dragonbat2006: Canon Error (Default)
[personal profile] dragonbat2006
Title: First Step
Author: [personal profile] dragonbat2006
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Characters: Mary Margaret Blanchard/Snow White, Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, David Nolan/Prince Charming
Rating: K+
Genre(s): Angst, Friendship
Spoilers: S3: Kansas (reference to various incidents from Seasons 1–3)
Warnings: None
Word Count: 5703
Story Summary: Mary Margaret is horrified to learn that after the battle with Zelena, the heroes went home and left Rumple without a backwards glance. She resolves to make amends.


A/N: Canon-compliant through "Kansas". References are made to various plot points throughout Seasons 1–3.

A/N: According to the Babycenter community, some mothers are okay to go out and about the day after giving birth, while others need considerably longer. Since it doesn't look like much time transpires between "Kansas" and "Snow Drifts," I'm putting Mary Margaret firmly into the former category.





First Step



At first, Mary Margaret was too preoccupied with cuddling and kissing her baby son to focus on what David was telling her. She hadn't had a chance to hold him before Zelena had spirited him away. While her family had run to the rescue, she'd had no choice but to stay behind and try to convince herself that good would always win, that she and Charming would always find one another, and that things would always come out right in the end. It had never been so hard to believe.



So, when David returned to the hospital some two hours later and tenderly placed their newborn son in her arms, she was only half-listening to her husband as he told her how they had beaten Zelena and gotten him back. She was too busy smiling and crying and cooing over the swaddled bundle she held protectively close.



It wasn't until David finished his story and she leaned back against her pillow that she realized that something was bothering her. "What about Gold?" she asked.



David frowned. "You don't have to worry about him. Regina has the dagger, now. She said she was giving it to Belle. And so long as Zelena doesn't have it, there's nothing to fear."



"No, that's not what I meant," Mary Margaret said, sitting up a bit straighter. "Is he all right? Where is he?"



"Uh," David shrugged. "I guess so. I mean, he's free now. I imagine he went home. Or to the store, I don't know." His eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Why are you looking at me like that?"



"David," she said slowly, "Zelena kept him in a… a cage for over a year. She killed his son. She forced him to attack us. She almost made him kill Belle. How could you just… just let him go like that?"



David wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I knew you were waiting here, frantic with worry. I thought it was more important to get our son back safely." He closed his eyes. "You're right. I should have… I guess I still think of him as 'the Dark One', even though he doesn't behave the same way he did in the Enchanted Forest as hasn't for a long time." His stricken expression now mirrored his wife's as he continued, "How many times has he come through for us?" He shook his head. "True he usually reminds us that there's a price for his help, but he's never really fought us when we've insisted he drop it."



Mary Margaret nodded. "And even when we trapped him in an underground cell for months, he still told us how the curse could be broken."



"Right. Though, of course, he wanted it broken. Otherwise, he could never have gone after Neal."



"And now, Neal's gone," Mary Margaret said simply. "And Gold's spent the past year as the slave of the woman who killed him. And from what you're telling me happened, it feels like," she turned wide eyes on her husband, "like everyone's just… just expecting him to go back to the store, where we'll all avoid him," she clenched and unclenched her jaw, "until the next time one of us needs a favor." Her voice broke, as a tear rolled down her cheek and onto the baby's bald head. "It's wrong. It's all wrong. W-we're supposed to be good. Good shouldn't use anyone like that."



David sat down carefully on the edge of the bed and took her hand in his. "What do you want to do about it?"



"I don't know," she admitted. "I need to think."




One day later, she was back home and still thinking. She had a hard time falling asleep that night, and when she finally did, the baby woke her, crying to be fed. By the time he'd nursed and gone back to sleep, the sky was already growing lighter. "Rest whenever you can," had been Regina's parting advice in the hospital. "Until the baby can sleep through the night, don't think you will either." Now, after reassuring herself that her son was okay, Mary Margaret went back to bed and pulled the blankets over herself. David shifted his position slightly as she moved next to him.



When she closed her eyes, though, memories engulfed her. Rumpelstiltskin… telling her how to break the Dark Curse. …Giving Charming the means to find her when she was enchanted by the sleeping curse. She winced, thinking about the time she'd sought him out for a means of making her forget her love for Charming. Easy enough to blame him for that on the surface but, she forced herself to admit, he'd never done more than she'd asked. And if she'd asked for something stupid, if she'd asked him to find her an easy way out of a painful situation, she could hardly blame him for giving her what she'd thought she wanted. He hadn't manipulated her into drinking that potion; she'd done that on her own.



