There wasn’t time for “how about no.” Hell, there wasn’t even time for a phone call. Gold actually stood there in the door way, cane clasped in hid hands, and waited for her to get ready so they could immediately leave. He tapped his goddamned foot.
And he smirked. One of those irritating shit eating grin kind of smirks that rankled Emma more than about anything else on the planet.
It dropped into a scowl just long enough to tell a confused Henry to mind his own business, and then rose back into a self satisfied smile.
“I should call Regina,” Emma said.
“She’ll figure it out,” Gold replied calmly—his jaw barely moving.
“Yeah, but we were supposed to—“ Gold tilted his head in curiosity and at the kitchen counter Mary Margaret leaned forward nosily. “Fine. I’ll call her on the road.”
“We’re leaving now,” Henry asked. He’d come all the way down from the lost and was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. But he wasn’t too tired to invite himself on their road trip.
She glanced at David and Mary Margaret, who were both suddenly very busy not being helpful. “No,” she sighed. “Mr. Gold and I are leaving. You’re staying here and thinking about how wrong it is to punch people.”
She’d never been on the receiving end of a really good maternal glare but she figured she could give one. Henry’s mouth snapped shut—cutting off a petulant whine and Emma resisted the urge to preen.
Yeah, she could definitely give good mom glare.
“Besides, your mom will be by soon and someone needs to her where I went.”
“I can do that,” David said without thinking.
“Henry will do it. Right kid?”
“I’d be more use to you and Mr Gold. You’re looking for his son right? Who better to use than me! I found you when I was ten.”
He found her because he stole Mary Margaret’s credit card and paid a sketchy online service way too much money. “You did,” she sighed, “but right now you’re busy being grounded for what happened yesterday.”
“But we’re supposed to go to Boston together!”
“Ms. Swan,” Gold growled, his patience waning.
She squatted down in front of her son. “We’re definitely going to Boston together. But when it’s just the two of us and we can have fun. What Gold and I are doing won’t be fun. So can you help out? Can you stay here?”
His jaw locked and he looked just like his other mother for a second. But he nodded.
“Good, you’ve mollified the boy, now may we leave?”
She shot a good glare at Gold. “Let me just get my jacket,” she growled.
Being an all powerful super evil imp or whatever the hell he was Gold was unfazed.
Regina didn’t rest. She didn’t even try.
Instead, while Emma went home to sleep, Regina drove forty minutes beyond the city limits and bought sixteen of the best cider donuts made without magic.
She’d discovered the place her tenth year in Storybrooke, when boredom and wanderlust had driven her out of the town and into the surrounding countryside. The place was a worn little shop nestled into a worn little strip mall that had looked old even back in 1993. The woman at the counter didn’t react to Regina’s curiously numbered order, just tossed her a cup for her coffee and went to the back to box the donuts.
That was the other reason she used to come. Outside of Storybrooke she was anonymous, and while the sensation—the loneliness of it—was unpleasant, it had been different. A change of pace from a town perfectly constructed to please her.
She hadn’t bothered to come to the donut shop in years. Certainly not after Henry. And Emma.
On her way back she passed Rumpel’s ancient land yacht slowly cruising towards the city line—presumably so he could test his curse-proof method in and out of town.
She sent up a vague wish to higher powers that his attempt would fail and Emma or Mulan would find him stranded in the woods miles away with no memories of ever being a gold-flecked imp who manipulated a whole line of women just so he could hitch a ride to another world to find his son.
Maybe he’d lose his memories, crash his car and just…die.
Yes. That’d be nice.
The fresh donuts filled her entire car with a heavenly aroma, overpowering the smell from the mug of coffee between her thighs. She only made it through three donuts before getting to Emma’s apartment. She polished off a fourth climbing the stairs.
She’d been using her magic constantly since getting back to the “real” Storybrooke and was finding that her already normally high intake of food wasn’t nearly enough. Maybe it was some residual affect of absorbing Hermes’ helmet. Or annhiliting a time line. Or Gold’ stupid knife. Whatever it was her magic was burning more calories than an hour on a Stairmaster and a constant intake of high calorie food was the only thing between her and a whole new wardrobe.
