Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and any unrecognizable characters and dialogue.
Really short chapter considering the majority of it happens in New York with Gold, Emma, Henry and Neal.
Alone in the castle, with both Rumple and Jack gone for the day, I was left to my own devices. While used to being alone, forced to amuse myself, either by reading or practicing geometry, or attempting to shakily try out my powers now that I'd been forbidden gloves, I was suddenly lonely. I'd been under Rumple's tutelage for half a year, and had done little more than exchange a handful of letters with my parents in that time.
They were busy, I knew. Papa and Mama had, from their last letter, just entertained several foreign dignitaries. Even when they'd shut up the palace, they'd been unable to completely bar other royals and nobles from visiting. It would have looked too suspicious to the outside world, not that the sudden absence of the heir to the throne, while their 'spare' had freely moved about the castle, hadn't done so already.
As I pressed my hand against the glass frame of the large window before me, I hoped Anna was enjoying herself. I hadn't said goodbye to my sister, too terrified of my growing powers and complete lack of control to do so. I'd left that very night that Rumple had appeared, at the behest of my parents. I hadn't asked them what they'd promised the Dark One in return for my lessons.
The answer was one I was afraid to find out.
Alone, my thoughts turned to the being who had taken me under his wing. From what I'd seen, the Dark One had little use for me. I was a frightened, wisp of a girl, my royal status hardly counted for anything as my parents were still alive. That, and while it traded with kingdoms of the Enchanted Forest, Arendelle had always been rather self-contained. It was rare that we allowed any outside influences into the kingdom.
So why had they turned to Rumpelstiltskin? While the legend of the Dark One was known, even in a kingdom that had little to no magical influences such as Arendelle, how had my parents even learned to summon him?
I could ask Rumple, but he'd answer with half-truths and riddles, giggling the entire time. And Jack, when pressed, acted as if he'd been placed under a gag-order. I had to admit it was a possibility, given the Dark One's inclinations.
Sighing deeply, I watched the jagged arcs of ice curl from my fingertips. Remembering Jack's words, I channeled energy into creating swirling patterns of frost. It worked for a while, though unless I remained fairly calm, the ice would gain a mind of its own and spike violently along the glass pane. Wary of shattering it, I drew my hand away and watched as the ice continued to creep. Without my touch.
It was getting stronger.
I eased the car into the parking space at the hospital, Anna leapt from the car before I even put it in park. "Anna!" I called after her, unable to keep the laughter from my voice. She sent me a grin over her shoulder before she raced into the hospital, braids flying behind her. Rolling my eyes, I turned the vehicle off before I followed Anna at a more sedate pace.
She was perched on Kristoff's bed when I arrived in the room, chatting up a storm as the blond man slipped into the bathroom to change. I smiled faintly at how, despite his replies being muffled and intelligible, Anna understood every word. Against my thigh, my phone beeped loudly in the relatively quiet of the room. Frowning, I shared a look with Anna before I plucked the slim plastic up in my hands.
The text from Mary Margaret was short and to the point. Come to the apartment ASAP. Brow raised, I handed off the phone when Anna held out her hand in question. Her eyebrows brushed against the fringe of her bangs as her eyes read over the short message.
"Any ideas?" She asked, handing me back my phone.
I shrugged and pocketed the thing. "No idea, really. Maybe something to do with Emma and the others. Or Regina." No one had heard or seen the mayor since we'd told her about Emma taking Henry out of the town with Gold and Jack. "But, we should probably get over as soon as we can."
Anna nodded, face screwed up in thought. I stifled a giggle at the sight. Her phone chirped, and it was my turn to raise a brow at how her face lit up at the text she received.
"It's Jefferson," she admitted softly when she caught the way I was looking at her. "He's invited me to dinner - Kristoff too. He wants to... he wants to meet him." And, judging by the sheepish expression on her face, said dinner was going to be extremely entertaining.
"Am I going to be subjected to 'the talk' from your Cursed-adopted dad and your technical step-sister?" Kristoff asked dryly, shrugging on a thick cardigan.