He'd given her the confidence she'd needed to lead an army against Regina, cast a protection spell so that she and Charming were safe from Regina's schemes, at least, in their world…




And after all that, we locked him in an underground cell and cut him off from all comfort and contact.



There was another way to look at it, of course. Everything that Rumpelstiltskin had done had been a means to an end, an attempt to find a son who had been lost to him centuries ago. Locking him up had been necessary, for Ella's sake and the sake of her unborn child. Did we have to make the conditions in his cell that unpleasant, though? And even if his motives then had been self-serving, she also had to remember that, more recently, Gold had given Henry a way to deal with the nightmares from the sleeping curse without asking for payment. He hadn't known that Henry was his grandson then. He'd agreed to put David under another sleeping curse so that he could reach out to her when she and Emma had been sent back to the Enchanted Forest. He'd saved David from dreamshade poisoning, and not demanded a fee for it.



I thought we were being so… good when we offered Regina chance after chance, even though we knew she'd probably never change. Did we ever once think of reaching out to Rumpelstiltskin when we didn't need something from him first?



She rolled over and buried her head in her pillow. After Emma broke the curse, it would have served us right if he'd let us all rot. A tear forced its way past her eyelids and then another and another. We risked our lives to get into his castle to ask him for a way to defeat Zelena. Would it have killed us to have brought him something to eat while we were there? Or given him a blanket? Or maybe even asked him if Zelena ever put the dagger down and where she kept it when she did? We got into the castle once; we could have gone back to try to help him. Just asking if there was anything we could have done might have made him feel that we cared about him as more than a… a means to an end. She buried her face in her pillow, trying to muffle her sobs. It was easy enough to see him as cold and manipulative, but had their behavior been any better? It was supposed to be, she knew. It was expected of them. They were good.That only made things worse. She'd always pictured a gulf between Gold and the rest of them. It didn't seem especially wide at the moment. Maybe that wasn't as terrible a thing as she'd initially thought. Maybe it was time to build a bridge.



With what? A voice in her head demanded. My rainbow stickers and unicorns? Maybe it was best to just leave things as they were. It wasn't as though he was expecting any better of them. Just leave well enough alone…



Until the next time we need his help. Until the one time when he finally tells us what we can all go do with ourselves and dares us to blame him for doing it. And if he does, when he does, it'll be no more than we deserve.



Enough was enough. And it certainly wasn't 'well enough'. Her mind was made up. She rolled onto her side and a large weight seemed to drop from her as she did.




The baby was up before seven crying for another feeding. Mary Margaret fought down a wave of dismay when she glanced at the clock on her night table; she'd slept maybe two hours. Then she did her best to shrug off her exhaustion, smiled and walked to the cradle, glad that Emma seemed to be able to sleep through the noise.



By the time David was awake and dressed, she'd finished nursing the baby and had him over her shoulder. She turned worried eyes to her husband. "He's not burping," she said. "Shouldn't he have burped by now?"



David didn't seem too concerned. "He's fine. How do you know he didn't burp already? I mean, quietly?"



"David, he's right by my ear! I think I'd hear it!"



"Here." He reached for their son. "Let me try. According to those books you were reading, there are a couple of different ways. I grew up on a farm. And this isn't exactly how I'd do it for a lamb, but…" He sat down on a stool and laid the baby face-down across his lap. Then, while gently supporting the baby's head with one hand, he patted his back with the other. "For a lamb, it was more on the side," he said.



"I've made up my mind," Mary Margaret said. "I know what I have to do. And what I want to do."



As she started talking, David's smile fell away. The baby burped and he barely noticed. The baby spit up on his lap and he hastily handed him to Mary Margaret and looked for a damp cloth. When she was finished speaking and he'd given up on cleaning his pants and grabbed a fresh pair, he asked, "Are you sure that's what you want?"



She nodded.



"Would you like me to come with you?"



She thought about it for a moment before she shook her head. "I wasn't there when the rest of you fought Zelena," she said. "If he's at all upset by what happened afterwards, I think he'll be more willing to listen if I go alone this time."



"What about the baby?"



Mary Margaret had thought long and hard about that one and she still wasn't sure that she wasn't about to make a mistake. She handed the baby back to David and got up to rummage in the chest at the foot of their bed. Triumphantly, she held up a long piece of fabric intended to be used as a wraparound sling. "I'll take him with me."



