Looking Forward to Forever

The arrow slowly tracked the path of the queen. Snow's hand could release the projectile at any moment and James wouldn't be able to reach her in time to stop her. She steadied her hand, drawing back a bit more on the string, readying to shoot the arrow off. He couldn't let her do that! He couldn't let her destroy her soul! He refused lose her like that!

He leapt as she loosed the arrow, praying that his timing and position were good enough. The sharp slam of the projectile in his shoulder ripped a shout of pain from his throat; when he hit the ground the wound burned, drawing forth a long groan, but at the same time the agony brought relief crashing over him.

Snow was safe.

"What do you think you're doing?" she all but screamed. "Why would you do this?" Her tone was thick with incredulity.

"Well," he began, voice strained, as he managed to roll to his side, "because…you said you appreciate…action more than words," he wryly completed, allowing his weight to fall against a tree. "So now," James leaned on the tree to help himself stay upright and turned to face her, clutching his injured shoulder, "you're gonna get both."

She let out an exasperated scoff, turning from him momentarily before looking back.

He gazed at her intently. "I love you, Snow," the absolute truth of the statement imbued every syllable.

"But I don't love you!" she countered, sounding even more exasperated if that was possible.

A particularly sharp pain shot from the wound, drawing a groan from him and he leaned more heavily on the trunk.

"I don't even remember you!" she added, as if he might have forgotten that particularly painful fact.

"Well, I don't care," he informed her flatly, trying to keep the pain spearing through him at her reminder out of his voice.

There was such confusion and disbelief in her expression.

"The only thing I care about is that you don't forget who you really are."

Snow stared at him, shaking her head slightly, incomprehension plain on her face.

He leveled his most direct gaze on her, so that she wouldn't be able to doubt the veracity of what he was about to say. "I would rather die than let you fill your heart with darkness."

Shock flashed in her eyes; she blinked rapidly. "You would really die for me?" Her voice was so quiet and there was a note to it that he didn't recognize.

"Does it look like I'm making this up?" Meeting her eyes, he gestured to the arrow still sticking out of his shoulder, voice sardonic.

With aching honesty she admitted, "No one's ever done anything like this for me before."

As he looked at her James could finally name what he had heard in her voice, because it was painted all over her face at the moment. Vulnerability, something that Snow had always worked so hard to hide from the world; he'd only seen brief flashes of it in their prior encounters but now it was raw and naked. His head fell back against the tree, the defenses that he'd erected to protect himself while dealing with this Snow-who-didn't-remember-him crashing down around him at the tears welling in her eyes.

With a blink of her eye a tear finally slid down her cheek. "No one's ever been willing to die for me." There was a touch of wonder to her tone now.

He didn't think he'd ever wanted to pull her into his arms more, desperately needing to comfort and reassure her, but unable to cross the chasm between them. "No one you can remember," he simply corrected, his own emotional agony coloring his voice.

Surprise flooded her expression.

Another agonized gasp escaped James, though this time it was drawn more from his heart than his shoulder, and he turned into the tree as he felt tears threatening, retreating into himself. Despite his best efforts, a single tear managed to leak out and trickled down his cheek. His heart was so raw and bleeding from everything that had happened since Snow had shown up in his chambers at the castle.

A gentle touch on his shoulder, hardly more than a whisper against him, pulled him out of his pain. He turned his head to look at the gloved hand that rested on his good arm so softly; he followed it to Snow's face.

There was compassion in her eyes now…and something else. A determination entered her expression as she stepped closer to him and reached out her other hand to rest with a contradicting mix of tentativeness and assuredness against his cheek.

He tried to tamp down the desperate hope that threaded into his heart.

Studying his features intently, she slowly leaned her head to his, James' eyes sliding closed as their lips met in their first mutual kiss.

James wondered how it was possible to experience such bliss when his shoulder was on fire with pain and his heart still felt like it had been dragged behind his horse across the breadth of the kingdom. The kiss was chaste, but sweet and passionate, holding such depth of emotion. He never wanted this moment to end.

Their lips finally parted, though they didn't pull far apart. He kept his eyes closed for several heartbeats longer, clinging to the emotions and wonderful feeling of her lips against his for just a little longer, in case this was his last chance to kiss his true love. When he did open his eyes, it was to see her emerald ones full of surprise and awe. His heart began pounding in his chest; he was fighting a losing battle in trying to rein in the hope that was surging in him. Could he dare hope?

"Charming!" Joy, love, affection and wonder overflowed her tone; real recognition was alight in her eyes.

"Yes," he breathed, a grin spreading across his face, "it's me."

They were both laughing, gasping and grinning like fools as their lips met over and over in ecstatic, loving kisses. Their hands clamoring to pull each other closer–

A sharp rap on the door snapped James out of the dream-memory.