Anna flushed as deeply as I'd ever seen, hair a close second to the shade of her hair. "Maybe..." She hedged, eyes flitting this way and that, but never settling on either Kristoff or myself.
Kristoff and I shared a giggle before I cleared my throat pointedly. Anna's eyes, shaded shyly by her lashes, flickered over to me. I smiled encouragingly at her before standing.
"We should get going - Mary Margaret did say as soon as possible." Anna sprang from the bed and raced ahead of us, the sound of our laughter echoing behind her.
Kristoff, despite his second concussion in almost as many weeks, was in an exceedingly good mood. While used to this, I still secretly preferred when his snarky behavior reared its head. I blamed it on the fact that I'd been around Jack during my younger years, who could sass like no other. Though I'd promised to take my soon to be brother-in-law to see Sven at the stables after we'd gotten him from the hospital, he whined little when I told him we were heading to the loft instead.
Mary Margaret was seated on the stairs when we entered, phone at her ear and expression decidedly disturbed. The sight of it caused the giggles Anna had been holding back to die on her lips as all three of us eyed the short-haired woman warily.
Finally, seeing that even Anna wasn't going to ask, I spoke. "Mary Margaret? She looked up with a jerk, as if just realizing we were there. "What is it?"
"It's... Emma, she... Henry's dad."
"Snowflake!" Jack floated toward me, sweeping me into his arms and twirling us around in a flurry of giggles and snow. My arms wrapped tightly around his neck, face pressed into the hollow of his collarbone. His hand gently petted along my braid and I pressed closer, breathing in the fresh, cold smell of him. He chuckled and I felt the slight bump when his feet touched the ground. He looked around curiously at the clearly empty halls. "Where's Rumple?"
"Still gone," I told him quietly, having gotten used to the sound of my own voice. Rumple had been gone for almost a week now, though Jack had come to visit for a few days just after my teacher had left. "I think he said he was going to Camelot this time."
While I'd never been to the legendary kingdom, I'd studied enough maps as part of my education to know where it was. However, Rumple had decided that bringing me along would only impede him, especially as he expected some hardships along the way. So, I was once more left to my own devices. When I looked up at him, Jack was frowning at my words.
"I'll need to have a talk with him," he muttered lowly, looking fairly unhappy at my teacher. "He shouldn't leave you alone - not when he promised to take care of you."
I shrugged, so used to being by myself that even the past few months of both Jack and Rumple's company hadn't spoiled me. Even though my parents had tried to help as much as they could, my unwillingness to allow them close to me had only widened the rift caused by the accident with Anna years ago, straining my relationship with them. I knew they loved me, as I loved them, but there were just some things that couldn't be changed.
"I'm alright, Jack," I told him, smiling warmly when he knelt to my level. He gently brushed my bangs away from my forehead, his smile widening when I didn't flinch away from his touch like I used to. I learned fairly quickly that, even if I did have an outburst, I wouldn't hurt Jack. It helped more than he knew to be able to touch someone and not worry about freezing them to death.
"Yeah, you are, aren't you?" For some reason, that made him sad. I saw it in his eyes. He sighed deeply and cupped my face in his slender fingers, smiling faintly at me. "Come on," he urged, pressing such a quick kiss to my forehead that I giggled. "Let's go flying."
Mary Margaret didn't even bother to shoo Anna and I away as she talked to Emma on the phone. Kristoff hung awkwardly in the small TV area, pretending that he couldn't hear every word. While I didn't point out that if she would just put it on speaker phone all this could be avoided, the intent was perfectly clear. As it was, Anna and I listened avidly as Emma relayed some rather disturbing news.
"Wait." Our godsister breathed. "Gold's son is Henry's father?" She asked, sounding both disturbed and disgusted at the same time.
Emma's voice was tinny and faraway. "I know, I know." She sounded tired, and I knew it wasn't from any kind of jet lag. "And the millions of questions you have, I have, too. The problem is, it doesn't matter right now because I don't know what to do."
