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By the time Belle finished walking back into town, her fury had faded to regret.  And then to pain.  She tried so hard not to think on the long walk, tried not to listen to the voice of her husband in her head, pleading with her, admitting he was afraid, crying and begging while she broke his heart.  But all of her efforts to ignore those memories failed.  Perhaps that was the most honest that Rumplestiltskin had been with her in a long time, but now she will never know, will she?  She will not know what was truth and what was lies, because she was too buried in her own pain to listen to his.  Yes, her heart was broken.  Yes, it still is.  But now his was, too, and there was no getting him back.  So, she was left running through the memories over and over again, realizing that she had not let him even say a word in his defense because she’d been too afraid that she would give in.

Perhaps Belle did the right thing for Storybrooke, stopping the Dark One and saving Hook’s life.  But she wronged her husband, wronged Rumplestiltskin, greatly, and her steps turned heavy once the enormity of what she did hit her.  She could have stopped him another way, but instead she chose to banish him.  To banish him with nothing.

That realization hit her once she reached the town, and Belle headed to the pawnshop quickly after that, grabbing the spare keys to the Cadillac, a briefcase, his cane, and then driving out to the town line.  Rumple undoubtedly had his wallet on him, but he’d never been a believer in credit cards.  Belle knew how little cash he tended to carry, and she saw him collapse to the ground in pain when his right leg gave out.  Rushing to the town line in her husband’s caddy, promising herself that she’d go with him if he’d have her—or even if he wouldn’t—Belle blew past every stop sign and broke every speed limit.  Tears blurred her vision as she drove, but she didn’t care.  Yes, Rumplestiltskin had betrayed her, but she had betrayed him right back.  Surely, they could find some sort of common ground if they worked hard enough at it, if she could apologize and he could, too.  It wasn’t too late.  It wasn’t—

But her walk back to town had taken too long.  By the time Belle reached the town line again, Rumplestiltskin was gone. 

She almost followed him, but where would she go?  Belle didn’t know the world outside Storybrooke at all, and how would she find him?  The terrible feeling of heavy regret and heartbreak would not leave her.  It settled in her stomach alongside the horrible feeling of betrayal she had felt when she realized Rumple had been lying to her all along.  That knowledge had utterly broken her; finding the gauntlet, having it lead to the real dagger—

“Oh.”

The word slipped out as Belle sat in the car staring at the town line, trying not to think about the times she had done this very same thing with Rumplestiltskin.  The gauntlet leads you to a person’s greatest weakness, Rumple had told her back in the Dark Castle.  Which is usually the thing a person loves most.

Belle barely made it out of the car before she vomited, falling to her hands and knees on the hard asphalt, gagging and retching and shaking.  You make me stronger, Rumplestiltskin had told her.  What if she’d been wrong? What if the gauntlet only led Belle to his greatest weakness, not the thing he loved most?  Finding the gauntlet and following it had made the world drop out from under Belle’s feet, had made her question the one thing she had never questioned before: Rumplestiltskin’s love for her.  Because of that, she told him that his true love was his power…and she hadn’t let him say a word in his defense.

There was nothing left in her stomach to vomit up, but that didn’t keep Belle from dry heaving several times more as the depth of what she had done sank in.  Oh, her regrets and her actions didn’t erase Rumple’s lies, or the fact that she’d found him trying to crush Hook’s heart, but the underlying assumption that fueled her heartbreak was that he loved his power more than he loved her.  And maybe he did.  She had no way to know because she hadn’t let him answer.  But maybe he didn’t, and maybe the gauntlet had just led Belle to his greatest weakness.

Brokenly, Belle turned to stare at the town line, at the red painted barrier that she had forced her husband across.  It didn’t matter now, did it?  He was gone.  He could never come back.  And it was her fault.


 

The next time she saw Rumplestiltskin, Belle told herself that she should not have been surprised.  There he was, the Dark One, in all of his fury and all of his power, dressed impeccably and with his aloof expression showing none of the heartbreak Belle had seen that fateful night.  Seven weeks had passed, Seven weeks while Belle flogged herself and tried to be there to help everyone who needed help.  But whatever Rumple had been doing during those seven weeks, he was obviously the same as he ever had been.  She hadn’t expected him, not then, and the first words they spoke had been ones full of anger and hatred. 

