Second Time's the Charm
Chapter Seven: Priming

STORYBROOKE SCHOOL, STORYBROOKE, MAINE, A FEW WEEKS LATER
David tried to make sense of what he'd heard from Henry. He didn't talk to the kid much, but whenever he saw him around town, usually at Granny's diner, he was always going on about something excitedly.

Apparently Sheriff Graham was starting to remember the fairy tale life that Henry professed every Storybrooke resident had, and he hadn't been able to remember anything of his life here in Storybrooke. David might have been thrilled by the similarity to his situation, but it hadn't been unusual for him to be unable to remember anything – until a couple of days ago, that is. Suddenly, everything had come flooding back to him, just at the sight of the windmill.

It made no sense, really, that something he'd hated so much would trigger all the memories, and he didn't like it much that his dislike for something stood out more than a love. He still didn't love Kathryn, but he was sure he must have, once, or he would not have married her.

Right?

Since physical therapy had proved unnecessary after emerging from the coma, he had started doing more memory training, mostly on his own, since the hospital could not mandate it now that he had clearly recovered some of his recollections. Still, it was not quite enough to satisfy him. He wanted more.

He had been avoiding the places where Mary Margaret usually frequented, in part because he felt guilty about what had happened with leading her on, and in part because he wanted to keep his own feelings for her in check. It was the right thing to do. But he was hoping to run into Henry, and the place where he was most likely to do that, in a system of compulsory education, was at his school.

Waiting outside, he had to confess he felt a little bit creepy. After all, he was an unemployed male (Kathryn assured him that they were financially secure, so he could wait until he was back on his feet to go job hunting, and he didn't know what he was really good at anyway) standing outside of a school. It shouldn't have felt like he was doing something off, but he knew that he shouldn't be here, for Mary Margaret's sake if nothing else.

Still, she seemed to be over him. Not that he could tell. But it still bothered him a little that he had seen her, multiple times now – while he'd been trying to avoid her, mind you – out with Dr. Whale, who he had always personally thought was kind of a tool.

He caught Henry's eye as the school bell rang to dismiss them, and Henry jogged over.

"Mr. Nolan! What are you doing here?"

"Actually, I was hoping to talk to you," he admitted. "Do you have a minute?"

The light in Henry's eyes dimmed a little, making David distantly aware that he was probably trying to set him up with Mary Margaret, and he raised and lowered one shoulder. "Sure. If I went home, I would just have to do homework anyway."

"Well, don't let me keep you from that," David replied with a weak smile. "I just wanted to ask you about something."

"The book?" Henry asked hopefully, dropping his backpack to dig it out eagerly.

David hated to ruin his excitement, but… "Actually, about your psychologist."

"Oh." Henry's rapport with Dr. Hopper was substantially higher after the events at the mine, and he'd let the talk of fairy tales continue, but was still pressing him for a reason for it, something that Henry could not really explain. "Sure. Do you need his help with your memories?"

"Yeah, that's exactly it. Do you know when he's free?"

"Well… you could always just call him," Henry shrugged. "Here, take his card. I don't need it."

David took it with a rueful smile. "Thanks. I could have just called him, but I couldn't remember his number."

"No problem." Henry looked him over for a moment, making David involuntarily tense; it was like the kid knew something about him that he didn't know himself. "If you ever want to talk about other stuff, you know where to find me."

"…right."

Henry loped off, and David was left to look at the card, drawing out his cell phone.

"You really shouldn't be here."

Glancing up to see Mary Margaret looking as formidable as she possibly could (not that it was much) with her arms crossed over her cardigan and her chin raised slightly, David pressed his lips together, hardly sure what to say.

"I just needed to get something from Henry."

Mary Margaret sighed. "Don't tell me you're encouraging him in that whole… Snow White, Prince Charming fantasy of his."

He winced at the unexpected hostility in her voice. "Of course not. That would be…"

"Ridiculous."

"He's just a kid, Mary Margaret. He's allowed to have an imagination."

