Notes: The full notes on this universe are available on my profile. They include information about character interpretation, pairings, character death, etc… if you have strong preferences on any of these topics, I suggest you check them out.
Not According to Plan
Chapter 1: Found
The Savior had come. She had only been in town two days and she had already begun the battle in earnest. Really, considering her parents, Rumplestiltskin shouldn't have been surprised. They'd never been lacking in spirit, only direction, and their daughter - Emma - was the same way it seemed. That was his role, to direct her, and as he walked to Regina's, intending to make his first move in this game, Rumplestiltskin expected he would enjoy it. Immensely.
He took a meandering route though town. In this Land Without Magic, power was instead gained by money, influence, and knowledge. He has plenty of the former two, and was now gathering the latter. What had changed since the Savior came to town? The clock was moving, but were the people?
So far, nothing seemed out of place except, perhaps, Gold himself. Unless it was rent day, which it was not, he could not usually be found walking though any part of Storybrooke except the route between Main Street and his home. He was getting nervous looks - perhaps they though he was on his way to evict someone? He smiled.
He spotted a teenage boy sitting on a bench, drawing in a notebook. His heart ached. Soon, Bae, soon, he reassured himself, not taking his eyes away from the boy. He had dark hair like Bae, and Bae had so liked to draw...
The boy looked up.
No, it couldn't be.
Bae is not here. Bae is out there - in the Land Without Magic. HE CAN'T BE HERE!
But he was; there was no mistaking it. The boy sitting on the bench was just the slightest bit older than his boy had been, but it was a difference of months, not years.
The boy noticed him staring. "Can I help you?" he asked in a challenging tone that only revealed how nervous he was underneath. It was Bae's voice.
"Bae," Rumplestiltskin said without thinking.
"Bae, you are-" he stopped realizing suddenly that if Bae were here that meant he too was cursed, and would not remember his name from before. He doesn't remember me. The thought was agony.
But he couldn't just stand there babbling. "What… what is your name, lad?" he finally asked.
The boy narrowed his eyes, "Why do you want to know?"
Smart boy. But what to tell him? "You look… like someone I know. Someone I have been looking for for a very long time."
The mask cracked. "My son," he said emotionally.
"Your son?" Rumplestiltskin nodded. "And… his name is Bae?" He nodded again. "And he looks like me?" Another nod.
"How long have you been looking for him?"
The boy changed tactics. "What is your name?"
The boy straightened. "You're Mr. Gold? The pawnshop owner?"
"And you think I'm your son?" he asked as if it were not impossible.
But that made little sense. Surely the curse had given him new parents? He chose his words carefully. "I gave you my name. I'll not answer any more of your questions until you give me yours."
The boy frowned, considering.
Finally, he answered quietly, "I don't remember."
It was stupid. He knew it was stupid. This guy could be an axe murderer, even if he was Mr. Gold. Especially if he is Mr. Gold, the boy thought to himself, having heard the name many times before. Everyone is afraid of him.
But he had been waiting and hoping for so long that someone might come for him, someone who could tell him who he was, who his family was, that he just had to try.
And what else could he have done? He didn't have a name - even a fake one. He'd never bothered to pick one because no one had ever asked. No one had ever really acknowledged him before, beyond a nod or possibly a smile.
"You… don't remember?" Mr. Gold asked. The boy couldn't read his expression; Mr. Gold seemed almost… hopeful? But there was also something dark lurking underneath it that made the boy extremely wary. He nodded anyway.
"Who has been taking care of you?" The boy gave an involuntary snort. The darkness lurking in Mr. Gold's expression flared for moment, and he forced it down with visible effort.
"Where have you been staying?" The boy was certain Mr. Gold would not react well to the truth - that he had built a base of sorts inside an abandoned house - so he said nothing. Another flash of that terrifying anger, and Mr. Gold declared, "You're coming home with me."
"What? No!" the boy protested, jumping to his feet and grabbing his battered backpack. He wasn't going to let anyone take him anywhere!
Mr. Gold's smoldering anger was suddenly replaced with what the boy would swear was fear and no small amount of hurt. "Wait - don't run! I'm sorry, I didn't - I didn't mean to frighten you."
"I'm not frightened." He was frightened.
"I know you don't remember me, but you're my son, Bae."
"How can I trust that? I don't know you."
Mr. Gold actually looked like he might cry. "I know. I know you don't, but you will. I can - there are tests. And in the meantime, I can get you a room at the inn or… or call the Sherriff if you prefer-"
"No!" At Mr. Gold's startled blink, the boy elaborated, "Don't call the Sheriff - I don't… I don't trust him." And he didn't. The boy didn't know why, but he always felt like there was something off about the Sheriff. The boy didn't remember exactly how long he has been wandering around without his memories, but he did know that he had once considered going to the Sheriff for help, and then decided against it. He didn't know what it was - or how he knew - but something bad would happen if he turned himself over to the Sheriff.
