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Voyage of Discovery

Chapter Text

Author's Notes: I do not own Once Upon A Time. I don't. It's sad. Hi, readers. Thank you so much, please let me know what you think and happy reading.

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Every high school in America has a queen. At New Amsterdam Prep, it was Taylor Billingsley. Taylor was blonde and perfect and just what she thought she ought to be. She had the cute boyfriend, her dad had some big Wall Street job and her mother was descended from actual royalty, which she mentioned at every possible opportunity. When there wasn't one, she made one.

She acted like a queen, ruled over everyone with an iron fist with a Tiffany tennis bracelet around it.

Then there was Beatrice French.

Taylor hated Beatrice because she couldn't understand her. She was a quiet girl with thick brown hair and black plastic rimmed glasses that obscured brown eyes. She had no powerful connections, just a mother who worked at the New York Public Library. Taylor didn't even know what she was doing at this school. Beatrice took no interest in the daily dramas of her classmates, she stayed glued to her iPad, her iPhone and her Macbook. She did her work quietly and efficiently. She didn't get in Taylor's way, but she was hardly admiring her and Taylor didn't like that.

One day, a teacher put Beatrice in a group with Taylor because as usual Beatrice didn't have a group. It involved making political posters for history class. Taylor did all the talking with her friends and Beatrice did all the work.

"Beatrice, we need more glitter," Taylor announced.

Girls like Taylor always needed more glitter.

"It's in the supply closet. Go get it."

Beatrice went out in the hall and to the supply closet.

"Could have said please," Beatrice muttered, walking to the closet. She flipped the light on- the switch was outside- and went in to begin searching through the shelves for a suitable container of glitter.

In a swift sequence, the door opened and the light flipped off. Beatrice turned back and before she could do anything she heard the locks close.

"Oh, no." Beatrice went and banged on the door. "Hello? Someone's in here!"

There was no reply, just the sound of cruel, girlish laughter.

"Oh, come on, guys," said Beatrice.

Then she heard the dismissal bell ring and the deafening sound of students leaving and realized her dilemma.

The thing was that Beatrice had never gotten over her fear of the dark. She always had something on. Her night light, then the TV. She was useless in the dark, shaking. In all fairness, Taylor didn't know she was toying with one of Beatrice's deepest fears, she just thought she was humiliating her by getting her stuck in a closet for a while.

Beatrice was never very good at being fair while she was angry.

Beatrice spent an hour trying to get out. When that didn't work, she slumped to the floor and put her head on her knees trying not to fall apart.

After an infernal amount of time passed, Beatrice heard footsteps down the hall and muffled voices.

"Look, I know my daughter and trust me, if this bag is here, she's here-" Her mother's voice was unmistakable.

"Mom?!" She knocked on the door. "Mom!"

There was a flurry of footsteps and soon the light switched back on and the door was open. Her mother stood with the janitor holding the red leather messenger bag she had left in the classroom.

"Oh, Beatrice," said Belle. She gave her a kiss and a hug. "Sweetheart, what happened? How did you ever get stuck in there?"

There were two ways to play this. One, tell her mother everything which would involve a trip to see the headmaster, Belle shouting at him and a big meeting with Taylor and the other girls where eventually nothing would happen because Taylor's dad had just given the school money for a new aquatic center and Belle French had not. Belle worked at the New York Public Library but the not inconsiderable money for Beatrice's schooling came from some settlement she didn't talk about. Despite the fact that it cost more for a year here than a moderately priced new car, Belle would pull her out because she wouldn't let her daughter suffer, even for the best possible education. The first way got Beatrice nothing and she knew it right away.

Beatrice shrugged. "Just clumsy, I guess."

Beatrice was actually only slightly clumsy and had nothing on her mother's clumsiness. Clumsy was a convenient cover, though, especially for any kind of organized sport. She had only been made to play volleyball once in her life after the bruises on the other girls, which had actually been unintentional.