She’d gotten rather fond of the one she’d had for twenty-eight years and wasn’t in a rush to replace it just because the whole damn town needed her rescuing it ever other minute. Cracking the box of donuts open and holding it before her like a gift, Regina raised her free hand and knocked three times.
There was a shuffle and muffled cursing before David through the door open.
“Regina,” he said breathlessly.
Like he was surprised.
She tried not to be annoyed. Instead opting for what she thought was a polite smile but what nine out of ten people told her was a malevolent one. “David.” She offered the donuts. “I brought breakfast.”
“Oh,” he rubbed at the back of his neck like his daughter often did. “Yeah. We already ate. About an hour ago.”
When did everyone in town start getting up so early—“Well, hopefully you saved room. Can I come in?”
She knew better than to wait for his answer and pushed past him, dropping the box into his hands.
Snow was standing at the counter with her fat mug of tea held in front of her face. Her eyes were as big as the plate her lone piece of toast lay on. She spluttered, “Regina.”
“Oh don’t worry dear. I don’t verbally eviscerate enemies this early in the morning. You’re safe.”
David smoothly stepped between them, “What are you doing here?”
“Sight seeing,” she said sharply. “What on earth do you think? Emma and I are parenting our son this morning. You didn’t see it in your day planner?”
He looked over his shoulder, sharing a long look with his wife.
“What,” Regina said, trying not to let her quickly diminishing patience color her words more than they already had. In fact she was a little surprised. Usually Emma would have stepped in before the dayplanner crack.
“She didn’t call you,” Snow asked, her voice pitching high at the end like she full well knew Emma hadn’t.
“No,” she said through gritted teeth. Where was Emma anyways?
“She got called away,” David said. “She…owed Gold a favor and he collected.” And David was furious about it—or as furious as the milquetoast David Nolan could be. Snow was angry too, in her tepid Mary Margaret way. At least more angry about that then about Regina being in their home.
Nice to know she was no longer the biggest villain in their lives.
Then her mind spat out that image of Rumpel’s car lumbering towards the town line. “They left Storybrooke?” Not even a call.
“Twenty minutes ago.”
Or a text.
And now Regina couldn’t chase Emma down at lecture her because she was bound to Storybrooke by her stupid deal with the imp.
“It would have been nice if she’d called,” Regina muttered. She hoped the hurt she was feeling didn’t color her voice.
“Gold didn’t really give her time,” David said. “He didn’t even want us to hug her goodbye.”
“That sounds like him.” She took a deep breath that sent a shiver through her. “But it can’t be helped. Emma’s gone now.” She shoved her hands into her pockets. “I suppose that means I’ll deal with Henry alone. I assume he’d upstairs?”
She pushed past Charming and ignored Snow’s blustering from the kitchen.
And promptly found that Henry was not upstairs, lounging on the bed he shared with Emma and playing a game or looking surly and waiting to be punished.
“I thought you said he was up here,” she shouted down.
“He is,” David shouted back up.
He definitely wasn’t. She called down again and moved around the bed sorting through the cramped closet.
“He’s gone! As is that stupid book and his bag.”
“Maybe they’re down here,” Snow called back.
“That doesn’t help with my missing son!”
She dashed back to the staircase and looked down over the rest of the apartment. Snow was on her hands and knees looking under her bed and David was half buried in the downstairs closet—throwing things out over his shoulder as he searched for Henry’s bag.
Snow stopped searching. “You don’t think…”
David stopped too. “No,” he said in disbelief—turning around and staring at his wife wide-eyed.
Regina had to grab hold of the railing to keep from incinerating the both of them. “What,” she snapped.
“He wanted to go with Emma.”
“And she said no.”
“And you two think that my precocious and industrious son who once ran away to another state snuck into the back of Rumpel’s car under his and Emma’s nose?!”
David tilted his head. “That sounds like Henry.”
“It does,” Snow agreed.
Regina sank against the railing. “Yes,” she sighed, “it absolutely does.”