“Didn’t expect to see me again, did you, dearie?” her husband snapped, and Belle could see none of the broken, frightened man beneath the rage he displayed.

“You can’t be here,” she’d stuttered far more stupidly than she wanted to, staring at him and trying not to revel in the fact that Rumple was back.  Rumple was here.  “I—I exiled you.”

Rumplestiltskin’s smile was hard, cold, and nothing like one he’d ever turned on her.   “Since when have you known me to respect little things like town lines?” he taunted her, and Belle felt her heart break all over again.  But her fury ramped right up to meet his, even if she was dying inside.

“No, I guess I shouldn’t have expected that,” she shot back.

Yes, he was back.  But now he was angry and dark, and allied with the Queens of Darkness.  Rumplestiltskin left her standing there on the street outside the pawn shop they had once spent so much time in together, left Belle standing there wondering if her seven weeks of regret had been worth anything at all.  Maybe she had been right.  Maybe his True Love was his power, and maybe Belle had never been anything more than a smokescreen for him.  Maybe his words of love and devotion had been meaningless.  Was the mirror right?  Did he only marry me because I was weak enough to be caught up in his schemes?

Perhaps the man she had loved was only a dream.  Perhaps Belle had made him up in her mind as a way to deal with the lonely imprisonment in the Dark Castle, and Rumplestiltskin had never been redeemable at all.  And yet…she still loved him.  Belle knew that she would never stop, no matter how angry she was. 

Looking down the street to make sure Rumplestiltskin was gone, Belle slowly headed towards the Cadillac.  She had buried the dagger five weeks ago as her penance, because she’d wanted to carry it everywhere as the only memento of Rumple she had left.  Instead, she’d forced herself to bury it.  The dagger’s absence was a reminder to herself that she was no hero for doing what she had did to him, even if the others celebrated the fact that she had saved Hook, and perhaps the entire town.  But now it was the only way to control the Dark One once more, the only way to stop Rumplestiltskin from carrying out whatever his evil plan was.

Briefly, Belle considered digging it up, summoning him and having the talk she had dreamed of having.  Of speaking with one another honestly, of apologizing, of rebuilding their love.  But his fury had been so easy to see.  He hated her now, and wasn’t bothering to lie about it.  Not anymore, anyway.  Belle didn’t know if he’d been lying before, and now she wasn’t sure that she wanted to know.  All she knew was that she still loved him, despite everything.  And that meant that she couldn’t trust herself.

 She needed to give someone else the dagger, lest she give in and believe Rumple’s lies all over again.


 

“I can’t trust myself,” Belle said honestly, offering the dagger to the pirate who Rumplestiltskin had almost killed.  She knew that Hook wouldn’t kill Rumple—he didn’t want to be the Dark One—and hopefully his love for Emma would help him do the right thing.  Hook had been right about Rumplestiltskin all along, after all, and Belle felt that he’d almost lost the most because of her husband.  She still couldn’t bring herself to trust Regina, not after having been locked up by her for almost thirty years, and the thought of admitting her failings to Emma or one of the Charmings was almost too much to bear.  But Hook had been a villain.  He had done terrible things and had lived to regret them.  Surely Hook would know how to do the right thing when Belle was too weak to do so.

“I understand,” the pirate replied, and he looked so damn honest about it.  Hook had helped Belle dig up the dagger, and she was starting to think that he, at least, really had changed.  Perhaps Emma was a much better judge of character than she was.  “The Crocodile did a number on you, love.  I can’t blame you for not wanting to deal with him again.”

“I’m afraid that I’ll give it back to him,” she whispered, staring at the dagger.

Rumplestiltskin, it said, shining softly in the street lights.  She wanted him back so badly that it hurt, but the man she wanted never had existed, had he?

“Well, you can trust that I won’t do that,” Hook said dryly.