"Oh, my poor girl," said Belle. "Come on. Let's get you home."

Beatrice agreed and went home and said nothing because she didn't want to hurt her mother's feelings.

It didn't mean she was done.


Then

Belle French sat nervously in the conference room, digging her nails into her fingers. One of her lawyers, Kenya Watts, squeezed her hand sympathetically.

"It's going to be okay, Belle. She doesn't have any power over you now."

Belle nodded, not quite able to believe that. She looked down at her swollen belly, hoping that Kenya was right for the sake of her child.

The door opened. Mayor Mills walked in with a wall of dark-suited attorneys. They sat without a word.

The lead attorney for the City of Storybrooke was called Albert Spencer. He had a piercing gaze and Belle had a hard time imagining him as a nice man.

"Mister Spencer, is your client ready to talk?," asked Saul.

"I'm not giving her anything," Regina muttered under her breath.

"What was that, Ms. Mills?," asked Saul.

"Don't answer that," warned Albert.

"I am not giving that whore anything!," Regina shouted.

"Well," said Saul, "I see your client's on her best behavior today. Her sparkling personality will play well at trial."

"What trial?," Regina spat, ignoring her lawyer's expressions. "One look at that woman and any jury will know I was just trying to keep a public menace-"

"Public menace?," asked Saul. "To be a public menace you would have to charge her with something! You had her locked up in a mental hospital with no sign that she's a danger to herself or others! Not to mention the complete lack of prenatal care Miss French had before arriving in Boston. That's wrongful imprisonment and child endangerment! Do you know what wrongful imprisonment is? That's a civil rights violation. One call to the Justice Department and there are going to be investigators all over your sleepy little hell hole."

Regina's face gave away very little, but it was the first time Belle had ever seen her look something like panicked.

She turned to Albert. "You never said anything about an investigation. Would they send more people to Storybrooke?"

"They're bluffing," Albert reassured her.

"I went to law school with the First Lady," said Saul. "One call."

The tension hung in the air.

"Give her what she wants," said Regina.

"Mayor Mills-" Spencer tried to object.

"Whatever the price, pay it," said Regina. "Anything to get that imp's harlot away from me."

"Imp's harlot?," asked Saul. "Where do you get these insults from?"

Regina ignored the slight. "I have one condition."

"A condition?," asked Kenya.

"Belle French never sets foot in Storybrooke again."

Belle hesitated, her soft little voice finally coming out. "My father's still there-"

Regina scoffed. "He doesn't want to see you."

"I..." Belle stammered.

Regina leaned across the table. "Nobody wants to see you there. There is no one waiting for you."

"Belle, you don't have to agree to this," said Saul. "She has no right to ask this."

Regina was right. Moe French had made it very clear on their last visit, even sending her to talk with the nuns. What made her want to tell Regina no?

There was one other consideration. Her baby. She had no way of providing for her. She would have to give her up without it. Money was the only way to take control of her fate. Money would make sure her daughter had a life that was whatever she wished it to be.

"Fine," said Belle.

Saul looked to Regina and Albert. "Let's talk numbers."

"I'm done here," said Regina, standing up. She looked at Belle. She was wounded, but not down and couldn't resist adding in one last tidbit.

"He is never coming for you."

"Who?," asked Belle.

Regina plastered that icy smile on her face as Belle stared at her in panic. Then she left.


Now

Taylor walked into school, expecting the bodies to part as she walked the halls as usual. They did, but they were accompanied by whispers and stares, not admiration.

"Oh my God, Taylor," said Harper, one of Taylor's chief lackeys. "How could you be so stupid? To send all that stuff to everyone?!"

"What stuff?"

Taylor noticed everyone looking at their phones. She walked over and ripped one out of the hand of a mousy freshman.

Taylor's scream could be heard all the way out at the new aquatic center her dad had paid for.