For a guy that had never driven on anything more than a boring country road in the middle of nowhere Gold drove like a bat out of hell once they hit the highway.
Emma grabbed the pleather wrapped bar over the passenger door to brace herself and noted, “You don’t actually have powers out here, you know that right? We get pulled over for reckless driving and you can go to jail.”
Gold’s gold tooth flashed when he snarled at her.
So she quietly buckled her seatbelt, tightened it for good measure, and prayed that there were no cops between Storybrooke and Boston.
They managed to make good time, dodging cops and stopping only when they were a few miles from Logan. Gold was forced to roll into a gas station as the needle hovered on the E.
“You can fill her up,” he growled. Then he crossed his arms and stared out the window, completely unimpressed by his new surroundings.
Also completely unwilling to even pay for gas.
She stared at him.
“Well,” he finally asked, his eyes darting from her to the gas pump.
“This boat’s from 1983. Filling that gas tank would probably bankrupt a small country.”
“And I’m not paying for gas.”
“You owe me—“
“A favor. That’s me helping you find your kid. If you wanted me to chip in for gas maybe you should have put it in the contract.”
The only thing more obnoxiously scary than an angry and impatient Gold was an amused Gold. “Fine.” With a slight of hand he produced a card.
She peered at the name. “Why do you have Regina’s AME—you know what? I’m not even going to ask.”
“Wise.” He returned his even gaze to the road ahead, telling her the conversation was done.
She muttered and slid out of the car. Boston smelled the exact same as it had before she’d been saddled with a whole family and developed a sort of friendship with an evil queen. So close to the airport it smelled like burnt diesel, with the hint of old fish that she usually smelled closer to the water. The air was denser than in Storybrooke. Something she wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t been hopping between worlds.
Gold leaned on the horn to yank her out of her thoughts. “We don’t have all day,” he called out his window.
She kind of hated him.
Not enough to grumble or anything. But she shot him what she felt was a very good stink eye before squatting down behind the car to loosen the gas cap. Whoever had screwed it on last had missed a thread and she had to lean in to push and finagle it off. The exertion caused her phone, already precariously perched in her back pocket, to slide out.
It clattered onto the grimy pavement face up, a whole slew of missed calls shining on the screen.
On cue it started ringing again, Regina’s name flashing up and her anger at being abandoned that morning wafting off the phone. It took Emma four rings before she had the wherewithal to answer.
“Phone must have been on silent,” she tried a casual little laugh. “Sorry about that.”
“Are you okay,” Regina asked urgently.
“As okay as you can be on a forced roadtrip with Gold.” She slotted the pump handle into place and squeezed the trigger. “He’s not my first trip for a roadtrip buddy.”
“Is that why you took Henry?”
Emma’s hand froze on the handle. The tank had been empty and she could hear the gas hitting the bottom, like water poured into an empty bucket. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Henry. He’s with you.”
“No…he’s in Storybrooke.”
“You lost Henry?”
Something in the back of Gold’s car thumped.
“I didn’t lose Henry,” Regina sniped. “I wasn’t the one that shot out of town like a rocket after last night and took our son with them!”
“I didn’t—“ Another thump.
A very specific kind of thump Emma was familiar with because sometimes bounties were too gross to stick in the front of the Bug. When they were covered in vomit or stinky or trying to punch her despite being handcuffed sometimes she threw them in the trunk, where they’d bump against the trunk hood and make that particular noise.
No more thumps. She hopped over the gas hose and reached into the car, snatching the keys out of the ignition despite Gold’s protest.
“What is it,” Regina asked—worry still tinging her voice.
“Just,” she grunted as she worked the key into the trunk lock, “a second.”
A twist and it popped open with a creak.
She sighed. Loudly.
“You found him didn’t you,” Regina asked.
Emma reached in and dragged her son up and out of the trunk by the arm. “Yeah, I did.” She dropped his arm and pushed him back against the car, “What the hell kid!”
Regina protested, “Don’t curse—“
“I’ll call you back,” Emma snapped. She jammed her phone back into her pocket and crossed her arms, looming over Henry and hopefully, maybe, putting the fear of God into him. “Thought I told you to stay home.”