Mr. Gold seemed to understand that. "All right; the inn then, if you don't want to come home with me. But I am not going to just leave you here. You're a child; you need a safe place to sleep at least."
"I am not a child," he replied defensively.
"Yes you are; you're not yet fifteen, let alone eighteen. I can't leave you here; I won't."
The boy glanced at Mr. Gold's cane. "And if I run? Are you going to catch me?"
"I'll find you - I will always find you. But any number of things could happen in the meantime, Bae; please, don't." Fear again.
He wasn't sure what to think. This had been what he had been dreaming of for so long, someone to rescue him - someone to find him and take him home. And yet he was afraid. Afraid it wasn't true, afraid of being hurt again - afraid of being left again.
"What if the test says I'm not your son?"
"You are. And if it says you're not, well… it's up to you. I'll find you a home. With me, if you like, or somewhere else." Mr. Gold looked grieved at that last suggestion, as if doing so would tear his heart in two. He really thinks I'm his son.
"I'll go with you."
"To… to the inn or…?"
"Your house. If you want."
For a moment Mr. Gold looked stunned, then suddenly profoundly, overwhelmingly grateful. "Yes. Yes, I want that very much."
They were going home. There were going home. It didn't matter if it was the salmon Victorian that Rumplestiltskin had only known (as himself) for a day or their ramshackle house in the Frontlands or even the Dark Castle Bae had never seen; Bae was with him - that was the only thing that mattered. The only thing that has ever mattered.
As they walked, it occurred to Rumplestiltskin that the boy must have been sleeping somewhere - and by the gods there would be a reckoning when he learned exactly how his boy had been dropped into Storybrooke without even a cursed identity to provide for him - and he dared to ask, "Do you need to… pick up anything? A change of clothes?"
Bae gave him a wary look. "Do you have a spare toothbrush?"
"I'm sure I do, somewhere." His house wasn't the best organized, but it was well equipped.
He probably doesn't want me to see where he's been sleeping - just in case he needs to run later. The thought was sobering.
They didn't speak for the rest of the walk home. Rumplestiltskin was burning with questions, but knew that with the mood he was in he'd only come off as an interrogator and frighten Bae. And likely the boy wouldn't be able to answer anyway. No, he would get Bae settled, make sure he was safe, and then go after his answers. Regina and Reul Ghorm would be held accountable - but not tonight. Tonight was for Bae.
Wordlessly, Rumplestiltskin unlocked the mansion's front door and smiled at his boy, waving him inside. Bae went with some reluctance.
"Nice place," Bae finally said, feigning nonchalance, and Rumplestiltskin could tell he was intimidated. He poked his head in the dining room, so dusty and cluttered that only the table gave away its intended function, and raised an eyebrow. "You don't have many guests, do you?"
"No." Indeed this house has never seen a single guest in its entire 28-year existence. "These are mostly things I don't have room for at the shop just now; or else they need some work before I can take them in. The kitchen is this way - it's, ah, less cluttered."
Bae was impressed by the kitchen. It was a nice kitchen - large, with modern appliances and, unlike most of the rest of the house, organized and spotlessly clean. Mr. Gold was a skilled cook - like Rumplestiltskin himself - and it showed.
"May I assume you haven't had dinner?" He wasn't going to ask when the boy last ate - he wasn't sure he could control himself given the answer.
"Would you like anything in particular?"
"I'm not picky." That was certainly true, but they hadn't exactly had a lot of choice when Bae was young; and after Rumplestiltskin became the Dark One, well, they'd barely talked after that.
Rumplestiltskin shook himself. This was their chance to start over; it was everything his life had been about - getting back to this. He opened the refrigerator to see what they had. His choices were unfortunately limited, as Gold - while skilled in the kitchen - ate sporadically (well, technically not really, as the curse had lent a pattern to his habits, but Gold had been unaware of that at the time). He had eggs and some vegetables, a couple of oranges, and the last quarter of a loaf of bread.
"How does breakfast for dinner sound?"
"Sounds fine." Bae was looking around, clutching the strap of his backpack nervously. He looked afraid to touch anything.
"Bae," he said, and the boy's gaze snapped to him, startled. "This is your home. Feel free to touch anything or go anywhere. Except my office," he added as an afterthought.
"What's in there?"
"Confidential paperwork." Bae gave him a blank look, so he elaborated. "I'm a lawyer, and I rent properties to quite a few people in town - any paperwork regarding any of that needs to be kept private for the protection of my clients."
"And you own the pawn shop?"
"You must work a lot." Rumplestiltskin almost laughed - Bae didn't know the half of it.
"I supposed so," he said carefully, "I don't like to be idle." That had always been true, but even more so after he lost Bae. When he had nothing to occupy himself, his thoughts had always turned to his son. Where was he? What was he doing? Was he safe? Stop thinking about that, he told himself firmly, you have him back now. Focus.
