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The Boy

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It's a boy. Worse, it's a brown-eyed, dark-haired boy.

Rumple is disappointed, though he'll never ever admit that, especially not to Belle, and the child will never suspect. Rumple has learned over the years how to mask his feelings so his true face won't show, for it's monstrous–it's Malcolm-like–for a father to be disappointed in his own child.

It's not that he doesn't love the boy. They'd waited so long, longed so hard for a baby, and when Doc had confirmed what the little white stick had told them, no one in the world could have been happier. Storybrooke stared in stunned silence as Rumple strode from shop to shop, buying blankies (yes, that's right, he said it: blankies) and booties and baby buggies, and Storybrooke gasped collectively when he showed up with Belle at Lamaze and got down on the floor like the other daddies-to-be, like Sean and Archie and Killian–and Rumple didn't even kill Killian–and panted the labor breaths in harmony with the mommies-to-be. Daddy of the Year material, he was then.

And no one suspected any different when, the afternoon of the baby's birth, he strode about town handing out blue bubblegum cigars and bought out every rose French had in stock to deliver them (in the recently un-repossessed van) personally to the hospital. Daddy Dark One, Killian dared laugh aloud, and Rumple didn't kill him even then, and David said, "Gold really has changed," and Snow said, "Belle changed him" (and Emma slugged Killian).

He loves the boy. He would lay down his life without hesitation for the boy. And yet, buried deep where not even Belle could see it, he wishes the boy had been a girl.

Because every time the boy gazes at him with those big brown eyes, every time the boy clutches Daddy Dark One's finger or, oh gods, his nose, and every time the brown-eyed boy wiggles away from Mama's grasp and stretches out his chubby arms toward Daddy ("He loves me but he adores his Daddy," Belle says)–every time, it pierces Rumple like a dozen daggers.

Because if it had been a girl, a tiny blue-eyed girl like Rumple had secretly prayed for, he wouldn't be constantly reminded. Because every time the boy smiles at him ("He always smiles for his Daddy," Belle says) or reaches for him or crawls to him or along behind him–every time, Rumple sees Bae.

Until the day he doesn't.

It happens so gradually that Rumple isn't aware of it. It happens in moments: the moment the boy climbs into Rumple's lap with a book in tow (Bae wasn't bookish) and tilts his head to inquire sweetly (Bae wasn't a charmer; he was direct and outspoken), "Sory, Dadda?" (For a second, Rumple thinks the boy is apologizing for something: "sorry, Daddy"–"Daddy," not "Papa." For Bae it was always "Papa.").

It happens when the boy gurgles and splashes in the bath: Bae had hated bath time, would climb out of the wooden tub when Papa's back was turned and would toddle out of the cottage, to be caught starkers in the road. This boy loves bath time (oh gods, will he grow up to be a sailor?)

It happens when the boy begins to build things–houses and buildings and cars, out of blocks or Tinker Toys or twigs or any material at hand: Bae had been an artist (like Milah), not a builder.

It happens when the boy learns to talk and his first words are in English and in an almost-American accent (for Belle and Rumple have lived here so long their accents have faded). It happens when the boy wiggles his fingers and urges, "Daddy took"–meaning "Daddy' tuck me in"–Bae hated bedtime, but this boy goes to bed willingly if Daddy tucks him in.

It happens when the boy laughs. So often, so easily, the boy laughs. Bae had taken a solemn view of life; Bae the judge, Bae the dutiful. But not this boy. For this boy, life is a delight and a wonder.

It happens when the boy bounces in his high chair, clapping his hands, whenever Daddy sweeps Mama into an elegant embrace and waltzes her across the kitchen, never mind the dishes in the sink or the boiling pots on the stove. Mama always has time for a dance, and Daddy always has time for Mama (Bae grew up believing mamas and papas didn't touch).

And it most unmistakably happens when the boy stares in awe at some small display of magic, cooing and reaching out for Daddy's glowing hands as if to capture some of the power for himself. To build things, Rumple feels certain; not to destroy. For Belle's sake–for she fears what sort of a burden her son will carry in life if he becomes a sorcerer–Rumple refrains, most of the time; there's little call for magic these days anyway. But when the boy's eyes connect with his, an understanding passes between father and son, between mage and mage-to-be. Belle will come to tolerate the magic because it's part of who they are, her two men.

So gradually it happens, Rumple isn't aware, until the day it hits him: this boy reminds him of no one. This boy is unique, a whole new, complete person, and as Rumple comes to learn who he is and treasure his individuality, any residual traces of disappointment dry up–it was never really disappointment in the boy, anyway, Rumple realizes; it was disappointment in himself, for his own inability to conquer grief.

Now when he looks at the brown-eyed boy, Rumple doesn't see Bae. He sees Jesse, which means "gift," and he thanks Jesse for giving him–not a second chance, for this child is not the second; he's one of a kind–but a new chance.

And Rumplestiltskin is exceedingly proud of his brown-eyed boy.