“I—“ he started to protest.
She scowled and leaned down. Loomed was the word. “In fact I know I did.”
She was close enough to see him swallow. It filled her with immeasurable pride. Her first full on terrifying mom moment. When Regina wasn’t annoyed she might be proud.
“I can help,” he shouted, sounding like a broken record and confirming he was Regina’s kid. If she never heard “I can help” and “stay away from my son” again she’d die content.
“You are and were and will forever be grounded.”
“That doesn’t matter if we’re trying to find Mr. Gold’s son!”
“It absolutely does—no. No. We are not doing this.” She waved between them. “I’m done arguing with you kid. I told you you were grounded and it’s not up for discussion. Ever. And neither is this.”
She whipped her phone out.
“What are you doing?”
“Calling your mom.”
She wagged the phone at Henry showing him she already had.
Regina answered after half a ring. “Is he okay?”
“He’s fine.” Except for the boot print she wanted to leave on his butt.
“He hid in the trunk didn’t he?”
“All the way to Boston.” Henry rubbed his neck. “I think it was a little cramped back there. He’s looking a little stiff.”
“I’ve already spoken with Aurora. She’s leaving town now to pick him up.”
Emma raised both eyebrows in surprise, “You’re not coming?”
Regina huffed. “My deal with Gold. I can’t leave the city limits remember?”
“Even for Henry.”
“He won’t care.”
“Sure he—“ She froze. Really quiet for a guy with a limp and a cane Gold had slipped out of the car and was standing beside Henry, one hand tight on his cane and other other settled on Henry’s shoulder.
“There a problem sheriff?”
“Regina needs to pick up Henry.”
He tilted his head, “She’s bound to Storybrooke and our flight leaves in an hour. How, pray tell, will she do that?”
“We’ll meet her halfway,” she said evenly, trying not to growl.
Gold shook his head, another nasty smile forming. “I don’t think so.”
“He’s not being cooperative is he,” Regina asked.
“And your flight to New York?”
“Leaves in an hour.”
They were stuck. Trapped by stupid deals and know-it-all sons and a monster of a man with a gold-capped tooth. Emma didn’t like being trapped. It made her itchy.
She shivered and Henry and Gold watched her with similar same curious looks.
“Henry has mentioned wanting to visit New York.” Regina sounded resigned and hopeful at the same time. Lemons into lemonade. Something new for a woman who used to be so against compromise she tried to curse Emma into eternal sleep.
Emma sighed, “This wasn’t how I planned it.”
Regina actually scolded her, “This is why you don’t make blind deals with Gold.”
She scoffed, “Says the woman trapped in Storybrooke with my mother.” She turned her back on her son and Gold and lowered her voice. “We’ll call you when we’re on the ground?”
“Please. And Emma—“
“I know.” She really didn’t. But she also didn’t want to hear someone tell her to be careful or safe or suspicious. Again.
“You don’t know,” she could hear the smile over the phone, “but you’re smart enough most of the time, and if Gold does anything especially awful you can just push him off a bridge.”
Emma tried not to snort and over the phone she heard Mary Margaret yelp Regina’s name in shock.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said dryly.
“And keep our son safe?”
Our son. Regina said that a lot now. And she said it so often Emma had stopped noticing.
“Do me a favor,” she asked. The agreement to watch over Henry hopefully implied.
She swallowed. Having Regina this…amicable was terrifying. “With me out of the picture the Sheriff’s department is gonna be a little light in the magic department. Maybe help them out a little.”
“I’ve helped before,” she snarked.
“No inflating suspects.”
“Or exploding things.”
“You’re tying my hands.”
“And try not to explode yourself,” she said softly. Intimately. Too intimately. Gold and Henry were standing right behind her, she glanced and saw only Henry looking confused. Emma blushed and turned back away.
“Worried,” Regina asked.
“I’m hanging up,” Emma insisted.
She groaned, “What?”
“I’ll be worried about you too.”
“Question.” Aurora had even raised her hand to ask it. “Why are you here.” Her finger pointed at Regina.
“Because there’s a murderer traipsing through Storybrooke and we have to find them.”