It took a moment, but when she glanced in my direction, I caught the disapproval in Mary Margaret's eyes before she spoke. When she did, there was a hint of steel creeping into her words. "Please tell me you're not calling to ask me to tell you to keep it from him."
"Henry thinks his father is dead. I told him that for a reason," Emma fretted. "I want to protect him."
I frantically crooked my finger for the phone. Mary Margaret held up her hand, gesturing for me to wait. "No matter what this man did, Henry has a right to know who his father is." She said quietly, the steel draining from her. "The truth about your parents… Emma, you of all people should know how important that is."
There was a pause. "I don't want Henry to get hurt. I just want to protect him."
When I sent her a flat stare, Mary Margaret sighed and gave up her phone. "Emma?"
"Erin?" Emma asked, startled. "What -"
"Emma, no one knows better than me what it's like to want to protect the ones you love," Anna's hand slipped into mine as I spoke. "Believe me, I spent more years running away from my problems and my family, all in the name of protecting them, than I care to admit." I squeezed my sister's hand tightly. "But you have to ask yourself; are you really trying to protect Henry, or are you just trying to protect yourself?"
The moment David returned from the station, Mary Margaret asked him to sit down. He eyed her warily as she wrung her hands, attempting to find the right way to tell him what their daughter had divulged. I watched, my nerves strung so tightly I thought I'd snap, when Mary Margaret burst out, "Henry's father is Gold's son!"
David stared at her, blinking so slowly I was afraid he'd go into shock. Anna looked warily between the two, clearly grateful the island was between her and them. Kristoff, having given up trying to distract himself, sat on the stairs, knees pulled to his chest.
"So… Rumpelstiltskin is Henry's grandfather?" David asked slowly, trying to clarify the extremely messed-up situation we'd all found ourselves in.
"But I'm his grandfather."
"I'm pretty certain you can have more than one, David," I couldn't help but point out, amused at the dazed expression he wore.
David blinked owlishly once more. "So his… step-grandmother is Regina, the Evil Queen." He half-asked, clearly trying to sort out the family tree.
Frowning thoughtfully, Mary Margaret shook her head. "Actually, his step-great-grandmother."
"She would also be his adoptive mother." Anna added helpfully, her own eyes growing wide.
David looked down with a low chuckle. "It's a good thing we don't have Thanksgiving in our land, 'cause that dinner would suck."
Anna snorted into her tea while Kristoff lost it on the stairs. As he tried to muffle his laughter - Mary Margaret throwing him a stern 'teacher-glare' helped immensely - the short-haired woman sighed.
"Or, maybe this will mellow everyone out." She said, trying to remain optimistic and failing miserably.
I sighed into my hands, wishing that there was something I could say. This entire situation was just bizarre on so many levels. I didn't even want to think about what would happen when Gold found out about the fact that he had a grandson by the savior and his estranged son. I knew little about Baelfire, having only been told the story of how Rumple had been unable to let go of power for his son until it was too late.
"Gold created the Curse to find his son." I whispered into my hands, not surprised to meet the mildly horrified stares of my family when I looked up. "Jack told me," I offered before Anna could open her mouth to ask. "Baelfire - I guess Neal, now - went through a portal they were both supposed to go through and Rumple… he didn't go. He couldn't let go of his power."
"Even for his own son?" Kristoff looked horrified, though that wasn't a surprise. Anna had told me about how Kristoff's parents had either died or abandoned him, leaving him to be raised by his fellow ice-cutters until the rock trolls had taken him in.
I nodded. "That's what I was told." A sudden thought struck me. "Oh, god… what about when Regina finds out?"
Even Mary Margaret couldn't find something positive about that particular detail.
I walked through the hospital, smiling at my phone as Anna sent me a photo of Kristoff singing to Sven. Reminding myself to look up a spell to switch the poor reindeer back into his true form, I almost ran over the poor man in the hall.