"Hmm?" Mary sleepily stirred against his chest, lifting her head in the direction of her bedroom door. "What is it?" she mumbled just loud enough to be heard through the barrier, her arm unconsciously tightening where it was wrapped across his middle.

"Sorry to disturb you two," Emma called apologetically from the other side. "But we have a call, John."

The couple reluctantly disentangled themselves from each other. He checked the clock on the bedside table as he pulled on his jeans. 3:45 a.m.

Buttoning up his flannel shirt, James glanced over at Mary on the bed, making sure she was covered before he opened the door. Sitting up on the bed, drowsily pushing her bangs from her eyes, she was wrapped in another of his plaid shirts. With the shirt he was donning half-way done up he pulled open the door; his daughter stood there, two coffee cups in hand, looking only slightly more awake than he felt.

"Here," she shoved one of the mugs at him groggily.

"Thanks," he mumbled against the rim of the mug, taking a sip before going over to the chair in the corner and sitting down to pull on his work boots.

"What happened?" Mary had drawn her knees up to her chest, blinking rapidly, trying to clear the sleep from her eyes.

Emma swallowed the gulp of coffee she'd taken, shrugging. "Someone found a car abandoned by the side of the road near the edge of town. It appears to have crashed there and there's no sign of anyone around."

James looked up, a worried frown on his face. "Whose car is it?"

"I don't know," the sheriff shook her head, "we'll run the plates when we get there."

Once the laces on his second boot were tied, he stood, going over to the table on what was quickly becoming his side of the bed and gathering his wallet and keys. He then bent his head to Mary's, kissing her briefly but lovingly. "I'll try to see you at lunch."

Her hand skimmed over the side of his face and she smiled at him sweetly. "Don't worry if you have to work."

A grin lit his face as he pecked her on the mouth once more. "Love you."

"Love you too." Her voice revealed that she was obviously drifting back toward sleep.

"Get some more sleep, you have a day full of volunteering to start in a few hours," he teasingly told her, stroking a thumb across her cheek.

"Hmm," she sleepily confirmed as she lay back down in bed.

Gods, how James wanted to join her, but he forced himself out of the room. He and Emma pulled their coats off of the hooks by the front door and yanked them on as they ducked out of the apartment.

Storybrooke wasn't a town with a thriving nightlife or a place where people routinely got up before 6 a.m. so the roads were deserted, stores and homes dark. They headed down the road out of town, a sinking feeling settling in James' gut, having heard stories about what happened to people who'd tried to leave Storybrooke.

That he recognized the car wasn't all that surprising, Storybrooke wasn't a big place, but just who the car belonged to was.

"That's Kathryn's." James frowned worriedly as they climbed out of the police car.

Emma cast him a surprised glance, tinged with worry. "You sure?"


They both jogged over to the vehicle, the man who'd been waiting beside it turned at their approach, and it was all James could do to keep his jaw from falling open and gaping.

It was Frederick.

Gods, where was Abigail? She needed to be here! Her Frederick was here!

Slowing his pace, James swallowed, turning his gaze back to the car, and trying to make it seem that the shock on his face was all from recognizing his ex's vehicle. Under the guise of taking a closer look at the car he moved to stand by the open door, eyes cutting discreetly to the other man. His heart ached for the couple whom he'd come to call friends. Frederick's face was fairly stoic, but there was a loneliness in his eyes, just like most everyone else in town.

"Sheriff Swan," Emma introduced herself. "You found the car?"

The young man nodded. "Yeah. Rick Aurum, I'm the gym teacher at the elementary school."

"You didn't see anything or anyone when you drove up?"

He shook his head. "Everything's exactly as I found it; I called you immediately."

"What were you doing out here at this hour?" Emma was careful to keep her tone neutral, non-accusatory. James still had to fight the urge to tell his daughter that Frederick would never even dream of hurting Abigail.

Rick buried his hands in his pockets and shrugged. "Sometimes I can't sleep so I go for a drive to try and clear my head or at least organize my thoughts.

"Do you know whose car this is?"

"No." Rick turned a regretful glance at the vehicle. "I recognize it, but I don't know who it belongs to."

"Thanks, can you wait over there for now?" She nodded in the direction of his car. "I might have a couple more questions."

"Sure." The gym teacher headed to his own car.

Once the other man was out of earshot Emma turned to James. "You have to stay away from this, John," she told him firmly.

Shock once again lit his expression. "No, Emma I want to help find Kathryn."

"I know you do, John, and likely this," she waved a hand at the crashed car, "is just an accident. She could've wandered off or was picked up by a passing motorist, but you're personally involved and you can't work a case that involves your ex-wife."

James clenched his hands at his sides, lips pressed into a thin line, but he nodded jerkily. "I'll just check for any signs of someone heading into the woods."

