He’d made himself swear two things the night they parted: one, that he would get his hands on her child, no matter what. Two, that he would never let himself get entangled with her again. The more he thought about it afterwards, the more he understood that the two vows seemed at cross purposes. But he’d manage it somehow. All he needed was the perfect opportunity.
Rumplestiltskin did his best to ignore her for the first year. He rebuilt the walls of his heart to keep out the memories of their time together, and silenced the sentiments those moments evoked.
Never again. No one would make a fool of him like that ever again.
The affair had wound him up so badly that memories alone were too dangerous to touch, let alone actually seeing her. He had to let his resentment fester first, then cool to snide bitterness. Once the love that still lingered in him turned stagnant and sour, he’d be able to face her again.
If he knew nothing else about himself, however, it was that he had a sickening masochistic side. That was all the explanation he gave to himself whenever he dared peek in on her through a mirror. He almost always caught her in a quiet, solitary moment. Her eyes still burned with cold fire, and each time the swell in her abdomen had grown a little bigger. At least he had that to look forward to.
Out of as much a need to display self-control as to lure her into a false sense of safety, he did not come to Cora the day Regina was born. He waited a full three months - a commendable effort. By then he had more practical reasons to spy on her other than to torture himself with his idiocy. His observations told him that the effects of removing her heart were worsening by the day, and Cora’s relationship with the child, while outwardly protective and attentive, had the chilling calculation of a horse-trader grooming his prized stallion, awaiting a chance to exploit it to its full potential.
He also saw Cora trying to expand on her magic. She used his advice from their first meeting to work other feats, such as moving objects and making them disappear. Little headway had been made. The frustration brimming in her expression delighted him. There was his leverage. There was her one weakness.
When the designated day arrived, the imp went into it like a soldier going off to war - armed with his sharpest weapons and his firmest resolve. He sheathed his pen and paper, sharpened his claws and kept his sardonic grin at the ready. Then he magicked away from his castle to hers, just outside the gate in his beggar’s cloak.