"Mary Margaret," David said, his tone suddenly more serious than it had been before, "are you sure that's safe?"



She was and she wasn't. David was right. If her instincts were wrong, then she was about to place her baby in serious danger. But thinking back, she couldn't recall a single time when Gold had ever harmed a child, much less an infant. And besides… She took a deep breath. "Honestly? Yes. If nothing else, in the last few weeks, and especially at the hospital, we all got a taste of what Mr. Gold could really do if he wanted to. If he wanted our son, he'd have him by now. So, yes, David; I'm pretty sure it's safe. Besides," she smiled down at the baby, "He's going to need another feeding soon."



"At least, let me drive you to the store."



Mary Margaret shook her head, but she was smiling. "Actually, could you drive us somewhere else instead?"




Before the new curse had brought them all back here, Gold's Antiquities had always opened promptly at nine. Most mornings since their return to Storybrooke, it still did, thanks to Belle. While it would be understandable were Mr. Gold to leave the store shut for the next few days for personal reasons or, at the very least, to open later, Mary Margaret had a feeling that he meant to be there, bright and early, as though it were just another day. She didn't want to talk to him at the store, where other people might interrupt them. She suspected that much of what she had to say might be uncomfortable for both of them and best not spoken before an audience. She needed him to hear her out and he probably wouldn't if business distracted him. All of which meant that she had to catch him at home, before he left for the store.




David drove her to Mr. Gold's house. It took her a few minutes to get the baby out of the car bed and into the sling and grab her tote bag from the back seat. She smiled as she kissed her husband goodbye. Her hands didn't start to sweat until she was through Gold's front gate and more than halfway up the walk.



You spent all night deciding to do this and the last hour convincing David. You've faced down ogres. You led armies. You can do this. But if she was wrong… if Gold hurt her… If he hurt the baby…



She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and rapped smartly on the door. Then she worried that she might have been too loud. And then the door opened and everything that she had been about to say flew out of her head, leaving her speechless and lightheaded on Mr. Gold's doorstep.



"Mrs. Nolan." Though his voice was carefully controlled, he was clearly surprised to see her.



Mary Margaret took a deep breath. "M-Mr. Gold." It was suddenly hard to meet his eyes. Her knees seemed to have turned to water. Her mind was in a fog and there was a roaring in her ears. The last time I felt like this was when Emma told me that Katherine's heart had been found in my jewelry box. She knew that she should explain why she had come, but the words she needed to speak were lost somewhere in the haze and the roar.



Gold sighed. "I suppose it was too much to hope for one day before the next crisis hit. All right. What is it you need this time?"



She wasn't sure whether it was the question, posed a trifle more sharply than it might have been in the past, or the assumption behind it, but suddenly, she had her voice back. "A long time ago," she said slowly, "I asked you how you live with yourself knowing all the bad things you'd done. Do you remember that?"



She saw it then: a flash of rage and pain intermingled and, even before she'd completely finished speaking, she realized that she'd said exactly the wrong thing.



"Mrs. Nolan, if you think for one moment that I was a willing participant in Zelena's schemes, then—"



"NO!" She was shouting. She shouldn't be shouting. Someone might hear. No, on second thought, let them. Maybe Gold wasn't the only person who needed to listen to what she had to say. But then, she might wake her son and, if the books she'd read were to be believed, babies naturally clued into emotional states and her getting upset would agitate him. For the baby's sake, she willed herself to be calm. "I don't," she said, more softly. "I know you weren't. I'm sorry. What you told me then," she shook her head, "well, it didn't really help all that much; I guess you probably knew that. But it did help a little. Because I could tell myself that even if I did do the wrong thing, yes, I did it for the right reasons. I didn't fully believe it. I still don't. But I suppose, I could see how some people might." He hadn't cut her off. The way she was babbling, she would have expected him to. She took a deep breath. "This time, I can't. I can't tell myself we did the right thing the other day just… leaving you back there without a second thought."



She caught another flash of pain in his eyes. Then Gold shut them. When he opened them again a bare instant later, they had hardened. A cold mocking smile spread his lips, and he snorted. "Is that what has you so upset? Worry not, Dearie. I stopped expecting anything different from you lot a long time ago."



For a moment, her jaw hung slack. Then her chin lifted and her green eyes blazed. "You should have expected something different. After all the times you came through for us, you had every right to expect something different." She was getting choked up again and she looked down quickly, doubting that Gold would have any patience for tears. "You deserved better from us. You didn't get it. We let you down. And I am so very, very sorry."