His daughter nodded, understanding in her face. "You should probably call Mary as soon as it's closer to a decent hour and ask her to pick you up."

"Right," he mumbled, heading toward the tree line, flashlight scanning the foliage, and icy dread settling in his gut.

James leaned back in the passenger seat of the cruiser, head propped on the headrest; he checked his watch and seeing that it was 6:02 reached for his cell and called Mary. After explaining the situation and assuring her that Emma thought that Kathryn had simply caught a ride with someone else–though the dread coiling through him told him otherwise–his wife said she'd be there in a few minutes. After exchanging "I love you's" they hung up and James once again let his head fall back against the seat. There had been no sign of a struggle anywhere and he hadn't found any indication of her going into the woods. He highly doubted that Kathryn had been picked up by another motorist, knowing what he did of the curse.

The crunching of gravel had his head lifting, Emma was approaching the passenger side door where he was sitting; he opened it and got out. "What's up?"

She shoved her hands into her coat pockets, discomfort flitting across her expression. "I have to ask you a couple of questions."

There was a wry quirk to his lips. "Am I a suspect?"

She sighed, attempting to give him a small smile. "No…well…"

"Not yet," he finished for her.

Her mouth opened, about to say something, but he spoke first.

"Emma, it's fine." He gave her a half-grin. "What do you need to know?"

Relief chased across her expression before assuming a professional demeanor. "When was the last time you saw Kathryn?"

James knew that now was the time to get specific. "Saw or talked to?"

A surprised frown marred her expression. "There's a difference?"

"Mm hmm," he confirmed with a nod.

"Umm," she glanced to the side before looking back at him, "both?"

"As I'm sure most of the town can attest to, the last time I saw Kathryn was when she and I had a very public argument yesterday by her car in town, though I never laid a hand on her."

"And when was the last time you spoke with her?"

"Last night, when you ran back to the station?" She nodded to confirm that she remembered. "I had to go by Granny's to pick up a couple of things; while I was there I got a call from Kathryn."

"What did you talk about?"

A soft snort escaped him. "After this," he tilted his chin in the direction of Kathryn's car, "it's probably going to sound like a lie or something."

Emma gave him a look. "I know when people are lying, so just tell me."

He studied her for a moment before finally speaking. "She apologized for what she did to Mary and asked that I tell Mary that she was sorry as well; I was going to this morning. She then said that she was going to move on and that she truly believed that Mary and I belong together and hoped that we were happy."

His daughter's eyebrows shot up, skepticism tingeing her expression.

He raised his hands. "I told you, it sounds like I'm making this up but I'm not. I actually thought she was playing at something but she said no, that she believed what Mary and I had was real and that she wanted to find that for herself. After going back and forth for a few minutes longer I wished her the best. She thanked me and said that she was going to need time before she had really moved on, but was going to work on it and that she probably wasn't going to see Mary and I for a while." His eyes turned to the car. "I thought that she just meant she was going to avoid us around town, but I guess she might have meant she was leaving town entirely."

"What time was the call?"

James shrugged. "Around 6:30, I think. Hang on." He dug his cell out of his pocket and went to his calls list; it was the second one on the list being the last one made or received before he called Mary. "6:23 last night." He turned the screen to show her.

Emma accepted the phone, looking at the number, time and length of the call before closing the phone and handing it back to him.

They both turned as they heard Mary's car pull up behind the cruiser; James turned back to Emma.

"Anything else?"

She shook her head. "No, not right now. Can you handle things at the station while I deal with this?"

"Sure," he nodded. "See you later." He turned and headed for Mary's car.

Emma watched her deputy walk away and climb into her roommate's vehicle, feeling like she was somehow betraying him by having to treat him as a potential suspect.

"Hey," James greeted his wife as he climbed into the passenger seat, leaning over and kissing her, allowing himself a moment just to feel the reassuring press of her lips to his–proving that she was safe and next to him–before sitting back to close the door and buckle his seatbelt.

"Are you ok?" Mary's hand reached over to cover one of his, looking at him with obvious concern coloring her expression.

Flipping his hand over, he twined his fingers with hers. "I'm fine." He lifted their joined hands to kiss the back of hers. "Just worried about Kathryn."

Her eyes cast out the windshield in the direction of their daughter before turning back to him, brow still furrowed. "Are you a suspect?"

"No." He emphasized the word as reassuringly as possible with a shake of his head. "We can't even declare her legally missing since it hasn't yet been 24 hours. I just can't work the case since I technically have a conflict of interest, being her ex."

She didn't appear entirely mollified, but nodded and reluctantly released his hand to shift the car into drive and pull away.

James kept his eyes on Kathryn's car until they'd U-turned back toward town, begging any deity that might be listening in this cursed place for her to be all right.


His head snapped around to Mary. "Sorry?"