Every instinct Belle had was screaming at her not to hand the dagger to the pirate, not to give the one weapon that could hurt Rumplestiltskin so deeply to the man who hated him most of all.  But Belle’s instincts about Rumplestiltskin had been wrong all along.  Hook must have been right to hate him so much.  So, she forced herself to open her fingers, forced herself to let the dagger go.

“Promise me that you’ll only do what has to be done,” she begged Hook.

“Aye, I’ll do that,” the pirate replied, and Belle nodded tightly.  Her heart told her she was wrong, but it was her heart that she couldn’t trust, so she turned and drove away as quickly as she could, refusing to look back.

Just like she’d refused to look back at her sobbing husband on the other side of the town line.  Perhaps she had done the right thing that night.


 

When he felt the now-familiar tug of a summons, Rumplestiltskin’s first reaction was abject terror.  He had prayed that Belle would just hide the dagger away and only use if it she felt he was doing something terrible, that she would not break him into pieces by controlling him yet another time.  He hadn’t reacted well when he’d seen her laughing with Will Scarlet, acting like nothing was wrong and life was perfectly normal after she’d exiled him.  Part of Rumplestiltskin had thought—desperately believed—that Belle would feel at least a little guilty for throwing him into the world with hardly a cent to his name, crippled and frightened.  But she faced him like she was only surprised to find that he had come back, not like she had missed him at all.  Or like she had ever loved him.

But his second thought was that he had to be wrong, and at least now he would get to see her.  Talk to her.  Say some of the truths that had been burning in his mind for the last seven weeks, to tell her that he had come back to Storybrooke for her, not for power.  Belle needed to hear that, and Rumplestiltskin owed her the truth, even if she hated him forever.  Even if she locks me in a cage and treats me like Zelena did, he thought brokenly.  But he was hopeful, too.  Because it was Belle.

But it wasn’t.  When his magic took him to the person who had summoned him, Rumplestiltskin found himself in the middle of an empty lot, staring at a grinning Killian Jones.

“Well, it’s amazing how well this works, isn’t it Crocodile?”

“How did you get that?” Rumplestiltskin demanded, starting forward before the dagger came up and froze him in place.  But his first thought wasn’t fury; his first thought was of Belle, who Hook had tried to kill twice.  “What did you do to her?”

Hook was laughing.  “So much worry for the little wife, Crocodile?” he taunted him.  “I wouldn’t be so concerned.  She gave this to me.”

“She wouldn’t—”

“Silence.”  The word cut Rumplestiltskin off mid-sentence, and his objections died in his throat.  For a moment, he fought against the compulsion as Hook watched, red-hot pain lancing through his skull.

Finally, Rumplestiltskin just shut his mouth, fists clenched and fury raging.  He could feel Hook’s will through the dagger, could feel the darkness of the curse reaching out for the Dark One’s new master and egging him on.  Hook wouldn’t realize what the curse was doing to him, wouldn’t know that the darkness was now in him nearly as much as it was Rumplestiltskin, but a man with a soul like that would never be able to resist the dagger’s influence because he would never want to.  Claim though he might to be better, there was still plenty of darkness in the good pirate.  Belle had been able to resist the dagger’s darkness, but her heart was pure, unlike Hook’s. 

“Kneel.”

The command sizzled in, and Rumplestiltskin’s legs collapsed out from under him.  He crashed into the dirt, hissing in pain and fury, but even when he tried to speak, words would not come out.  Agony rose to greet his effort, and stars exploded in front of his eyes.

“Oh, now that’s a nice sight,” Hook smiled.

All he could do was glare.  Rumplestiltskin still couldn’t say a word.  He could only glower and do his best to bury the terror that accompanied the anger.  This was why he’d never been able to give Belle the real dagger back.  This was what haunted his nightmares, even if most of those nightmares wore Zelena’s face. Or Belle’s, a voice inside him remembered.  Those nightmares had never been logical, but now Belle had given Hook the dagger. 

Assuming Hook was to be believed.

