The large hall was packed to the rafters with people who had come to celebrate their special day. Old foes and old friends were there in their finest, bringing gifts and good wishes to the happy couple. They more than anyone had been foiled by the Queen, a woman desperate to keep them apart. But Regina was now a husk of her former self, and those who had chosen to return to the Enchanted Forest now lived in safety. Coronations had been given and celebrated, and now the age of the Enchanted Forest Council would properly begin after the marriage of Belle and Rumpelstiltskin.
"She's late," Rumpel whispered to his best man, folding his hands over himself.
Bae snorted and reached over to straighten his father's tie. His wedding suit was a mix of both his costumes as Deal Maker and Dark One. He wore his leather pants well, knowing his new wife wouldn't take long to get him out of them. His boots were shining, having spent two hours cleaning them the day before. His gold shirt was tucked into his pants, his burgundy vest and tie presented a vision. The cloak around his shoulders gave him an air of royalty, one that he had not earned. But considering he was on the council of this new alliance alongside his future wife, Rumpelstiltskin felt he should get used to it.
"I wasn't even this nervous when I married your mother," he hissed to his son, trying hard to calm his nerves. Even now, even after many nights lying beside Belle and hearing her say the words, he still couldn't believe how she loved him. It seemed such an impossible thought.
Bae grinned and placed a hand on his father's shoulder. Some days he couldn't believe what a man Bae had grown into - strong, handsome, honest. The best he could ask for. "That's because this is true love, it only happens once."
Rumpel didn't miss his son's surreptitious glance over to the other side of the hall where the White family and Emma stood. Even after the fall of Regina, Bae was still trying to get Emma to believe.
Just as the former Dark One was growing impatient and was willing to bring down the sky in order to find his love, the band began to play and the doors of the grand hall opened. And there she was. Her chestnut hair flowed in curls down her back; her blue eyes were the brightest thing among the jewels in the room. Her dress was the same blue as her eyes, cutting low on her chest and in at her waist. Ruby carried her train, ever the vision in pink. They hugged as they got to the altar, the two friends as close as sisters.
Her backless wedding dress revealed the scars of the clerics, but she now wore them proudly as badges of her love and her triumph over Regina. They were also the reason why her father wasn't in attendance, and why Ruby was the one giving her away.
Rumpel offered her his hand as she walked up to join him. "You're beautiful," he whispered, his gaze burning over her.
"Not so bad yourself," Belle replied, running a hand over his soft, human cheek. She was more important than any magic, and his now clear brown eyes were proof of that.
Archie was marrying them, having acquired his licence back in Storybrooke for Snow and James' remarriage. He requested all the guests to silence themselves while he conducted the rites that would marry them in this world and in any other. Rumpel knew he should be paying more attention to what was being said, this was essentially a contract and he always liked to hear the terms. But he couldn't keep his eyes away from Belle's - the deep pools of blue that had hooked him from the very first moment he had met her. She was beautiful. She was his.
"And will you, Rumpelstiltskin, promise to love Belle, through all manner of cursed days and magical nights?" His son had written the new set of vows, incorporating both worlds and all walks of life into the words. He would hit Bae later. After the honeymoon. "Will you, Rumpelstiltskin, promise to be by her side, to never leave her and to love her always?"
"In this world and the next, I will love her always."
Belle beamed as he said the words, her hands trembling in his own. No longer would she have to tremble. He would be there by her side no matter what would come.
Archie grinned as he turned to Belle. "Will you, Belle, promise to love Rumpelstiltskin through all manner of cursed days and magical nights? Will you, Belle, promise to be by his side, to never leave him and to love him always?"
Belle looked up at him, strength in her smile. "In this world and the next, I will love..."
The three syllables at the end of her vows were cut off by the opening of the large doors to the hall. Rumpel turned from his Belle to confront the late comer and possibly ask one of the fairies to turn them into a frog for ruining what was supposed to be a perfect moment between him and his love.
He stopped when he saw who it was.
It was Regina.
Her feet were still blistered from the destruction of Storybrooke, the ragged dress of the costume party clinging to her. Rumpel stepped forward, shielding his new bride from her gaze. He knew Belle could take care of herself - she had taken care of both of them on more than one occasion. But he protected what was his, whether it be his son or his wife.
"Congratulations to the happy couple," Regina hissed.
Rumpelstiltskin sneered. "Leave, Regina. You're not welcome here."
She snarled back at him, the anger in her eyes for him and him alone. Snow White and her family were not her problem anymore, she had a new enemy to face. "Do you think this is fair, Rumpel? That after everything you did, after everyone you hurt and manipulated and threatened that you get your happy ending? I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't think any of your guests deserve happiness. But you, Rumpel? You get the big wedding, the beautiful young bride. You get your son back."
Bae moved for his sword, but Rumpel rested his hand on his arm. He would not have bloodshed at his wedding. This occasion was to be pure, pure for his Belle. "We all sacrificed to get where we are, me included. We all made choices which led us here, which led you here. No magic, no family. Take responsibility and stop blaming other people for your misfortune, Regina."
He turned back to Belle and placed a hand on her cheek. He had always blamed himself for his life, always believed he was incapable of anything. He and Regina had always been the opposite sides of the same coin. But this time he had come out on top.
Bae and Emma stepped forward to remove Regina: it was time for her to go. But her laugh echoed n the hall, ripping Rumpel's thinly kept temper to shreds. He turned back to her, eyes blazing.