She gazed at him with concern. "I called you three times."

James had been having a harder and harder time remembering to react to the name "John" the longer that he had his memories.

"I'm sorry, I was lost in thought, worrying about Kathryn." While he might not be able to tell anyone the whole truth, at least with his family he didn't lie.

"You don't believe that she got a ride with a passing car." It wasn't a question.

James rubbed a hand over his face. "Honestly…no. And I'm concerned." He turned his head to look at Mary, seeing her face creased with worry he reached a hand over to gently rub the back of her neck. "Hey." She glanced at him, letting him know he had her attention. "We'll figure this out and Kathryn's gonna be all right."

Mary removed one hand from the steering wheel and reached up to take hold of his, bringing them to rest on the seat between them. "I know." She cast him a small smile.

He stroked his thumb over her knuckles. "Do you have time for breakfast at Granny's before going to volunteer?"p>

"Actually, I was planning on making something at home."

A broad grin spread across his face. "Even better."

"So," James was cracking eggs into the bowl of pancake batter, "what exactly is this 'Miner's Day?'"

Mary glanced at him with surprise, squeezing some fresh orange juice, but then realization chased across her face. "I keep forgetting about your amnesia." She blushed.

He was glad that she'd looked down because he flinched at her words before managing a wry grin. "Yeah, I think others do as well sometimes." He reached over to squeeze her hand, drawing her attention to him again. "But I actually like it better that way, it means people are treating me less carefully."

Mary flipped her hand over to squeeze his back, then they returned to their respective tasks and she explained the "history" of Miner's Day. James couldn't help but be continually shocked at how intricate and expansive the curse really was, he shuddered to think what the cost would be for it, because as Rumplestiltskin was so fond of reminding them all: All magic comes with a price…

James enjoyed doing just about anything with his wife, but cooking with her like this was particularly pleasant. It brought up warm, fond memories of late nights in the castle where they would sneak off into the kitchens for a snack or a cup of hot chocolate, and meals when they'd laughingly chase the staff out to cook for themselves and to enjoy a quiet meal with just the two of them. Blissful moments when his wife wasn't actively worrying about her stepmother's threat.

He leaned back against the island, watching Mary cook the pancakes at the stove, a grin quirking his lips.

"Is there a particular reason you're watching me so closely?" Humor threaded her voice and pink tinged her cheeks.

The grin widened on his face. "Just enjoying being with you."

She turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. "Well, that's quite a charming thing to say," she teased.

He wasn't sure he could grin any more broadly. "I try."

A giggle escaped her, sending an affectionate warmth blooming through James, as she turned back to making breakfast.

He watched her like that for a moment longer before moving behind her to wrap his arms around her waist and pressing a kiss to the side of her neck. "I love you," he murmured against her skin.

She turned her head to meet his gaze, eyes soft; her hand rose to ghost over the scar on his chin, her scar, though she didn't remember it. "I love you too," she returned quietly, smiling at him.

They gazed at each other for several heartbeats, and then they leaned in at the same time for a sweet kiss. Once they pulled apart, James unwrapped his arms, hands settling momentarily on her hips and giving a gentle, affection squeeze, before kissing her cheek and letting go. "I'll get the plates."

"Can you set one out for Emma as well? I want to leave her some food."

He had turned so that his back was to her while getting the plates, and had to grin at the mothering tone of her voice, unable to squash the amusement at how she was acting like a mom to their daughter without even knowing their real relationship. "Of course."

After breakfast, James went to the station and switched the call forwarding from Emma's cell to his; he then headed to Granny's, chess set tucked under his arm.

Walking into the diner several heads turned in his direction, some casting him dirty looks, others quickly looking away; a few bending back together to whisper. James gave a mental roll of his eyes, heading over to his habitual booth and sitting down.

Ruby was there immediately, giving him a wry smile as she asked, "Coffee or hot chocolate?"

He gave her a half-grin in return. "Hot chocolate; make it two, please."

"You got it."

James placed the chess set on the table and began setting up the pieces.


He was already grinning when he looked up to see his grandson sliding into the booth across from him. "Hey, Henry."

The child looked down at the game board. "Are you waiting for Sean?"

"Nope," he easily countered, setting the last piece into its place and then resting his crossed arms on the table. "For you. Feel up to a game?"

"Yeah!" the boy enthused, shoving his backpack into the corner of the booth and eyeing the board eagerly.

"Here we are," Ruby had returned and was setting the drinks down, one in front of each of them, "two hot chocolates with whipped cream and cinnamon."

Henry looked up at his grandfather. "How did you know I was coming?"

James flashed him a grin. "How many other places do you go on the weekend?" he teased.

After a moment's thought the boy shrugged, taking a sip of the cocoa before looking back at the game. "I'm white, so…I go first, right?" He looked to James for confirmation.

