"I'll give you anything."
"You no longer have anything I want, dearie."
A pause. Then, "Yes, I do."
He turned around at her words, surprised to hear them spat out of her poisonous mouth. What could she possibly have to offer him? Was she going to throw herself at him again? It hadn't worked when she was eighteen; it wasn't likely to work now. Not when he could still feel the pressure of Belle's lips against his. She didn't even have the teacup anymore. She had no cards to play, no ace in the hole. His love was dead, his son was lost. Unless she had Bae stashed away in a basement - which was extremely unlikely - Regina had nothing he would trade for keeping the curse intact.
"Good day, your Majesty."
She slammed the door on the way out.
She was standing in front of the glass doors, looking at her fragile Henry being kept alive by strands of plastic and copper. Emma was by his bedside, struggling to come to terms with her own emotions. Doctor Whale was checking the boy over, the Blue Fairy standing behind in prayer. She seemed to have her hands in everything. In this, though, his hands were clean. Regina had brought this horror upon herself.
"What do you want?" she hissed, her eyes glistening every time she could bear to tear her eyes away from her son.
He tried to contain his smirk. A kiss born of true, pure love would save the boy but unless one of his mothers actually got up the courage to face their fears - the curse, no love - then the boy would remain a shell. If only Regina had thought her actions through...but that had never really been her strong suit.
"I just wanted to check on Henry. He's a good lad." He was. He reminded him of Bae.
Regina leapt from her space by the glass window and in a matter of seconds pushed him up against the nearest wall, her hands trembling at his collar. She was a woman possessed, she was desperate. If they were home, he would have loved this. "You fix this. You fix this!"
Doctor Whale was watching them now, the Blue Fairy too. Emma was looking at them like they were crazy. Gold grabbed for Regina's wrists and thrust her away from him. She curled in on herself. "I can't fix this, Regina. This is on you. Everything comes with a price, I warned you."
"If you had just accepted my deal..." Regina hissed. Pushing for that deal again - what on earth did she think she had that would interest him? But the begging left her and anger returned with a vengeance. "You wouldn't understand, Gold. You are not a parent. I had to do this for Henry. I would do anything for him."
Emma had moved from her son's bedside and was a foot out of the conversation. The Queen was trembling, her body racked with the righteousness of her actions. He just stood there, holding onto his cane. Did she think she could make him look like the bad guy in this particular scenario? Regina didn't have any cards to play. He had several. Time to lay down a jack.
"You know the difference between you and me, Regina?" He grinned, enjoying this. "I play the long game. I don't rush head first into stealing poisoned apples and baking them into pastries. When I want something, I work out the best way to get it. I work out all the kinks and make sure there are no consequences."
Regina was on a knife edge, she was about to go for his throat again. Time to twist that knife into her back. "When my son disappeared, I spent three centuries working out the best way to get to him. You think you know loss, Regina? You think you know the heart ache of a parent? You don't know what it's like to lose a child. You're not even in the ballpark."
All eyes were on him, he could feel it. Regina was watching him like she had never seen him before. Only two people since his former life had faded into existence knew of his son - one was standing a few feet away. The other was gone forever. He smirked at his duelling partner. "The curse was never for you, dearie. It was for him. It was to find my boy, the boy I lost."
"Drove away, more like."
The words tumbled out of a fallen angel's lips and Gold snapped his head so hard in the Blue Fairy's direction that if he was a normal man he would be dead. Her eyes were clear, so unlike the storms in her fellow companions. So pure. So fairy.
"You drove Baelfire away."
Emma looked from Regina to the Blue Fairy before resting her eyes on him. She didn't trust him. She knew he was violent, but not crazy. He could feel tiny ebbs and flows in the air. She was starting to believe. Finally. "Gold, you cannot be..."
He raised a hand, hushing Emma instantly. "Do be quiet, dearie, the grownups are talking. This is no longer about you."