Beatrice had waited out the morning in her usual spot in the library. She was able to just get snippets of the gossip as it made its way through the school. She spotted Taylor and her death glare in the reflection of the special display case. Beatrice turned back to her Macbook.

"Hi, Taylor. You look a little pale. Couldn't get a spray tan appointment?"

"You evil little..."

"Is something wrong, Taylor?"

"You hacked my computer, you put my Facebook and my texts and my grades and-"

How could it be considered hacking if her password was something as easy as MrsBieber4ever? "I don't like what you're accusing me of, Taylor. I was as surprised as anyone to see you telling the whole school all of your secrets. Still, it's liberating in a way, isn't it?"

"You know you did it! You're always on your computer doing God knows what!"

Yeah, like reading, Beatrice thought. "What I know, Taylor, is that you're not very nice to people and sooner or later, something like this was bound to happen." She paused. "Look on the bright side, there were no pictures."

"Pictures?," Taylor asked.

"Yeah, I mean, I've heard that some people keep all sorts of embarrassing pictures on their phones and computers. At least you didn't have anything like that."

Taylor's face was red by now and she looked ready to spit blood. She took one step towards Beatrice and that's when she added...

"I would imagine, Taylor, that if you were to plan any sort of retribution against the person who did this, they would release any of those sorts of pictures."

"You little bitch."

"Yeah, back at you," said Beatrice, collecting her things. "Excuse me. I have to get to class."

Beatrice walked past Taylor leaving the girl seething.

Revenge felt pretty good.


Then

"How is she?"

Belle looked up from her book and smiled. "August, I'm sorry, I-"

"You were caught up in the book," he said, sitting on the bench next to her.

Belle nodded. "Guilty as charged."

It was a chilly November day. August had agreed to meet Belle here in Shepherd's Bush. Belle was the only mother to venture out with an infant and got some stares. August was the only one that understood the reason why, that Belle still unknowingly hung onto her ways from their old land. There were other dangers in this world, but August wasn't convinced cold air was one of them. He peered into the stroller. The baby girl was sleeping and bundled up, a stuffed lamb keeping her company.

"What's she called?," asked August.

"Beatrice."

"Beatrice?" August couldn't hide his surprise, though, considering her father's name she had gotten off easy.

"Why does everyone have that reaction?"

"It's not a name you hear a lot..."

"Have you read Much Ado About Nothing?"

"No..."

Belle gave him a chastising look. "Some writer you are. Two lovers with a war of words between them."

"And Beatrice is the girl?"

"She's a strong, intelligent, independent-minded woman who settles for nothing less than true love."

"That reminds me," said August. He held up a bag.

"Oh, August, you didn't have to do that."

"New baby gets a gift," said August.

Belle took the bag and pulled out an ornate, leather bound book with "Once Upon A Time" in gilded letters. "What a beautiful book," she said, caressing her hand over the letters. She began flipping through the pages. "How lovely. Thank you."

"I thought you might like 'Beauty and the Beast.'"

Belle groaned. "Is it the name thing? Everyone says that."

"Well, it's the name thing," August admitted. "And the book thing. Not to mention you kind of look like her."

Belle looked at the illustration and was unimpressed. "Lots of people look like her. Shouldn't this beast be hairier?"

"None of these are the usual tellings," said August.

"The Ogre War?," Belle asked skeptically. "Are these even meant for children?"

"They're meant for her," said August, looking at the baby.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Your girl has a destiny." He quickly amended that upon Belle's worried look. "Everyone does. This will help her."


Now

"I'm home!"

Belle French entered balancing an armful of books, a pastry box and her over-sized bag. She put down the stack of books next to another stack from a previous borrowing.

"Beatrice, where are you?"

"In here, Mom!"

Belle went to Beatrice's bedroom. The girl was as usual, glued to her iPad.

"What's up?," she asked.

"I am so sorry that I'm late!," said Belle, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "I am a horrible mother."