He began to wash and chop vegetables for omelets. Bae watched him, but did not move to sit or put his bag down. After a while, he asked, "Can I do anything?"
"No, no," Rumplestiltskin replied. "You just have a seat."
"OK," the boy huffed, and Rumplestiltskin's head snapped up. He knew that tone, and he knew that expression; Bae was upset with him.
And then Rumplestiltskin remembered. Bae had always been eager to help, and Rumplestiltskin had always tried to wave him off - to let him have a childhood. But Bae hadn't liked that; he hadn't liked it when they got a maid or when Rumplestiltskin had taken over all the household chores with magic either. Hadn't Rumplestiltskin just said he didn't like to be idle? Why had he assumed Bae would be any different? He could curse himself for a fool.
"On second thought… you don't have to, but you can set the table if you would like."
It was a start.
The boy - he wouldn't call himself Bae until the test came back - had often fantasized about exactly what it would be like when he found his family. Dinners had been a part of it, although not the kind of food Mr. Gold was cooking now. Boiled vegetables and potatoes had featured prominently, and stews, and for some reason, meat pies. Perhaps he would ask about that later.
And of course he's dreamed of what his parents might be like. His father would be hard working, like Mr. Gold, but he'd never pictured him rich. Warm, though, and patent and kind, not like Mr. Gold.
Although he's being kind now.
But for how long?
He didn't know why, but he'd never pictured his mother quite as often or clearly, although when he did, she always had dark hair like him. He froze. If Mr. Gold is my father, what about my mother? He was scared to ask, but the not knowing was worse.
"Yes?" he asked, looking up from the eggs he was scrambling.
"If you're my father, where is my mother?"
Mr. Gold paused for a moment, then resumed beating the eggs. "I'm sorry, Bae, but… she's gone."
"Gone. As in left or…"
"Dead. I'm sorry."
"Oh." Somehow, it wasn't a surprise. "Did she die when I was little?"
"She died many years ago. You where six when you saw her last."
They didn't speak again until the food was ready. Omelets and toast, with sliced oranges they were meant to eat with funny little spoons that had teeth all along the rim. "What would you like on your toast?" Mr. Gold asked. "I, ah, have a lot of options to choose from."
He wasn't kidding. Lined up neatly in the cabinet were a dozen different jams, jellies and marmalades. Indeed, the entire cabinet seemed devoted to condiments and pickles of different types.
"Chocolate and hazelnut. It's very good in toast."
"I'll have that."
It was very good.
After dinner, Mr. Gold led him upstairs. "This room is mine," he explained, gesturing to the door on their left. "You can take any of the others you like, although this one is probably the least cluttered." He opened the door on the right.
It was a nice room, with a large bed and light blue walls. But like the rest of the house (except the kitchen), it was somewhat dusty, with more clutter than really fit. "I can clear all of this stuff out for you, and I'll get some fresh sheets for the bed. Or you can pick a different room, if you like…"
"This one is fine."
"Ah, OK then." Mr. Gold was nervous, the boy realized. He was nervous too. "The bathroom is the next door down. Do you… have any questions?"
Yes, lots. But he didn't know where to start, and he was suddenly more tired than he'd realized. "Not really. I'd just like to take a bath and go to bed if that's OK."
"Of course, Bae. I'll just find you something to sleep in." The boy almost objected, but it wasn't as if he has a change of clothes in his backpack. At loose ends, he poked around the dusty knickknacks that were overcrowding the dresser. There appeared to be no pattern to them at all - things were just shoved where they fit. He saw bowls, and cups, and figurines, and what looked like a crystal ball. There was a stack of old books piled up in one corner, some of which weren't written in English. Experimentally, the boy opened the drawers and found them empty. It was a nice room, but a sad one too.
Mr. Gold returned with a pair of pajamas that were obviously his own and the spare toothbrush the boy had asked for earlier. He even had an unopened tube of toothpaste. "These will be a bit big on you, but not too bad, I hope," Mr. Gold offered, almost sheepishly. The boy noticed for the first time that Mr. Gold was taller than him, but not by much.
"You're welcome, Bae." And that sadness was back in his expression. "I'll get some fresh sheets while you have your bath."
"I don't want to be any trouble."
"Oh, Bae - you could never be any trouble." Mr. Gold reached out a hesitant hand as if he wanted to hug him but didn't quite know how. Instead, he just laid it briefly on his shoulder before dropping it awkwardly. "Go on, now," he prodded, stepping back into the hallway to presumably retrieve fresh sheets.
Not sure what to think, the boy retreated to the bathroom.