He smiled proudly at his grandson. "That's right." He watched the boy move a pawn forward; he loved these games with Henry, the chance to spend time with his grandson and learn more about him. The first time he saw Henry again after regaining his memories James had been nearly a wreck. When Henry had hugged him James had to force himself to release his grandson at a reasonable point and it was even harder for him not to stare too obviously at his grandson; he was so distracted he'd actually almost lost a chess game to the boy. Seeing his grandson still caused his heart to squeeze with love for the child and ache at the thought of him being trapped with that witch.

"So," James began after they had played a few moves, "how's Operation Cobra going?"

Henry shrugged, looking a little discouraged. "Not too good." He perked up looking back at his grandfather. "Have you started remembering anything?"

"Umm…" Damn. James shouldn't have brought up Operation Cobra to him. He couldn't lie to his grandson. He wouldn't. But he wasn't sure how to tell Henry about him remembering because the boy would want to tell Emma, whom James knew didn't believe, and it would hurt Henry deeply to find that out.


James let out a breath in a whoosh, smiling quite happily up at his daughter as she slid into the booth, grateful for the interruption. "Hey, did you find Kathryn?"

The blonde pressed her lips together, shaking her head. "No, not yet, but as I said, it hasn't been 24 hours."

He managed a tight smile before putting Henry into check, trying not to let on just how disturbed he was by the situation.

There was a clearing of a throat that drew most people's attention to the door where Mary stood with a clipboard in her hands. She gave a little speech, asking for volunteers for Miner's Day, upon finishing just about everyone in the diner turned their backs on her coldly, dismissively.

James clenched his jaw.

Grumpy–Leroy, James mentally corrected himself–walked toward Mary; she eagerly asked if he wanted to volunteer. James couldn't hear his response but whatever the janitor said to her brought a stricken look to her face and as he brushed past her, tears welled in her eyes. Anger boiled James' blood, he couldn't believe that one of Snow's dearest and closest friends would say something to cause such hurt to color her expression.

He quickly rose to his feet, about to go after Mary who had spun on her heel and scurried out the door, however Emma had already stood. "I have it, John; you stay here."

He wanted to tell his daughter that he could handle it, that this was his wife and that he was the one who should be comforting her, but Emma was already out the door. His hands clenched convulsively around the lip of the table.

"John?" Henry's quiet, innocent voice drew his attention to the little boy staring up at him with wide confused eyes. "Why did they ignore Ms. Blanchard?"

James pressed his lips together, forcing himself to sit back down; he opened his mouth, but closed it again, not sure that he could give his grandson an appropriate response with the fury roiling through him.

"Because people are narrow-minded, petty and cruel sometimes."

They both looked up at the sharp answer.

Ruby stood beside them, frowning worriedly in the direction that Mary and Emma had gone.

"Why?" the child asked again, brow furrowed with confusion. "I mean, she's one of the nicest people in town."

Both adults smiled at him.

"No argument there, kiddo," the waitress agreed, a sad smile twisting her lips. "But sometimes people need to tear others down to feel better about themselves."

Henry frowned. "Like bullies?"

"Yes, Henry," James had finally mastered his anger enough to speak rationally, "like bullies."

His grandson stared down at the table thoughtfully.

"John." He turned at Ruby's voice. "Could you let Mary know that I'd volunteer if I could, but I can't?"

"Why not?"

She waved her hands around them at the full diner. "Miner's Day is one of our busiest days of the year."

He gave her an understanding smile. "I'll let her know." He nodded to her gratefully. "Thank you."

"Hey!" They both turned at Henry's bright cry, his face was lit with a smile. "Maybe I can make Ms. Blanchard a card and we can all sign it, to show her that we don't agree with the bullies!"

James reached over and ruffled the boy's hair. "That's a great idea, Henry; she'd really like that."

"I'll sign it." Ruby raised a hand, grinning.

"Great!" the boy cried enthusiastically, reaching into his backpack and pulling out paper and markers. He was soon hard at work drawing and writing.

James glanced up at the waitress, the pair of friends sharing a smile over the child's enthusiasm, while James began putting the chess set away and Ruby headed back to work.

Just before he put the last piece away, a white knight, James paused, staring at the horse figurine thoughtfully. "Hey, Henry," he began after a beat.

"Hmm?" his grandson inquired, not looking up from his work.

"How would you feel about me giving that card to Mary with a gift I have in mind?"

The child looked up inquisitively. "What's the gift?"

James leaned closer to him across the table with a grin. "It's very special and a surprise."

Henry's eyes lit up. "What is it?"

The man reached across the table to tweak his grandson's nose. "If I told you it wouldn't be a surprise, now would it? I'll show it to you after I get it. It's something I've had my eye on for months for her; I promise that she'll like it."