"Oh! I'm sorry- " The words caught in my throat at the sight of Greg. No longer bedridden, he'd been allowed to change out of those god-awful hospital gowns. There was a little bruising on his forehead, along with a scrape, but other than that, he looked perfectly healthy. "Ahem, sorry, Mr. Mendell" I swerved around him, unwilling to get caught in a conversation with a man that I'd half-wanted to die on the operating table mere days ago.
"Hey, wait!" He gently caught my arm, and I jerked away from the touch. I had no problem with friends and family touching me, but strangers already made me wary without the added benefit of me accidentally freezing some nosy outsider. "I, uh, I'm Greg," he said with a smile.
"I know." I told him calmly, a polite smile frozen on my face. "My… cousin is the Sheriff." It wasn't a complete lie, and Emma and I looked enough alike that we could pass for relatives.
"Emma is the Sheriff, right?" Greg eyed my hair, clearly believing the little white lie.
I nodded. "I'm Erin Gold." Without waiting for him to offer his hand, I stepped back a few paces. "Now, I've gotta visit my Uncle's girlfriend before visiting hours are over, so… " I laughed awkwardly, jerking my thumb in the direction I'd been headed.
Greg nodded in understanding. "Of course. I hope Belle's all right, she was asleep when I checked in on her earlier."
I went stiff at his words. "Are you and Belle friends?" I asked casually, my insides practically rioting as the memory of the two of them talking came to the forefront of my mind. Jack had yet to return my call, leaving me unable to know if my warning had reached him and Gold.
Greg shrugged with an easy smile. "Well, being cooped up in here, it doesn't hurt to pass the time with a fellow patient."
I nodded, eyeing him oddly. Despite his easy manner, there was a… stiffness in the way he held himself, something I could tell wasn't from any lingering pain. Flashing him another smile, I turned on my heel and strode down the hallway to Belle's room. "I'll tell her you said 'hello'," I called offhandedly over my shoulder.
The moment I turned the corner, I stopped and listened. When his footsteps began to recede, I peeked around the edge and narrowed my eyes. He was on his phone, speaking intently to the person on the other side. My stomach twisting, I knelt down and twisted my fingers. A small flurry appeared, creating a small snowman with coal black eyes and no mouth. It blinked up at me, awaiting patiently.
"Follow him," I told it quietly, peeking around and nodding at Greg's back. "Listen in and report back; don't let him see you."
Nodding its round head, the little thing scampered off after our newest outsider. I watched, biting my lip, as it stealthily made its way down the hall, hoping that Greg wouldn't see it. As I stood and headed toward Belle's room, a sad smile crossed my features.
It was times like this that I really missed Olaf.
Jack smiled at the sight of Henry and Baelfire - or Neal, he supposed - beginning to bond. Turning from the touching scene, his hand slipped into his pocket and drew his phone out. When it turned on, a message immediately flashed. His breath caught at the sight of the voicemail from Elsa. However, his joy that she was no longer point-blank ignoring his existence crumbled when her worried, strained whispers met his ear.
"Jack... we've got a serious problem. That Greg guy... he's talking to Belle and... Jack, I think he remembers seeing Gold using his magic."
Jack lowered his phone as the message cut off, chest tight. He, of all people, knew of the dangers that the people outside of Storybrooke posed to the former inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest. He'd learned the lesson himself, after his deal with Gold allowed him to be visible to all at will, even those who no longer believed in Jack Frost.
When he turned to Gold, Jack watched the man staring oddly at his son and grandson. Something shifted within him, replacing the faraway expression with something darker, a haunted, almost frightened expression that sent chills down the winter spirit's spine.
"Gold," Jack quietly urged. When the other man's eyes cut to him, Jack lowered his voice. "We've got trouble."
"Yes," Gold replied as he took the phone to listen to the voicemail, before he'd even heard Elsa's warning. His eyes remained on Henry, the boy prophesied to bring about his undoing.
"Yes we do."
Thoughts? Comments? Questions?
A/N: I'm really sorry for the short chapter and the long wait. This chapter fought me for months and months and months and I was never happy with it... I'm still not really happy with it, but enjoy!