She shut her eyes tightly and stood braced, waiting for his response. A loud wail from below her chin startled her. Instantly, her hands flew to her torso, as she tried to soothe the baby. "Sh… shh, shh… it's okay. It's okay," she repeated. After a moment or two, his cries died down to whimpers. Only then did she slowly and self-consciously look up.



Gold was regarding her with an impassive face, but something about it seemed almost imperceptibly softer. "You'd best come inside," he said in a far gentler tone than he'd been using a moment earlier. "You shouldn't risk the little one catching cold."




"I'm afraid I haven't tidied up," he said, not glancing back at her over his shoulder, where she trailed a step behind. "I don't generally expect visitors here."



Mary Margaret wasn't sure whether he was twisting the knife once more, or whether he was genuinely embarrassed. Perhaps it was a bit of both. He led her down a carpeted hallway, past an austerely elegant parlor (some might have called it a living room, but from what she was able to glimpse, it didn't look particularly lived-in) and a dining room with heavy dark wood table and chairs, dark burgundy curtains and carpet, and plum wallpaper with a diamond pattern in thin gold lines. She wondered whether the curse had provided that long table and all those chairs, or if Gold had purchased them himself. She suspected the former; it wasn't as though he'd ever been given to hosting dinner parties.



The kitchen he led her to was brighter than the other rooms she'd walked past. An open window faced south, giving her a view of the forest. She smiled when he pulled a chair out and dusted it off quickly before he offered it to her. Grumpy had done the same thing when he'd first brought her to the dwarves' cottage, though she wasn't about to tell Gold that. "This is fine," she said. "Oh. Before I forget," she reached into the tote bag and brought out a jar of chicken and leek soup. "I didn't know if you'd had time to fix anything and…" Her voice trailed off. She'd come home from the hospital to find that friends and former subjects had sent over what looked like more soups, casseroles, and desserts than they could possibly eat in a year. Somehow, though, she doubted that anyone had done as much for Gold, and she didn't want to throw that fact in his face. "Well, if you have, it should freeze well," she said quickly, hoping that his freezer wasn't filled to capacity like hers.



Gold looked at the jar with something that might be termed befuddlement, before he smiled and thanked her a bit awkwardly. Had no one ever given him something that wasn't some form of tribute or a payment for a favor?



"Would you care for tea?" he asked abruptly.



Mary Margaret blinked. "Yes, please. Something herbal, if you have it?" She smiled. "The baby books told me I should avoid caffeine while I'm nursing. And peppermint. And citrus." She looked down in embarrassment. She was babbling again. "I'm sorry. Whatever you have will be…"



"Ginger," Gold said, setting a steaming cup before her.



She smiled again. "Thank you." There was no kettle on the stove. He must have used magic just now. She took a deep breath. "Are you all right?"



"You mean, 'Am I likely to attack you all again?' Doubtful. Belle has the dagger now, and I don't imagine she'll be issuing any such orders."



"No," Mary Margaret said. "I meant, 'Are you all right?' Do you need anything?" She hesitated. "I… you said a minute ago that you hadn't had time to tidy up. Maybe I could give you a hand with that. I could make a start, at least."



"What, in your condition?" Gold asked mildly. "Please."



She took a gulp of the tea and felt her nerves steady. "You know I spent a few months keeping house for seven dwarves who didn't have a cottage nearly as neat as you do this house," she retorted. "I'm not saying I'm up for scrubbing floors on my hands and knees, but I can at least manage sweeping and dusting." She took another sip and stood up. "Are your hands clean?"



Gold blinked. "I beg your pardon?"



She loosened the sling and took her son in her arms. "Well," she said briskly, not wanting to give him a chance to refuse, "I'm not sure how much I can do if he's strapped to me, so if you don't mind holding him, we'll see how far I get with it, and if I get tired, I'll stop. Do you have a feather duster or would you prefer I use a damp rag or what?"



He was gaping at her. "You want me to hold him," he repeated. If he was trying to hide his shock, he was doing a poor job of it.



"Just support his head," Mary Margaret said, demonstrating and doing her best to silence the voice in her head that asked whether she was sure this was a good idea. The baby would be fine with Gold for a little while. "If he cries, rock him. If that doesn't work, he's probably hungry and I'll take care of that." She smiled nervously. "Unless… I'm sorry. If you don't want to…?" Her voice broke off as she saw a faint purple mist surround Gold's hands. It hung there for a moment, and then vanished.