“Right. That’s why we’re here,” she motioned to herself, Mulan and David and then down at the badge hanging between her breasts. “Not you.”
“I know the town better than you.”
“Of course you do. You built the bloody thing,” Killian snorted.
David raised his hand. “The bigger question is why he’s here.”
“I brought him,” Mulan countered, and she said it sincerely enough that no one felt the need to ask why.
Killian hiccuped. Then swayed.
The drinking was getting out of control and he needed to be watched was the why. He put a water bottle to his lips and Mulan snatched it out of his hand without even looking and dropped it into the trashcan before providing a fresh bottle filled with actual water.
“Another question,” Aurora said. “Why’s Regina in charge?”
“The prince was in a coma for thirty years, Mulan still drives down the wrong side of the road when she’s excited, and you have had this entire conversation while looking at Facebook on your phone.”
Aurora mutely slipped her phone into her purse.
“Do you actually have a plan,” Mulan asked—being more skeptical in front of non-Thieves than Regina would have liked.
None. All she knew was that a war was being waged between fairies and changelings and only famous fairies were being murdered. They’d exhausted nearly every source they had, and with nothing else to go on all they could do was wait.
She looked away.
“So you’re in charge,” David said carefully, “and you have no idea what to do?”
“Do you have an idea,” she shot back.
“We could keep looking for the fairy monks.”
“Oh yes,” Killian slumped back against Aurora’s desk, “let’s all go traipsing through the woods some more. Because that’s worked so far.”
“Well, we could ask what you want to do but I’m a hundred percent sure it involves living in a bottle.”
Killian was sober enough to look offended, “Like a genie? I’m a free man, sir.”
“He meant your drinking,” Mulan sighed. “And what about talking to that guy that crashed into town?”
“Emma already spoke with him,” David said. “He doesn’t have anything to do with any of this.”
“That she knows. She’s not actually stupid enough to think it was a coincidence he crashed into town the same night that guy nearly killed Regina.”
“Mulan doesn’t believe in coincidences,” Regina explained.
Killian nodded, “She hates them.”
Aurora stopped them for snidely discussing the matter forward with a dramatic groan. “Fine,” she said, “I might have an idea.”
“Really?” Regina crossed her arms.
“The bird plan didn’t work,” David said.
“The bird plan was only half my idea. This is all mine. And it involves talking to a fairy.”
“They won’t talk to us.”
“The ones in the convent and monastery won’t. And my parents and godmothers have no idea what’s doing on. But they’re not the only fairies in town.”
“Tinkebelle’s here,” Killian asked.
Regina rounded on him in surprise, “You know Tinkerbelle?”
He grinned like a pervert, “Who doesn’t?”
“Not Tinkerbelle,” Aurora shouted, her voice ringing off the tile floors. “I don’t even know who that is.”
“All right,” David crossed his arms and puffed out his chest—issuing a challenge. “Who then?”
Aurora glanced at Regina and her stomach sank. Because that loaded look said it all.
The one fairy other fairy Regina was positive was in town.
And her best friend once upon a time.
And someone who wouldn’t like to see either her or Aurora.
And now maybe their best chance at saving lives.
Gold usually oozed confidence. The infuriating kind that left Emma antsy. He wasn’t a man who got nervous. And he wasn’t a man who seemed scared.
But on the short flight to New York his knuckles were white as he gripped the seat and his jaw was tight as he gritted his teeth and he kept shooting daggers at Henry as he shoved Cinnabons in his face. Then at La Guardia they got in the cab and he handed her a slip of paper with an address on it. Like he was too scared to speak to the cab driver himself.
She joked about it and was met with a glare that had her scooting towards Henry and putting an arm around him protectively. She could be amused by the monster out of his depth, but she was pretty sure poking him too much would end up with her looking like a toad or something when they got back.
Gold hummed with nerves as they drove and Emma tried to ignore it, leaning into Henry and pointing out spots of interest through the window.
She kept losing her track of thought watching her son’s wide-eyed awe. He was always such a little adult that she sometimes forgot how sheltered he was growing up in his tiny town with an overly watchful mother.