Regina let out a shrill giggle, completely inappropriate for the situation. But they had all had enough of the little saviour. Gold swivelled his eyes back to the Blue Fairy. She stood resolute, ever proud. "Tell me, dearie, how long have you remembered?"
"For as long as you have." The ends of her lips twitched. "You think my magic couldn't overcome your curse? Like the darkness within you, it couldn't be dampened."
Emma retreated back from the group, a wise idea. Even Doctor Whale kept his distance. Good. The giants in the playground were waking, ready to play. Regina had her hands wrapped around her middle, trying to protect herself. But she couldn't. He could taste it - she had no more magic left until the curse broke. He had been stockpiling it, waiting for this day.
"Are you proud of yourself, Rumpelstiltskin? Look at all the pain you've caused. All the anguish." The Blue Fairy shook her head, trying to make him feel guilty. "What would Baelfire say if he saw you now?"
"Oh shut up!" Regina yelled from her corner at the Blue Fairy. The anger was building in her again, the anger that had broken apart an entire world. Until the curse broke, they only had words to fight with. "Do not act like you are so pure and innocent. I do believe it was you who recommended to dear Sir Maurice to let the clerics at his daughter."
His fingers tapping on the handle of his cane stopped for a heartbeat until his head could understand what he had just heard. The monster in his chest awoke, and he felt the Dark One claw at his ribcage. She had...she had let them do that to Belle? He snarled and took one step forward and the fairy stumbled into a hospital bed. He enjoyed seeing the Blue Fairy scared.
He watched her try and compose herself. After a heartbeat too long, she raised her eyes to meet his. "She was full of promise; she needed to be cleansed of your evil. Even if she had broken your curse, you would have broken her. The best thing you ever did for her was driving her away like you did Baelfire."
He wouldn't have broken her. He loved her. She made him a better man. She made him human. "You don't get to play in other people's lives, dearie. Not when you're not welcome."
Pivoting round, he jabbed his cane at Regina, shoving it against her throat. Emma was on her feet again, but the poor girl was lost amongst the energy in the room. This wasn't a place for good soldiers. He dug against Regina's throat, just like he had done to Moe French all those weeks ago. He heard footsteps coming up behind him. No doubt he would be stopped before he went too far. Hopefully he would have time to do some damage.
"Don't think you're off the hook so easy, dearie. If you hadn't decided to play around with me then I would still have her. She would still be alive." There was a sound from the Blue Fairy behind him, but he ignored it. "But I already got my revenge on you, dearie. The curse could take on any form; it didn't have to remove everyone's happy endings. Just take them here. When you came to me whimpering about poor little Snow, I just couldn't help myself. I made the curse for Bae, I designed it for you. When you cut out your father's heart - the heart of the thing you loved most - that was for Belle."
"It's good to know I bring out the best in you."
No. Not. Possible.
"I see Regina didn't tell you she borrowed your...housekeeper after the clerics had taken care of her."
The Blue Fairy's words stung his ears. He couldn't look around. She wasn't real, she was just magic. The curse was breaking; he could feel it all around them. She wasn't real. He dug the tip of his cane into Regina's throat harder. "You bitch. I will tear your throat out. I will..."
He felt hands go around his chest. One hand oh he remembered that being around his neck from the curtains yes he did touched his shoulder. The other wrapped around his cane bearing hand and brought it down to his side. A chin rested on his shoulder, but he couldn't look. He couldn't see an illusion. He screwed his eyelids tight, not wanting to fall victim to more trickery. Eventually the hand that clung to his cane moved to his face.
"Open your eyes Rumpelstiltskin."
They snapped open at the sound of her voice
Her brown curls, usually so sleek and sophisticated, were in a mess of tangles. She was wearing hospital scrubs with a piece of plastic slapped around her wrist like some common inmate rather than the princess she was. But she was biting her lip, like she always did when she was nervous around him. Her touch was still soft and her eyes were still bright and blue and as loving as they had ever been.