He obviously wanted to press James to tell him what the gift was, but the boy finally nodded eagerly. "Yeah, that's a great idea!"

With a grin James stood. "Great. I'll be back in a bit. You keep working on that card."

"Mr. Gold's Pawn Shop."

James stared at the gilded lettering on the front window of the shop, his lips pressed into a thin line. He really didn't want to have to deal with Rumplestiltskin, but he wanted the mobile back. It belonged to his family and was very precious to him and Snow; he was also hoping that it might help in the process of getting her to remember. But what might the damned imp try to extort from him in exchange?

Finally he set his jaw and opened the door, the bell softly ringing.

Rumplestiltskin was already standing behind one of the counters. "Deputy," he said with what on the surface appeared to be a pleasant smile, but the prince could see the sly look in the other man's eyes. The shopkeeper set down the book whose binding he'd been inspecting. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

James met the imp's gaze head on, unwavering. "I'm here to buy the mobile." He tilted his head to indicate it, not taking his eyes from Rumplestiltskin's.

"Ah," a crafty gleam entered the shorter man's eyes, "I'd been wondering when you'd be back for that." He limped with an easy gait to the desired item, a smirk now gracing his lips. "As I said months ago, quite a lovely piece of master-craftsmanship."

The prince marked the other man's movements, coming to stand beside the delicate piece of artwork; across the counter from Rumplestiltskin. "What do you want for it?" He had no desire to play games with this man.

"Oh," Rumplestiltskin gave a short, false laugh, glancing away for a moment before looking back at James. "I'd be happy to sell it to you…"

James waited for the other shoe to predictably drop.

The imp, obviously reading the taller man's expression, continued, "On one condition."

"What?" The prince's tone was short.

Rumplestiltskin smirked. "Just a small thing." He leaned over on his forearms on the counter. "What's your name?"

James kept his expression neutral, but he decided since they both already knew that the other remembered to give the slightest bit. "Which one do you want? My real name; my chosen, fake name; what every thinks is my name; the one that became mine…?" he asked dryly.

The smirk grew by degrees on the shorter man's expression; he straightened up. "That's enough. I just wanted to hear you admit to it." He named a price that was perhaps a touch high, but not unreasonable and goodness knew James was willing to pay a great deal for the mobile with how precious it was to him and Snow.

Rumplestiltskin placed it carefully in a box and handed it to the prince. "Quite the charming gift. Perfect for a charming baby…"

Fury flashed into James' eyes at the implication, hands fisting nearly tight enough for his nails to break the skin of his palms.

Oh, how badly he wanted to beat the twisted imp!

Instead, in a herculean effort, he forced himself to turn and stalk out of the store. Why, when he hadn't given the imp anything he didn't already know, did James feel like Rumplestilskin had gotten a lot more from him than it seemed?

Gods, he hated dealing with the damn imp!

When James returned to Granny's he found Henry sitting at the counter with the proprietress and her granddaughter signing the card he'd made.

"Hey, Henry," he greeted the boy, taking the stool beside him.

"John!" the child returned eagerly. "Did you get the gift?"

He set the box on the counter. "Yes, I did." He patted the lid with his hand.

"Well," Ruby leaned against the counter, smirking, "let's see it."

James gave her a smirk in return, lifting the lid. His hands brushed the tissue paper aside, fingers curled around the hook and gently lifted the mobile from the package, delicately untwisting the figurines that got tangled in the process.

"Oh!" Ruby gasped, eyes wide. She reached out a finger to graze the neck of one of the unicorns. "It's beautiful."

Henry's jaw had dropped at the sight of the mobile, but then a huge grin spread across his face. "She'll love it!"

He slowly lowered the gift back into the box. "Good to hear."

The waitress cocked her head to the side. "Where'd you get it?"

"Gold's." James put the lid back on. "I saw it just before Christmas and thought that Mary might like it but the timing…" he trailed off, eyes going to Snow's friend with a meaningful look.

The young woman nodded, understanding alight in her gaze. "Well, I agree that Mary'll love it…though," she cocked an eyebrow, "is it going to be getting use some time soon?"

The prince raised an eyebrow in return, masking the hopeful and longing jolt that surged through him at the thought of having a child with Snow again behind a droll look. "No." An ache ran through his heart at the denial.

Ruby smirked. "Not yet."

He wasn't going to deny that, he and Mary certainly hadn't been celibate since Valentine's Day; though Mary was taking birth control pills, they weren't really taking any other measures. He decided to say nothing for the moment, which just had Ruby smirking even wider.

James was sitting at his desk in the station when the lights abruptly went off.

"What's going on?" he called out to Emma, who was in her office.

"Not sure," she responded; a flashlight clicked on over her desk.