Regina's own eyes glinted. "I still have a little magic, Rumpel. Enough for one last spell for you and your princess."
Despite Emma and Bae's best efforts, Regina managed to throw a vial at their feet. The potion smashed, and Rumpel could feel magic crackle. Smoke coiled around them, the air tasted like acid. He could no longer do anything, couldn't save his bride. He had thought they were safe, but he had been wrong.
The last thing Rumpelstiltskin remembered seeing was his Belle with steel in her eyes, reaching out for him to take her hand.
Nicholas Rush woke up with a jolt, his temples throbbing with a headache. His sheets were covered in sweat, and his dream still held on to him. Fairytales...when had he ever believed in fairytales? He and his wife had never had a child to read them to, and Nick certainly hadn't delved into magic and stories since he himself had been a child. He had always been a man of science, relying on equations and machines to help him.
But formulae and circuit boards hadn't saved his wife, and they truly hadn't saved Mandy.
The radio crackled beside his bed, breaking Nick out of his dark train of thought. He picked it up. "Rush."
It was Eli's voice at the other end. "Hey...you ready to check over those pods?"
Nick smiled grimly. He should have been down at the bridge an hour ago, ready to join Eli and Brody in looking over the pods. Young wanted them all swept to make sure there was no one inside and to see which ones worked and which ones didn't. It would take a couple of days, would give him some chance to brood and Eli some chance to work out whatever issues hadn't been excised during Brody's deep freeze.
He rubbed his face, trying to remove the last traces of the dream from his skin. Already it was becoming a few brief seconds of thought, seconds that stayed with him. He remembered the woman in the blue dress, her eyes as clear and untroubled as the sky. Her eyes wouldn't let him go, they clung to him.
"I'll be there soon, Eli!" He clicked off the radio. It was going to be one of those days.
Nick put on the rest of his clothing and grabbed the radio as he left his quarters. The flashlight felt heavy in his hand as Nick travelled over to the section of the ship where Eli and Brody would be waiting for him.
Once he had arrived in the section with the pods, they began their search. They were accompanied by two soldiers, one in front and one behind to make sure they didn't run into any aliens, lizard people or cryogenically frozen former campers. Eli and Brody were wary of checking all the pods, but still marked off with a red pen the pods that had been checked and were working. A few had some problems, and were left blank for another day.
"How long we got left of this?" asked Sergeant Cryer, one of the marines.
Rush looked up from the last pod in that room to the bored soldier. He pulled his face back into a sneer, not liking to be hurried. "One more room, and then we'll head back."
The soldier nodded and Eli marked off the door as they entered the final room for the day. It just looked like all the others, except for one obvious difference.
One of the pods was being used.
"Holy crap!" Eli cursed from behind Rush, joining Brody in running over to run diagnostics.
Nick walked slowly over to the occupied pod. The soldiers had raised their guns, keeping a close watch on who was inside. He didn't know how this had happened, unless the person inside was an Ancient, someone who had manned the ship from the beginning. Someone who had set Destiny on her mission.
Eli scraped the ice off the front of the pod, and Nick felt his throat catch. He knew her face, knew automatically that her eyes would open to reveal the brightest blue he had ever seen. A cough alerted him to the fact that Eli and Brody wanted some guidance on how to open it up.
"Should we even try to open it?" Cryer asked. His gun was trembling - this was a new discovery, and considering their previous experience it could be the end of them all. But they had to take the chance, who knew what the brunette in the freezer could share with them.
Brody ran his hands over his table. "I don't even know how to open these things...run diagnostics, yeah, we can do that. She's perfectly preserved in there. But actually opening one of these..." Brody glared at Eli. "We're still not sure how to do it."
Nick smirked. "Oh it's perfectly simple, Mister Brody, if you have the right program."
It was about time they found out about his little prank. Nick watched with amusement as Eli's jaw dropped and Brody figured out it was Rush who had put him in the deep freeze. Pushing past the two men, Nick plugged his tablet into the controls and set about opening up the stasis pod. He had questions, the largest being why he felt a tear slip down his cheek as he looked upon the young woman's face.
"Rush...should we be doing this?" Eli asked at his elbow. "We don't know who she is, we don't know what she could be carrying...Rush, we should at least check with Colonel Young."
As Cryer radioed in, Rush couldn't help himself from pressing the few buttons on the tablet that allowed the young woman frozen in stasis to come back to them. As the pod sprang to life, the woman opened her eyes and lurched forward, grasping the edges of the pod. Her eyes were as bright as he expected, full of steel and hope. She didn't look around in an attempt to figure out her surroundings - her gaze was fixed on him and solely him.
"Rumpel?" she whispered, stumbling forward.
Just as she took her first step, she collapsed. Nick was there to catch her and he gathered the small thing up in his arms, pulling the brunette close. She was truly beautiful, such a sight to behold. Nick could understand why he couldn't take his eyes off of her.
"She's right, you know," Brody snorted as Rush checked her pulse and made sure she was breathing. Cryer was radioing for TJ to come to them as quickly as she could. "You do look like crap."
Nick shook his head, trying to ignore Brody's jibe. "It's a name. Rumpel is a name."
"I wonder what hers is," Eli mused, probably the last on a very long list of questions they had for her. But for some reason, Nick knew the answer to that one.
Belle, his brain supplied from a far off corner he hadn't remembered existed. Her name is Belle.