“Now, it’s time for some ground rules, isn’t it?” the pirate said, obviously enjoying himself.  But Rumplestiltskin’s mind was still turning over the same thing over and over again.  She gave it to me, Hook had said.  Belle gave Hook the dagger. 

Rumplestiltskin had not known he could feel so betrayed.

“First off, you’re not going to tell anyone I have the dagger,” Hook continued, ticking off points with a twitch of his metal appendage.  “Secondly, you’re not to hurt Emma.  Or any of her family.  In any way.  And hurting includes killing or threatening, Dark One.”

He could still only glare, thinking over and over again about how Belle had given his soul to this pirate.  She had to hate him so much, and Rumplestiltskin had not known he could ever hurt this badly.

“Hmm…let’s see what else,” Hook continued, his lips twisting up into a pleased sneer.  “Ah, right.  That’s it.   You’re not to talk to Belle.  Not a word.  No apologies, nothing at all.  Understood?”

The demand for an answer finally overrode the previous command of silence, and Rumplestiltskin ground out the word: “Yes.”

His curse would not let him say anything else, much though he wanted to argue.  But before Rumplestiltskin could ask why, Hook continued:

“You really do love her, don’t you?”

Now that he fought.  Rumplestiltskin was not about to bare his shattered soul for this man, no matter what the circumstances—but white hot pain tore through him, making his limbs shudder and a soft gasp of pain tear out of him.  Broken and hurting, he fought for several more seconds (but Belle gave Hook the dagger, so she didn’t care for him, and this was just going to be his life now, wasn’t it?) before finally giving in.  “Of course I do!”

“Well, that makes this that much sweeter.  Because I assure you, Crocodile, that she has learned what you are, and she feels nothing for you.”  He shrugged, gesturing with the dagger.  “Otherwise, she’d never have given me this.”

A low growl emerged before Rumplestiltskin could stop himself, fury mixing with heartbreak and with his curse egging both on. 

“None of that,” Hook laughed at him again.  “Now.  Be on your way like a good little Dark One, and do as you’re told.”

Rumplestiltskin’s magic tore him away before he could object, and he landed back where he had started, his mind whirling past fury and into the many loopholes he could find in Hook’s commands.  But he couldn’t focus, couldn’t think.  All he knew was that Belle had given Hook the dagger, had done the one thing he had thought she would never do.  Having her send him across the town line as she ignored his pleas—and his admission of how afraid he was!—had broken him.  This just shattered him.

He had nothing left but evil now, did he?


 

It took him weeks to scrape up the courage to write a simple note, not to mention dozens of drafts that Rumplestiltskin threw away.  He’d seen Belle several times around town, yet his curse had forced him to remain silent.  So, he turned away from her each time, surprised when she called his name with pain in her voice.  But she gave Hook the dagger.  Just seeing her made him want to cry, though he did at least take his frustration out on Cruella when she merrily mentioned that she could make him a widower. 

Belle gave Hook the dagger.

He couldn’t get that thought out of his head, even when he tried over and over again to make himself stop thinking of it.  But why would she have done so?  But of course she would.  She hated him, as well she should.  He’d lied to her, used her, and hurt her.  Why should she not hate him?  Rumplestiltskin knew his own crimes; they’d eaten away at him each and every day while he’d kept the truth from her.  He’d promised himself over and over again that he would tell her the truth, but like a terrified fool, he’d waited too long, and now Rumplestiltskin got to pay the price.  Belle gave Hook the dagger.

And yet she still deserved the truth.  No matter what Belle had done, Rumplestiltskin had started this horrible cycle.  He had always known she would leave him, had always known that he never could deserve the love of someone like Belle.  Although he had never expected it to hurt quite this much, he had always known it was coming.  So he could do one thing right.  Just this once.  Because…even if it no longer mattered, even if he had destroyed everything they had once been, Rumplestiltskin still loved Belle.  He loved her too much to leave her thinking that he loved his power more than her.  Once, he’d told her that his power meant more to him than she did.  Now, Rumplestiltskin knew that was a lie.  He just was too afraid to live without power, and for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why it had to be one or the other.