He bent down, feeling along the side of the desk until his hand found the right drawer and pulled it open, reaching in for his own flashlight and turning it on as well. He then headed for Emma's office, stopping in the door as she was flipping through a binder of numbers. "Want me to get the generator going?"

She looked up from where she'd started punching one of the numbers she needed to call for loss of power into her cell. "Yeah, thanks; I gotta make these calls."

Between the two of them they got the generator up and running, inquiries off to the power company and fielded upset/worried calls from townspeople. After about two hours of near-non-stop complaints from citizens without power the calls finally began to taper off and things once again quieted down.

James stood in the doorway of Emma's office, watching her for a beat before speaking. "Anything from Kathryn?"

His daughter went very still, staring rather fixedly at her desk and clicking the pen in her hand. "No," she finally admitted.

He nodded slowly. "What now?"

With a deep breath Emma set the pen down. "It's been 24 hours, so she is now officially a missing person." Her eyes lifted to his, disquiet clear in her gaze. "I may have to ask you some more questions."

James crossed his arms. "Do I need to get a lawyer?"

She pressed her lips together. "That would be my recommendation." One of her hands clenched on the desk. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." He shook his head. "Just do your job." He straightened from where he'd been leaning on the doorjam. "I'm gonna go meet Mary at the festival."

"All right." She picked the pen back up. "I'll be home later."

"Right." He stood there a moment longer. Gods, he hated how stilted things were with his daughter! Finally he turned and walked out, card in hand and mobile in its box under his arm.

He was quite surprised at the sight that greeted him in the square. The stores were all dark and the lights that had been strung around the square were extinguished, but candles were lit all through the crowd of people, each carrying one. A grin was pulling at his lips at recognizing the very candles Mary had been fretting about being unable to sell just earlier that day.

"Hey, Deputy."

He turned at the familiar gruff voice, frowning at the man who approached him. "Leroy. How can I help you?" He kept his tone neutral; even though he was still upset with the man for his cruel comments to Mary but at the same time he had come back around and helped her so much.

The shorter man stuffed his hands into his coat pockets uncomfortably. "Ruby said that you had a card for Mary?"

A single eyebrow rose. "Yes," the prince confirmed.

With a halting shrug Leroy asked, "Mind if I sign it?"

The other eyebrow joined the first near his hairline. "Sure…" He slowly pulled out the card and handed it to the other man who took out a pencil from his shirt pocket and used a near-by table to sign the card.

"Thanks," James accepted the card back after Leroy finished scrawling his name inside.


The prince turned again at the dwarf's call.

"Never take what you got for granted," Leroy told him seriously. "You don't know just how lucky you are."

The corner of James' lips lifted. "Yes, I do."

The shorter man looked at him searchingly for a moment but eventually nodded, seeming to see the truth of the statement in James' eyes. "See ya." He walked off.

A grin slowly spread across James' face as he watched the other man leave. That was the Grumpy he knew. Once he lost sight of his friend in the crowd he headed over to the candle stand where Mary was setting out a little sign that read "Sold Out."

"I thought that you said you weren't going to sell any candles?"

Her head lifted at his humor-infused voice; she grinned and spread her arms in an encompassing gesture at the dark town. "We had a little help."

"So I see. Ready to head home?"

"Definitely." She nodded, leaning over and blowing out the lone lit candle on the stand and then moving around it to accept his proffered elbow, free hand curling around it.

The position was so familiar, the sensation of her small hand tucked into his arm so achingly pleasant to have again.

Mary directed them to her car, but stopped before even sticking her key in the lock. James looked at her inquiringly over the roof of the car, but could see her attention riveted on the driver's side window. No, not the window, he corrected himself mentally. He, Sean, Ashley and Ruby had worked hard to try and clean off the graffiti but there were lingering streaks of the red paint and the word "tramp" was still legible.

"It's a nice night, how 'bout we walk home?" he suggested.

Her gaze lifted to his; James gave her gentle smile, prompting a soft one to spread across her own face. "That sounds perfect." She came back around the vehicle and accepted his arm again, leaning her cheek against his jacket sleeve for a moment.

"Mary Margaret!"

The couple turned at the sweet voice; a young brunette nun came jogging up to them.

"Astrid," Mary greeted the other woman warmly.

"I already thanked Leroy and I just wanted to tell you thank you so much as well." Her words came out in a rush, almost stumbling over each other. "I just can't thank you enough for selling all the candles, you both really saved the day."

James' eyes went to his wife who was blushing and smiling at the other woman fondly. "I was happy to help."

The nun looked down and noticed the candle in Mary's hand. "Oh, your candle's out!" She reached out, eagerly taking it from her. "Here, let me light it again." She tilted Mary's candle over hers to use the flame to light the extinguished one; this done she held it out to the teacher with a bright grin. "Here you are."