"Well, we're not," she said quietly. She twisted the ring on her finger silently for a moment, looking at her hands, not meeting his gaze. "He's got these ideas about us, and I think unless you stay away from him – and away from me – you're just going to be indulging them and making things worse."

David inclined his head in acquiescence. "If it means so much to you."

"It does."

"Alright. I won't bother either of you again." As he turned to go, he flapped the business card against his palm, telling himself it was all he had come here for, trying to swallow the increasingly-familiar ache of remorse that clutched the back of his throat.

He wandered around town for a little while, searching for the address on the card that Henry had given him. After the incident with the mayor telling him the wrong way to go when looking for the toll bridge that night, he didn't trust anyone else's directions, and one thing that hadn't returned to him with the rest of his memories was a mental map of town, so he wanted to get to know it again.

It struck him that if he hadn't listened to the mayor's advice, he wouldn't have seen the windmill, he wouldn't have remembered, and he wouldn't have broken things – whatever "things" entailed – with Mary Margaret.

At last, he found his way to the office, which was quiet and empty, and ducked inside tentatively.

"Dr. … Hopper?"

"That's me." Archie looked up from the large book lying open on his desk. "Well, if it isn't the wonder patient. What can I do for you?"

"Do you have any books on memory?"

Archie smiled crookedly. "Somehow I knew that was what you were going to ask. Must be that psychology degree."

Weakly, David managed to return the smile.

While searching through the stacks of text on his shelves, Archie asked, "So, tell me about your memories."

"They just came back recently. It started with a windmill… it used to be on our front lawn, but I hated it, so Kathryn sold it to Mr. Gold."

Mr. Gold. The name made Archie shiver visibly, and David wondered why.

"That's interesting," Archie said slowly, turning back around empty-handed. "You know, I can't say I've heard of other cases with such spontaneous memory recovery except—" Archie licked his lips. "Except for when they weren't real memories."

David's eyes narrowed curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Well, there are a couple of different circumstances in which it could occur," Archie started, seeming to find comfort in the scientific rather than applying it specifically to David's situation at the risk of offending him. "You can prime someone to look at things a certain way before they see them, or frame them a certain way after they happen. You can have false memories implanted just by repeated suggestion. But sometimes, that heightened suggestibility happens through hypnosis, and a specific word or object, called a post-hypnotic suggestion, will bring about the memories or behavior that has been previously trained, even if those memories aren't real."

David was skeptical, and took a step back in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding me. There's no way I was hypnotized."

"Oh, don't worry, hypnosis isn't like all of the insanity people have made it out to be," Archie hastily defended himself. "Like I said, it's just a state of heightened suggestibility. It's like… it's like having an imaginary friend. It's a choice, almost conscious, really, that people make to get lost in something they want to believe."

Flopping into the closest chair to take a moment to process this, David remembered how hard he had been trying lately to feel things for Kathryn, and how he wanted to remember, how he'd even been pretending to remember things like the name of their dog. He remembered how the mayor and Mr. always acted a bit suspicious, and it almost seemed like they had conspired to put the windmill in his line of sight.

"Tell me more," he demanded.

Archie's eyes flickered around nervously. "Well… I'm afraid the mayor has forbidden me from taking on any more clients at present. She's a bit angry with me; she thinks I've been encouraging Henry too much." He cringed. "I've already said too much."

David exhaled. It always seemed to come back to Regina Mills.

"But… I can give you this," Archie compromised, offering a book.

"Thank you." David turned it over in his hands: it was a thick, scholarly-looking volume by someone named Elizabeth Loftus. "I really appreciate it."

"And if you ever need anything—"

"I'll stop by," he nodded. "Thanks again."

He walked out of the office, a bit shocked, still looking at the book in wonder. Could this have all the answers? Or was it just another lie that he wanted to believe?

He wouldn't have believed that his memories could lie, but apparently, they could. One thing he remained unsure of: could his feelings lie, too? His feelings for Mary Margaret?