So, he wrote:

Dear Belle,

I’ve written this letter a half hundred times, and it never comes out right.  So I won’t try anything fancy with words.  I’ll just tell it to you straight.

I’m sorry.  I lied to you from the beginning.  The dagger that Regina gave you was fake—I swapped it out when Zelena dropped it in the barn, because I wanted to see which of those so-called ‘heroes’ I could trust.  Watching Regina think she was controlling me and then walk away with the fake made me realize that they would never trust me, no matter what I had done.  I died to save them—though, if I’m honest, that was more for you and for Bae—but they didn’t care.  To them, I was only the Dark One.  A demon to be caged and controlled.

I swapped the daggers before our dance in the Sorcerer’s house.  I wanted you to have the real one…and then I found the hat.  I knew what it was immediately, because that hat is the only chance I have had of freeing myself from the dagger.  Of making sure no one could ever control me again.  And before you think that’s all about power, please understand that it isn’t just that. 

When Zelena got the dagger, the first thing she did was order me to kill you.  Right after I had done the only thing I could to save my son, an effort I knew would fail even then.  And that dagger will always be there to let someone force me to hurt you.  I wanted to be free of it, not just for myself, but so that I could be someone like you wanted me to be.  Someone who is free to make choices, and not trapped into becoming anyone’s slave ever again.

He almost wrote about what Zelena did to him, almost told her about the humiliation of being on his knees in the dirt before Hook, but Rumplestiltskin was not prepared to bare his soul that far for a woman who must now hate him.  Belle gave Hook the dagger.  She turned her back on you when you were on your knees and crying.  She does not care, the voice of logic told him, and Rumplestiltskin sat back in his chair before his tears could fall on the page.  He had to wait several long moments before he could write any more.  After several seconds of staring at the page, Rumplestiltskin almost tore up the letter and started once more.  Did he want to be that honest with Belle, after everything?  She deserved to know, but could he bear telling her?

I know I let you down.  I meant to let you keep the dagger, but I wanted my freedom so badly.  And I was a fool.  I almost admitted everything to you that day after we went to the Snow Queen’s cave, but I was too afraid of losing you.  Now I’ve done that, and I can’t blame you for never wanting to see me again.  Or…for doing what you did with the dagger.  At the town line and later.  Even if I will never understand that.   As you said, I’m a monster.  It’s no less than what I deserve.

That was true without telling her how badly she’d broken him.  He could hide that behind an apology.  He could exploit this loophole, try to give something back to Belle—even if it was just understanding of what had happened—and then work on getting the dagger back.  Because Rumplestiltskin might have been many things, but he was not going to be Hook’s slave.  Not even if that was what Belle wanted him to be.  Even if the spinner inside him, the coward who had crumbled at the town line and begged his wife to understand, wanted to give in because that was what Belle thought he should be, and she had always been the better one of the two of them.

But he only had power left, so that was what he would be.


 

The letter appeared on top of the book she was trying to bury herself in.  Belle was dead tired after running around town with Snow, Emma, and the others, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to sleep.  She’d tried to talk to Rumple again when she saw him, hoping that maybe they could clear the air without the dagger between them, but he’d disappeared almost as soon as he’d seen her, wearing a look on his face that Belle hadn’t seen since she’d forced him across the town line.  But he’d vanished so quickly that she wasn’t certain she’d seen it, and she’d tried to bury herself in her work to forget.  She didn’t know where Rumple was staying, or what he was doing with those Queens of Darkness, but the heroes needed help and Belle was trying to be there for them.

She recognized the writing immediately, and her heart did not leap when she saw it.  But that was Rumplestiltskin’s careful, tiny handwriting.  Belle would know that absolutely anywhere.  She tried not to stare at it every time she looked through the ledgers at the pawn shop, tried not to cry because she knew that she’d betrayed him every bit as much as he had her, and apparently Rumple was not willing to forgive that.  But at least Hook seemed to be acting with restraint where the dagger was concerned.  That was something.  Even if Rumple hated her, at least she hadn’t been wrong about Hook.

