Henry wasn’t really afraid of Mr. Gold—but it couldn’t be denied that Mr. Gold was unsettling. He had never been anything but kind and friendly to Henry, but there had to be a reason most of the town feared him so much. The Evil Queen never liked the two of them talking much—Regina warned Henry that he was a bad man and to stay away from him. Not that that made a difference. Henry found it a good rule of thumb to always do the opposite of what Regina told him. But Emma didn’t much like him interacting with the pawnbroker either, and Henry didn’t like worrying Emma.
Still, Operation Cobra was still on and Henry hadn’t yet figured out who Mr. Gold was. He considered the possibility that perhaps this was why Mr. Gold unnerved him so much—you were more afraid of things when you didn’t know what they were.
August didn’t seem to be afraid of Mr. Gold, and August had gotten caught sneaking around in Mr. Gold’s office. Just the idea of that made Henry’s blood run cold. But at Miss Blanchard’s party, August had just laughed it off, like it was no big deal. When Henry had asked August how he managed that lack of fear, August had said something strange.
“When you have nothing to lose,” He said, a little sadly, “there’s not much to be afraid of.”
Henry was surprised that Mr. Gold had even been invited to Miss Blanchard’s party. Emma had complained to Miss Blanchard about it, muttering about how she didn’t trust him and that she didn’t like him skulking around in the back of their apartment. But Miss Blanchard had remained firm that he was welcome; saying he didn’t have to offer legal counsel to her, especially for free, but he had. Emma had fired back that Mr. Gold never did anything for free. However, Miss Blanchard had a stubborn streak and she would not be deterred.
No matter how nice Miss Blanchard’s intentions were, people still gave Mr. Gold a wide berth. Henry had wanted to talk to him, but Emma’s sharp eyes never moved and every time he attempted to wander over, Emma steered him away.
So the next evening, Henry made up his mind to return to the pawnshop. Operation Cobra was crucial at this point. Besides, he wanted to thank Mr. Gold.
“Mr. Gold?” Henry called out. He glanced about the shop, eyes falling on the antique guitar and the ancient tea set.
Mr. Gold emerged from the backroom and Henry blinked. Somehow, Mr. Gold looked older. Had he aged ten years overnight? The wrinkles on his forehead were deeper and there were dark shadows under his eyes. Despite his obvious weariness, Mr. Gold managed a small smile.
“Hello again, Henry,” He greeted politely. “Something I can do for you?”
“I just wanted to thank you for helping me pick Miss Blanchard’s bell,” Henry said. It wasn’t a lie, he was grateful—Miss Blanchard had said she liked her present (he was also especially proud of his class’s card, which had been his idea) and Mr. Gold had knocked the price down so he could afford it.
Mr. Gold nodded slowly and Henry wondered how many people even got discounts from Mr. Gold.
“Are you okay?” Henry couldn’t help but ask. “You look…tired.”
Mr. Gold raised and lowered a shoulder and gave a grim smile. “Just a busy day yesterday. We don’t all have your energy, Henry.”
“Oh,” Henry said complacently, starting to wander about the shop. Henry never much liked sitting still, unless he was reading. Mr. Gold’s eyes followed him as Henry examined a Mickey Mouse phone behind the counter’s glass and then poked something made of leather, sitting on a glass stand.
“What’s that?” He asked interestedly. “Is it a ball?”
Mr. Gold glanced at it. “For all intents and purposes.”
“It’s weird looking.” It looked similar to a soccer ball but Henry had never seen one made of leather.
“It was my son’s.”
Henry stared at Mr. Gold. For all the surprise on Henry’s face, no one looked more shock at the admission than Mr. Gold. He looked down at his cane, fidgeting with it awkwardly.
“You have a son?!” Henry gaped at him. His mind immediately flew to the fairytale book, and he tried to remember which characters had children so he could narrow down the suspects.
Mr. Gold hesitated. “I—I did.” He didn’t look inclined to discuss the matter further but Henry was too excited to heed the warnings.
“Where is he now?” He asked eagerly.
Mr. Gold’s voice got quieter. “I’m…not sure. I might know.” He glanced out the door at the darkening sky.
Henry watched him, taking note of how Mr. Gold’s shoulders slumped and how the pawnbroker seemed to forget his presence. Henry was dying to know more, but he was beginning to wonder how far he could push his bounds.
“Are you going to find out?” Henry asked solemnly. He knew how scary it was to find people, especially people who might not want you. It took determination.
Mr. Gold sighed. “I don’t know.”
“You should,” Henry advised. “Families should be together.”
Mr. Gold gave him another sidelong glance, as if bewildered as to why he was discussing this with a ten-year-old. “It's not that simple.”
“It is that simple,” Henry insisted. “I was scared too, Mr. Gold, but if I hadn’t been brave, I wouldn’t have found Emma.”
Mr. Gold’s lips quirked as if resisting the urge to smile. Henry felt as though he’d won a point.
“So go find him,” Henry urged. This time, Mr. Gold couldn’t help but give a half grin.
“You’re fearless,” He commented, twisting his cane. “Get that from your mother, I’d imagine.” Henry wasn’t sure if he was referring to Regina or Emma.
“You remind me…a bit…of him,” Mr. Gold said haltingly. “Fearless.” Henry shrugged at the compliment, but it was a nice thing for Mr. Gold to say, considering he seemed so sad and earnest about his son. Henry wanted to do one more fearless thing before he left, so he tentatively approached Mr. Gold. Henry thought about it for half a second before wrapping his arms around the pawnbroker in a hurried embrace. Mr. Gold stiffened but Henry was not surprised at this, since he couldn’t really imagine anyone voluntarily hugging Mr. Gold. The ten-year-old drew back quickly.
“Good luck, Mr. Gold,” Henry said shifting his backpack. The sun was setting and Henry needed to get back, or the Evil Queen would ground him.
Mr. Gold watched him leave with something akin to astonishment etched on his face. He took a deep breath, making up his mind to face August Booth.