"There. My hands are clean, but you really needn't…" despite his protests, his hands were already reaching for the baby.



"A duster?" Mary Margaret asked gently as she passed her son over. There was nothing to worry about. Gold wasn't under Zelena's influence anymore. He'd never harmed her willingly. She could trust him.



Gold inclined his head vaguely toward a narrow closet next to the refrigerator. "All of my cleaning supplies are in there," he murmured, as he drew the baby to him and placed his little finger in the infant's palm. A smile devoid of mockery lit on his face when the tiny hand curled around it.



Mary Margaret beamed. "You're doing fine. I'll get started in the front room and work my way back here."




The front room was dusty, not cluttered. If the rest of Gold's house was going to be like this, Mary Margaret reflected that, despite its size, she could probably finish it in less time than it had generally taken her to tidy up the dwarves' cottage. She busied herself with the feather duster, trying to keep one ear open for the baby.



After ten minutes, she thought that he should be getting hungry, but she heard nothing from the kitchen. She told herself not to worry. The baby was fine with Mr. Gold.



Why had she listened when Regina had told her how many spells required baby parts? Gold wouldn't…



Of course he wouldn't, she told herself firmly, as she dusted an end table. She'd told David that if Gold had intended harm to the baby, he would have done it. There was nothing to worry about. Unless there was some stipulation for a spell that said that the baby had to be freely handed over… She ruthlessly stifled the voice in her head. The baby was fine with Gold. He was fine. He was…



...He was not crying and she couldn't hear a sound from the other room. She set the duster down and stole quietly back the way she had come.




There was nobody in the kitchen. Mary Margaret doubled over, feeling as if she'd just been punched in the stomach. No. No, no, no! This wasn't happening. How could he have…?



And then, the door at the other end of the kitchen opened and Gold walked in smiling, minus his suit jacket and sporting a different shirt and tie from those he'd been wearing earlier. He was cradling the baby, who was beginning to whimper. Gold's smile widened as he passed him into Mary Margaret's waiting arms. "The wee one had a bit of a spit up," he said mildly, "I couldn't very well leave him here while I went to change my shirt, so I took him with me."



"Oh," Mary Margaret nodded, doing her best not to let on how worried she'd been a moment ago. "Yes, he's doing a bit of that right now. I'm sorry. Of course, I'll pay for your dry cleaning—"



Evidently, her best wasn't quite good enough. The smile turned mocking. "I suppose you thought I'd made off with him."



"No!" she exclaimed. "I just… I didn't know where you were and I…" She looked away, embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I panicked. I know I shouldn't have, but when I came in here and didn't see you…" She picked up the sling from where she'd left it on the table and set about wrapping it around herself and the baby. That done, she turned for a moment to unbutton her blouse so that the baby could nurse. Satisfied that the sling afforded her sufficient modesty, she faced Gold once more. He was still regarding her, waiting. She bit her lip. "I should have known you hadn't gone far."



Gold shook his head. "New mothers tend to be overprotective, even at the best of times, Mrs. Nolan. And our recent experiences with Zelena…," his voice broke for a moment, but he recovered quickly. "Well… those scarcely qualify as the best of times. I suppose I should have let you know I was headed upstairs for a moment. It was an oversight on my part." He took a deep breath. "The least said about last year, the better. Suffice it to state that after having been forced to wear the same garments for almost an entire year, I had no wish to remain in soiled attire for a moment longer than necessary." He held up a hand as she opened her mouth. "It wasn't your doing, so don't bother apologizing," he added tartly.



Her mouth snapped shut abruptly. He smiled. And after a moment, she smiled back. "You were okay with him?" she asked. "I mean, apart from the spitting up?"



"Oh, yes," Gold assured her. "It's been some time, I grant you, but I've some experience with babies." His smile turned wistful. "I'll admit that my exposure to newborns has been minimal, though; Bae was going on three months when I returned from the battlefield. Still, it seems that my past knowledge still stands me in good stead here."



She nodded and adjusted her hold on the sling. "I could tell that." She let out a breath. "You know, until now, I wouldn't have guessed you'd have a way with babies. I mean..." I mean, I never pictured the Dark One as being much for cooing and cuddling.



Gold wasn't offended. "I learned out of necessity."



"Oh?"