“Remind me to get you a hot dog while we’re here kid.”
He wrinkled his nose, “Mom says the hot dogs in New York give you dysentery. She says that you’re supposed to eat steak when you’re here.”
“Unless Regina wants to fly down here and pay you’re getting the other New York staples. Bagels. Cheesecake. Hot dogs.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Gold said.
“No one invited you to join us. We’ll do it why you try to convince your son you’re only half a monster.”
He scowled, but he was so ashen with worry it didn’t hold its normal weight.
The topic of sons broached Henry leaned forward to look around Emma and asked the obvious, “Are you nervous?”
Gold tried another scowl, that bounced off the kid like teflon. Emma thought about reminding him that Henry’s other parent was the Evil Queen and he’d grown up on dark looks from murderers, but she didn’t feel like getting a death glare either.
Instead she asked, “When was the last time you saw the kid?”
“Almost three hundred years ago.”
The cabbie did a double take and Emma shot him a sheepish smile.
“So,” Henry mused, “he’s probably not a kid anymore?”
“How do you even know if he’s alive? What if we’re going to see your grandchild?” Henry’s eyes widened. “Or great grandchild?”
“It’s him,” Gold growled. “My son is alive.”
“Yeah and the 300 year old man lives here,” the cabbie interrupted, “and that’ll be fifty-two fifty.” He nodded back at the glowing screen perched between them, where the bill popped up.
Gold and Henry had matching expressions of sticker shock. When it was clear Gold was too stunned by the price of a cab from La Guardia into Manhattan during afternoon rush hour Emma sighed and pulled Regina’s card out. She had to shield Henry from the read out so he wouldn’t see the name and point out the fraud she was committing, but she didn’t plan to use her money on this trip, and if Regina could curse a town into existence she had to have cursed herself a sizable bank account.
She could afford it.
The three of them shuffled out of the cab, Henry helping Gold and pointedly ignoring the man’s offense at being offered help by a pre-teen.
Then he asked uncomfortably invasive questions as they walked too slowly towards the apartment building-grilling Gold on his relationship with his son, his feelings about the reunion and—inexplicably—about Regina.
“Does she know we’re doing this?”
Gold actually tripped and Henry caught him.
“Your mother get you to ask that question?” Gold’s eyes darted to Emma accusingly.
“No, but my mom says you’re trying to date Cora and she’s my mom’s mom. Which means your son could be her stepbrother and I would be his nephew.”
“Kid,” Emma warned.
“Don’t you think your family tree is tangled enough,” Gold asked.
“Until last year I didn’t even have a family tree.”
Gold looked irritated enough to threaten that whole new tree, so Emma jogged ahead and yanked the door to the building open, guiding her son and Gold in and squeezing the kid’s shoulder to hopefully, silently, tell him to knock it off.
“Which one does you son live in,” Henry asked.
Emma’s silent commands were worthless.
Eager to end things and maybe score some one on one time with Henry while Gold and his son cried and hugged or tried to murder each other or whatever family estranged for three hundred years did Emma scanned the names listed.
“Recognize any of them?”
Gold did not. Because that would be easy.
Emma spied the one apartment without a name by its buzzer and took a haphazard guess that was their guy. She made up some excuse about how people who were hiding didn’t advertise and Gold was so caught up with the idea of a reunion that he didn’t poke at any of the huge holes in that claim.
Her assertion paid off when someone answered their buzzer but didn’t speak. Emma’s pride was secure for another day.
She leaned against the door, gave Gold a thumbs up and announced herself as a delivery.
Then they waited.
And finally there was the click as the man took his finger off the buzzer. Then heavy feet on metal grating like he had just leapt onto a fire escape and was running away from the father he’d been running from for three hundred years.
Or debt collectors.
Or a bounty hunter.
A really great bounty hunter.
“He’s running,” Emma said and they all ran outside to catch him as he landed six feet away and took off without looking.
“That debt Ms. Swan? It’ll be repaid when you get my son to talk to me.”
So like a good mash up of Dr. Phil and a bail bonds woman.
Emma gave chase.