Still, Belle read the letter with indecent haste, realizing with horror that Rumple didn’t hate her.  He just seemed to think that she hated him.  And yet he was still being honest.  Brutally…honest.  Belle started crying by the end of the second paragraph, and by the time she reached the end, she was outright sobbing.

I am sorry, the letter ended, and there were dried tear stains on the page to match the wet ones Belle was putting there.  I know you won’t believe me, and that’s all right.  I deserve that.  And I wish I wasn’t so much of a coward, but even then I couldn’t tell you in person.  The pirate forbade me to even speak to you, and I can only assume that’s because you don’t want to see me.  So, consider this the last you will hear from me. 

Lo

Rumplestiltskin

Confusion warred with emotion for a long moment, and Belle finally just broke down and cried.  She couldn’t think right now, couldn’t stop to consider the fact that Hook had forbidden Rumplestiltskin to talk to her.  She just wanted to cry because she knew what those two letters meant, knew that Rumple still loved her as much as she loved him.  And yet somehow they were still on opposite sides in this mess, somehow they were still enemies…and she didn’t know how to fix that.

Later, Belle would decide that she needed to go talk to Hook about why he felt keeping Rumplestiltskin away from her was a good idea—Belle was sure that Hook had done it for good reasons, but for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why.  Belle just wanted to talk to Rumple, wanted to apologize for her own actions, too.  She had questions—a lot more questions—but if Rumple had been courageous enough to send her this letter, Belle could match that courage with her own.  They’d been good once, or at least she thought they had, and Belle wasn’t going to leave it like this.  Maybe nothing would come of it, and maybe their hearts were both too broken to mend.  But she could at least tell him that she was sorry, too.


 

This summons caught him unawares, but Rumplestiltskin was somehow not surprised to find himself in the clock tower when his magic deposited him in front of the man who held his dagger.  Hook was smiling again, his expression dark and greedy, and the shiver that tore through Rumplestiltskin was a thing of sheer terror.  He could see his curse working on the pirate, could see the darkness reaching into a heart that had already been stained by misdeeds of its own.  Belle could not have known it when she gave Hook the dagger—or at least Rumplestiltskin prayed she had not—but the pirate was the ideal candidate for that darkness to take advantage of.  He’d focused on revenge and hatred for too long.  And it had its claws in deep already.  Rumplestiltskin could tell.

“What do you want?” he snapped.  Two weeks had passed since he’d seen the pirate, and as far as Rumplestiltskin was concerned, if he never saw Hook again, it would be too soon.

Particularly given the dagger held in the pirate’s hand and the smile on Hook’s face.

“Now, now, Crocodile.  Be polite.”  A twitch of the dagger sent Rumplestiltskin crashing to his knees, and he grunted as he hit the ground.  “I rather prefer this view of you.”

“Glad to be of service,” he bit out from between gritted teeth. 

Hook chuckled again, and Rumplestiltskin thought he could see a hint of madness in his eyes.  Power corrupts, dearie, he didn’t say.  And it’s corrupting you now.

“Oh, I’m sure you will be in time.  First, I have some questions for you,” the pirate taunted him, and cold metal of the dagger touched the underside of Rumplestiltskin’s chin, forcing his head up so that he had to look Hook in the eye.  The touch made him tense; the metal burned him, ever so slightly, but his curse would not let him pull away.

“Like what?” he demanded, using anger to hide his fear.  He would not let Hook know how much he hated being on his knees, would not let this damn pirate know how terrified he was of anyone controlling him. 

“Well, to start, I’d like to know how you’re enjoying avoiding your little wife,” the pirate drawled.  “Is she confused yet?”

“What?” Rumplestiltskin whispered, the question catching him off guard.

“You didn’t think that was her idea, did you?  Oh, no.  I wanted you to know how it feels, Crocodile.  How it feels to be unable to tell her how you feel, or even that you’re sorry for what someone is forcing you to do?” Hook taunted him.  “Or do you not have enough human feelings for that?”