He was silent for several long moments. Mary Margaret directed her attention toward her still-nursing son. Finally, no longer looking at her, Gold took a deep breath and spoke. "After I returned from the war, Milah—my wife—wanted little to do with me. And since I was a spinner by trade and I worked in the house, she undertook to spend as much time away from it as possible. At first, she'd take Bae with her, but she soon found she enjoyed listening to sailors' yarns at the local tavern. It was hardly a place that welcomed infants, so she'd leave him with me. I learned to look after him." His shoulders slumped. He gave an involuntary start when Mary Margaret reached over and covered his left hand with her right.



"You should have had more time together," Mary Margaret said, squeezing his hand. "Just when the two of you were finally connecting, to lose him… it's…" she hesitated, knowing that she was sounding like a child. She decided she didn't care. "It's not fair," she stated.



Gold shook his head silently. Then he placed his right hand over hers, sandwiching it. And for a time, they sat unspeaking.



Finally, Mary Margaret smiled apologetically. "He's done," she said. I… need to burp him."



Gold released her immediately. "Of course," he said, as calmly as if they'd been discussing the weather, his feelings once more wrapped away and out of sight.



She sighed regretfully. "I should probably be going. I'd like to get home and put him down for a nap and I'm sure I've wasted enough of your time. You'll be at the coronation ceremony tomorrow evening?"



Gold's eyebrows shot up. "I hope you're not confusing me with Maleficent and extending an invitation out of fear of what I might do if I were snubbed," he remarked. Mary Margaret was about to protest when she noted the faint glint of amusement in his eyes.



"I'm extending it because I want you there," she said simply. "And because, if you aren't," she added, "I think you might wish you had been when you find out about it the next day." It was customary not to divulge the baby's name before the ceremony, but there was nothing in the traditions that forbade hints. She glanced down and sighed. The baby still wasn't burping, despite her best efforts.



When she looked up again, Gold's eyebrows seemed to climb even higher. "Well, then," he said, "I'll do my best to be present." He frowned. "You know, you'll have better results if you rest his chin on your shoulder," he advised. "Wait." He handed her a clean dishtowel. "You'd best have a care for your clothing."



She smiled gratefully. "Thank you," she said, placing the towel on her shoulder and repositioning the baby. A moment later, she beamed when she was rewarded by an audible burp.



"Mrs. Nolan." Mary Margaret looked up, startled by the change in his tone. Gold's face was serious, but there was a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. He placed a hand in his pocket. "While this isn't the first time you've intruded on my solitude, contrary to what you said a moment ago, on this occasion, you have not wasted my time." He withdrew his hand from his pocket. Mary Margaret gasped when she glimpsed the pearl-and-diamond pendant. A loop of the string of pearls on which it hung spilled out of Gold's hand.



"M-Mother's necklace?" she whispered. "You're giving it back to me?"



He pressed it into her palm. "Time is a precious commodity, Mrs. Nolan. I've taken up more of yours today than you did of mine on that other occasion. So. Let's consider any and all debts paid in full and start fresh, shall we?"



She smiled, but she couldn't quite hold back a tear as she slipped the necklace into her pocket. "Thank you," she said, still whispering. The baby chose that moment to spit up again. She shook her head, still smiling. "Sorry about the towel."



"That's what it was there for," Gold waved her off. "Take it with you. You may need it again on your way home. You can bring it back to me when you've washed it. Here." A plastic bag materialized in his hand.



"Of course." She rose to her feet and tucked the baby back into the sling. She folded the towel carefully and slipped it into the plastic bag, which she then deposited into her tote. "Thanks again."



Gold walked her to the front door. Before he opened it, she turned to face him once more. "Tomorrow night," she repeated. "Granny's."



He nodded. "I'll be there."



She gestured to the bulging sling with a knowing grin. "So will he."



The smile on his face as he shut the door behind her was genuine.




Walking back home with one hand in her pocket, closed around her mother's necklace, the other caressing her child in the sling, Mary Margaret felt a good deal lighter than she had in quite some time. She knew that today was only a start. Gold hadn't been their enemy for a long time—if he'd ever been that in the first place. That didn't mean that he was suddenly about to become their best friend. But two years ago, when the first curse had been broken, would anyone have predicted that she and Regina would quietly, over time, set aside their blood feud and, without fanfare, come together as allies?



She squeezed the pendant tightly. Right now, it didn't seem at all farfetched that something similar might happen with Gold. Today had been a first step. She hoped that, tomorrow night, the coronation ceremony would prove to be another. She bent down and softly kissed her son's head. "Let's hope you can get in a few good naps tomorrow, Neal," she whispered. "You've got a big night ahead of you."

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