, it already proved to be a long, long wait.
'I'm perfectly able to do that alone.'
'I don't doubt it. No one is doubting it. But next time we can take Henry along.'
Regina rolled her eyes but didn't protest and Emma considered this settled. Henry will be ecstatic, he was already so happy with the prospect of having siblings. Emma supposed that baby Neal still was too much of Henry's uncle, even if barely born.
'Just be aware that we won't see that much,' said Regina testily. 'I'm only six weeks along, at best.'
'You know it so precisely without doctor's appointment?'
'I can count.'
'So you didn't suspect this earlier?'
Regina threw her an irritated look.
'If you want me to admit that I have sinned with wishful thinking, then yes, I did. Satisfied?'
'Don't be angry, Regina. I'm not trying to get you to admit anything. Besides, I can't really brag about being all that sensible in that field.'
Regina snorted, but without irritation.
'Still, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing,' she said, undoubtedly thinking about Henry.
'Not necessarily, yeah. So, six weeks ago was the first time when you and Robin?...'
If looks could kill, Emma would be dead in milliseconds. Fortunately this was the moment when a nurse called Regina's name and led her to the examination room.