It was torture to have his son back and be unable to embrace him. Of course, he knew he might never hold his boy again, but he had expected it to be due to Baelfire's rejection and - purely justified - anger at having been abandoned (and, in his darkest moments, he'd imagined it might be because he would not find his boy at all, but a marker left for a man long dead). But this was different. Bae hadn't rejected him; he simply did not know him.
And he'd asked about Milah. What else would he ask that Rumplestiltskin could not answer honestly? He had been very careful not to lie about Milah - and it would be a lie to say he did not hope it would never come up again - but he knew better than most that not lying was not nearly the same thing as being honest. But it was the best he could hope to do until the curse broke: to not lie. Fortunately, he was good at that.
It was rather a pain to make a bed alone with a weak leg, but he managed. They were nice sheets - nicer by far than anything they had had in the Frontlands, even after he'd become the Dark One. He covered the bed with a soft, wool blanket and a down comforter, and at least Bae would have a comfortable place to sleep tonight. Don't think about where he's been sleeping until now, focus on the task ahead. Really, there was much about this world to recommend it; once the curse was broken, they could be happy here.
But how would that be accomplished? Finding Bae was a miracle indeed, but Rumplestiltskin would have to completely re-write his plans. He could not keep Bae secret for long, and once Regina learned of him, he would be in danger. There was little Regina could do to Gold that Rumplestiltskin would give a damn about, but Bae? She could get at him any number of ways, not the least of which was the curse itself; once she learned of his connection to Gold, she could give him cursed memories that he belonged to someone else, that Gold had abused him, or even that he was mad. That was something Rumplestiltskin would not allow.
His best bet was the geas, his magical 'please'; but it was limited. He would have to be very precise in his wording, and he could not stretch its power by using it for anything else. No matter, he was resourceful.
And Emma had Henry to help motivate and keep her here. Rumplestiltskin had not anticipated that little wrinkle either, but it was most welcome. He'd known that Regina would grow dissatisfied with her life under the curse and ask him for something that would ultimately lead to its breaking, but he had not expected that it would be the savior's own child. That particular bond, he knew more than anyone, was stronger than anything he could have engineered himself.
Bae was still in the bathroom when Rumplestiltskin finished with the bed. Not sure it was a good idea to stir up too much dust right before Bae planned to sleep in the room, he deemed that a task for tomorrow and began scouring the room for any objects that really shouldn't be in a child's bedroom. He found a couple of knives (one cursed, not that it mattered much in this realm), and a dragon's tooth inlaid with gold. There were several old coats and cloaks in the closet, and Rumplestiltskin removed those as well so Bae would know that the space was meant for his use. The drawers of the dresser and nightstands were already empty. They could get rid of the rest of the clutter tomorrow.
By the time he had checked the last drawer, Rumplestiltskin could hear Bae finishing up in the bathroom. Not wanting it to appear as he had simply been lurking in the room waiting for him to finish, Rumplestiltskin busied himself with fluffing the pillows.
"Hi," Bae greeted timidly, as he entered wearing Rumplestiltskin's slightly oversized pajamas. In a year, he'll be taller than me. It was a good thought.
"Hello. I've, ah, made the bed. I thought I'd wash your clothes with the sheets, since you don't have a change of clothes with you. Is that all right?"
"Um, sure." Somewhat reluctantly, the boy emptied the pockets of his jeans and handed over his bundle of clothes. It was probably weird for him to have Mr. Gold of all people doing his laundry, but the boy seemed practical enough to understand the need.
"Do you need anything else?"
"No. No, I don't think so."
"Very well. I will call the hospital about the test in the morning. I'd also like the doctor to have a look at you." Whale - Frankenstein - possessed questionable morals, but he was the only competent doctor in Storybrooke. Regina really should have planned that better, Rumplestiltskin thought. The next day being Saturday, it might take some negotiating, but Rumplestiltskin was certain he could arrange an appointment for Bae; even Dr. Whale did not say 'no' to Mr. Gold.
"What? Why? I'm fine!"
"I believe you, but I'd prefer a doctor's opinion for my own piece of mind. Additionally, even with the paternity test, there may be questions about how I found you and how well I'm taking care of you. If the Mayor or the Sherriff do start to sniff around, a doctor's report would help establish that I've done my due diligence towards you."
"Oh." He seemed cowed, as if he still wanted to object but knew he didn't have grounds to argue the point.
"Bae," Rumplestiltskin said softly, "I only want to take care of you - do you understand?"
After a moment, Bae nodded, but didn't say anything.
Oh, how Rumplestiltskin longed to embrace him then. But Bae was still skittish and didn't trust him (yet); it wouldn't end well. Instead Rumplestiltskin turned to leave. "I'll let you sleep now. Remember if you need anything, don't hesitate to come find me, no matter how late it is."
Rumplestiltskin knew he wouldn't - at least, not yet. He just needs time. It was small comfort.
There was nothing else to say. "Good night, Bae."
"Good night, Mr. Gold."