“I have feelings,” he growled, choosing to answer the last question instead of the rest.  But Hook obviously wasn’t in a helpful mood.

“Then how does it feel, Dark One?”

Rumplestiltskin hesitated, and pain rose immediately.  He should know better, particularly after his time with Zelena, but he tried to fight it, anyway.  It was none of Hook’s business, how he felt about not being able to talk to Belle.  He’d sent that note to her the night before, but Rumplestiltskin found that doing so didn’t make him feel any better at all.  It just made him miss her more.

“Answer me!” Hook barked, and the pain increased tenfold.

A gasp of pain tore out of him before he managed to say: “It feels horrible.”  

“Good.  It’s about time you knew how I felt when you made me work against Emma.” The dagger pushed his chin up a bit higher.  “Just like I chose this place to meet with you.  Because it’s where you almost killed me, and your little Belle saved me.”

“Well, now that you’ve proved your point, can I go?” Rumplestiltskin snapped, and the dagger bit into his chin.  He yelped, and then clamped his jaw shut to keep the pain inside.

“Now, why would I let you do that?” Hook countered, smiling again.  “I have a job for you.”

“Fine.  What do you want?”

“You’re going to show this town what a demon you truly are,” the pirate told him, clearly relishing the moment.  Was that the curse working on him, or had Hook cherished thoughts like this on his own?  Rumplestiltskin thought it was both, and his heart started beating a little erratically as he tried to guess what Hook had in mind.  “I thought that turning you loose might do that, but apparently, you do have a little bit of self-restraint.”

“Surprise, surprise,” Rumplestiltskin muttered, hoping that Hook wouldn’t ask what his motives in coming back to Storybrooke were.  He’d already had to tell this damn pirate too much.  He wasn’t going to volunteer a damn thing.

“Shut up,” Hook snapped spitefully, and Rumplestiltskin felt the command hit him like a blow.  His head snapped back slightly, which at least gave him a little space away from the dagger, but it didn’t help him look away from the angry blue eyes that were glaring down at him.  “I’m going to teach you a lesson, Crocodile.  One you’ll never forget.”

He knew where this was going.  Knew it deep in his soul, but the command to shut up still lingered, even as age old words echoed in his mind: I hurt his heart.  Belle is just where he keeps it.  Apparently the pirate’s ability to be ‘good’ was not everything he claimed it was.  So much for reformed villains.

“Oh, yes,” Hook said softly, obviously seeing the horror on Rumplestiltskin’s face.   The pirate shifted the dagger away from his throat, gesturing with it angrily.  “I’m going to make sure you losethe woman you love this time.  Because you’re going to kill her.”

Words just wouldn’t come.  Rumplestiltskin’s mouth gaped open, but that last command had not lifted, and he just watched Hook laugh while he tried to object.

“You murdered one wife, after all.  No one’s going to be surprised when you murder the next one after she betrayed you like that,” the pirate gloated.  “So, you’re going to kill Belle. You’re going to rip her heart out, and make her watch as you crush it.”

Either emotion overrode the command or it ran out, but the words tumbled out of Rumplestiltskin in a rush.  “Don’t do this,” he begged, any thoughts of preserving his own pride long gone.  “Belle’s innocent.  She doesn’t deserve this.”

“Neither did Milah!”  Hook snarled.  “And neither did Emma, when you tried to kill her!”

“Please don’t make me do this,” Rumplestiltskin whispered, not having any way to argue with Hook’s points—he’d known that Milah didn’t deserve death even when he killed her, but that had been centuries ago and Rumplestiltskin couldn’t change that now.  And Emma, well, that had been a mistake he was still glad had not worked out for him.  But Belle…  “She saved your life!  And this is how you repay her?”

“That’s why no one will believe I had anything do to with it,” was the smug response.

“Take your revenge on me however you want,” he said desperately, feeling tears start to gather in his eyes.  “But don’t hurt her.  Don’t hurt Belle.”

“I won’t,” Hook retorted. “You will.”

Neither of them noticed Belle frozen on the stairs beneath them.