Mary blinked rapidly a few times before reaching out and accepting it back with a small, genuine smile. "Thank you."

Astrid grinned back at her. "You're welcome." She began turning back toward the other sisters. "Have a good night!" she called to the couple.

James continued to watch his wife, seeing how touched she was by the simple, sweet gesture of Astrid lighting her candle. He pressed his lips to her temple, finally drawing her attention to him with a slightly watery smile.


She nodded. "Mm hmm." Her head rested against his shoulder again as they began heading leisurely down the street.

The apartment was predictably empty since Emma was still at the station, and dark from the power being off. Mary set the candle down on the island in the kitchen while they took off their coats and began pulling out candles to light. As they did so she finally noticed the box and card he was carrying. "What are those?"

James glanced down at the two items and then looked back up at her with a grin. "They're for you."

"Me? What for?"

Shrugging, he led her over to the couch. "Henry saw how upset you were at Granny's and he wanted to do something to cheer you up so he decided to make you a card." He handed her the card.

Mary's eyes had welled with happy tears again as she admired the drawings and sentiments in the card. "This is so sweet."

James reached out to brush her bangs aside. "He had several of your friends sign it as well."

She looked back up at him again, grinning through the tears in her eyes. "It's wonderful; I'll have to thank them tomorrow." After she blinked a couple of times she turned her attention to the box still in his lap. "What's that?"

He shifted the gift to her lap. "This is something I've had my eye on for you since Christmas, but it didn't seem appropriate to give it to you then." He rested his arm along the back of the couch behind her, watching as she opened the lid and brushed the tissue paper aside, revealing the mobile with a gasp.


James reached out for the hook and lifted it out of the box so that she could see it properly.

She gazed at it wonderingly for several moments before exactly what the item was began to register and she bit her lip and turned her eyes to his, trying not to possibly overreact if his reasoning for the gift was innocent. "A child's mobile?" Her face became a bit red and anxiety increasingly filled her eyes. "John…"

The fingers of his free hand brushed over her cheek, immediately working to sooth her apprehension. "It's meant to be just a gift, Mary. Something I thought you'd like. But I won't deny what I hope to happen someday. That I'm planning on forever with you."

Relieved, and yet somehow a touch disappointed–which she endeavored to ignore–her hand rose to trace the scar on his chin with a soft smile. "I love it." She kissed him sweetly before looking back at the mobile. She reached out and let her fingers brush gently through the dangling figurines.

"Oh, Charming!" A delighted smile was bright on her face as she gazed at the beautiful glass unicorns hanging above the crib; her eyes turned to him where he stood grinning a few feet away.

"You like it?"

"It's beautiful!" she told him, as if there could be any doubt that she loved it. She turned back to the crib and reached out to let her hand trail through the hanging unicorns, sending the figurines gently swinging. She could see their child standing on unsteady legs in the crib, clinging to the side and batting the unicorns with tiny, inquisitive hands. Her palm came to rest lovingly atop her rounded stomach; she smiled down at the sight of her engagement and wedding rings flashing in the sunlight over where their child was growing in her womb.

Mary blinked rapidly, rubbing a hand over her eyes.


She looked up at John's concerned voice. He'd lowered the mobile to rest on the coffee table and was running worried hands over her cheeks and arms, eyes gazing into hers searchingly.

Mary caught one of his hands with a smile. "I'm all right." She shook her head a bit ruefully. "I'm probably just overtired with everything that's happened today."

Cupping the back of her neck, John drew her forward to kiss her forehead. "Well, we'd better get you to bed," he urged gently.

"Mm…" she confirmed before standing, drawing him with her, not asking if he was staying, not even thinking about doing so.

Joy swelled in James; not only because the fact that his staying with her wasn't even a question anymore, but because of the look in Mary's eyes in that moment as she stared at the mobile gave him all the more hope for her memories returning soon.

Curled into John's side in bed Mary's mind refused to quiet down. The vision–hallucination–whatever it was still strong in her mind and heart. She thought that it might have been a memory of a dream resurfacing, or perhaps her own desires for her future with John mixing with Henry's fairy tale ramblings. Her eyes gazed at the ring circling her right middle finger, resting atop John's chest, watching it slowly rise and fall with his deep breaths. She supposed it wasn't too odd that she'd imagined that ring as her engagement ring; she'd always had it, but for some reason it'd felt more right to wear it on her left hand encircling her ring finger, and that was a bit confusing. Though, as she finally began to drift off, what really felt strange was that a woman who had never had a child could so easily and vividly imagine how it would feel to carry a baby inside her…

Soooooooo, my dearies, what do you think? Worth the wait? O.O I hope that you enjoyed the chapter! Now I must scurry off to work on the next chapter of Once Upon a Time…and Again before my readers of that story come after me with pitchforks and torches… XD ;-P

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