His Belle. His Belle was alive.
"I thought you were dead," he admitted. If he had known. "I would have torn apart this world and any other to find you if I..."
Her thumb brushed over his lips. He could kiss her now. If she would take his kiss. He would give her anything for one single kiss. She smiled softly at him. "I know. I know."
"She needs to..." He turned back to Regina. She was backed against the wall, frozen in fear of the monster in front of her. No magic, no friends. He could feel the rage boil up in him. He would tear out her heart for this. "You need to pay."
"And she will." Belle's hands trembled over her face. She was here. She was... "Take me home, Rumpelstiltskin. I need to go home."
His brain needed to catch up. He couldn't quite recognise her face in Storybrooke, couldn't quite understand that it was her hand buried in his own. Her lips brushing against his cheek. But he would put aside vengeance for today and take his love home if she required that of him. He jerked his dark gaze up to Regina, watched as she continued to shrink in front of him. The Blue Fairy had moved out of his reach, too. Probably for the best.
He turned away from them all to look at Belle. Gold got his first good look at his love for over three decades. Despite her thinness, her ragged hair, she was still his Belle. She still stood tall, her back straight and her eyes full of hope and defiance. The clerics hadn't broken her, Regina hadn't broken her. How could he have broken her, when she was...when he belonged to her?
"Your majesty..." He started, taking Belle's hands within his own and leading her towards the corridor. "You're on your own."
They passed the Hatter on the way out of the corridor. He nodded to Belle as they passed. He would need to thank the madman it seemed. Perhaps a visit to the school tomorrow would be in order. As they walked down, hands entwined, he heard Regina. "Jefferson, what have you done?"
"I was bored, I went for a walk."
Henry would be fine. Emma would soon figure it out, maybe after some pushing from the Hatter as to how to rescue him. Regina would be dead by nightfall if the curse truly broke, that he knew for sure. The Blue Fairy would be a problem...for now.
Outside the hospital, the wind was picking up. A storm was coming, he could taste it. Magic was coming. He felt it caress his skin, felt it tease and seduce. She could sense it too, he could see Belle shiver. Maybe that was just from the cold. He ripped the coat off of his back and immediately flung it around Belle's shoulders. She snuggled into the warmth of his coat, the warmth of his body as he drew her closer.
He touched her chin. "You were right, Belle." How he regretted letting her go.
She beamed at him. He didn't deserve her but oh how he wanted her. "I always am. The curtains were definitely better down."
Resting his forehead against hers, Gold stroked her cheek as they laughed together. "Regina did have something I wanted after all," he mused to himself as he clasped the other side of her face.
Her eyes burned into his. She wasn't afraid of him. He would be. Her absence had done nothing but inflame the monster, the madness in him. But her hands were clinging to his like they missed his touch. Tomorrow he would apologise, beg for her forgiveness. Tomorrow he would confess every sin, every misdeed, every second he had missed her. But that was tomorrow.
The kiss was chaste, very similar to their first one. Eyes closed, lips pressed against each other. She was trembling in his arms and he pulled her closer, resolved to never let her go again. In the sky above thunder rumbled and lightning highlighted every dark shadow in Storybrooke. They broke apart with a sigh, both wanting the touch of lips again. But the darkening clouds over head signalled rain and sparks.
"You still owe me a story," Belle whispered, a tear slipping down her cheek.
He kissed where it fell next to her mouth. "I owe you the world."
"I'll settle for you."
Their third kiss was anything but sweet as lips crashed with the thunder, teeth nipped as lightning hit a power line across the street from them. He kept moaning her name, desperate for her to hear how much he loved her. She clung to him, arms thrown around his neck. He would protect her this time. He would.
Gold and Belle looked around Storybrooke, looked at the town falling to its knees. He would deal with the curse and Regina and the Blue Fairy tomorrow. Today was theirs.
He walked away from the growing storm with his hand tucked inside Belle's.