"Did you get the collection?"

"Yes, we did. You're so sweet to ask." Belle smiled and ran her hand through her daughter's hair. "I got to read the email from school. Something about cyber security?"

"Oh, that girl, Taylor, she had all her texts and Facebook messages forwarded to the whole school. And she was cheating on her boyfriend, buying papers and had an appointment to see a plastic surgeon about butt implants."

The butt implant thing might have been made up, but it was going to happen sooner or later Beatrice reasoned.

"Oh my," said Belle. "How terrible. What a thing to happen on your birthday."

Beatrice shrugged. "It's not like people really take notice of me anyway, Mom."

Belle looked at her sadly and gave her a hug. "Well, I do. Come on. I've brought you something."


Beatrice followed her mother to the kitchen. Belle took out a pastry box and opened it revealing a box full of cupcakes adorned with buttercream red roses. She took one out and placed it on a small blue floral china dish.

"From the Cupcake Cafe?," asked Beatrice.

"Only the best in the city for my Beatrice." Belle placed a candle on top and lit it. "Make a wish."

Beatrice made the wish she had made every year since she discovered what wishes were for. They weren't for toys or games, but things you couldn't get to on your own. Things you needed magic for. That was why you couldn't tell anyone: revealing the intention made the magic lose its power. At least that's what she had decided.

She wished she could find her father and blew out the candle.

Belle gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"Oh, God, eight-fifteen," said Belle. "Time to order dinner."

What Beatrice couldn't know was that she shared a birthday with someone and she had also just made a wish.

Chapter Text

Author's Notes: I do not own Once Upon A Time. Thanks for the follow and the reads. Please let me know what you think and happy reading!


Now

Travel was one of Belle French's favorite pursuits, right after reading. It was important to her to see the world and even more important for her daughter to see the world. She wanted her to know what was out there and decide what she wanted to make of her life. Since entering her sophomore year of high school, this had involved supposedly casual trips to ivy league schools. Beatrice had been less gullible since Belle decided a spontaneous trip to New Jersey was in order to see Princeton. That was followed by a spontaneous five hour stay in the library.

This trip was different and at least involved a plane ride and a nice hotel. There was a librarians' convention in New Orleans and it happened to fall over a long weekend at school.

After Belle's sessions were done for the day, she and Beatrice went to see the sights that all tourists saw: the French Market, the Audobon Zoo and Aquarium and went for beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

The restaurant was open air and always busy. They could smell the river and hear the sounds of ships passing. Belle laughed as Beatrice tried to eat one of the beignets without getting powdered sugar all over her clothes and inevitably failed, ending up with a coating of sugar on her glasses.

"Wait, wait," said Belle, getting out her phone. "I need a picture of this."

"Seriously, Mom?," she asked. "I'm fifteen not one. This isn't cute, it's just pathetic."

"Oh, but you are cute. You will always be cute to me."

Belle did her worst with the camera and Beatrice set to cleaning off her glasses with the hem of her shirt.

"Why do you take pictures?," asked Beatrice.

"All mothers take copious amounts of pictures."

"To show, but we don't have anyone to show them to."

Belle frowned. "I suppose you're right."

"Do you ever think of talking to your dad?"

"No," said Belle. "He wants nothing to do with us. He made that very clear. So I want nothing to do with him."

Beatrice nodded and put her glasses back on.

"Let's not be depressing," said Belle. "I'm thinking let's get more sweets."


Then

"What are you doing in those clothes?"

Belle looked up at Rumplestiltskin.

"What am I doing in these clothes?," she asked looking down at her usual blue work dress. She had been in the library of the Dark Castle, trying to organize it into something that made sense.

"We're travelling, pack your bags!"

Rumplestiltskin waved his hands. A poof of red smoke enveloped Belle and she was clad in a blue travelling gown and gold cloak.

"You know I hate when you do that."

"Thank you would have sufficed."

"We're travelling?"

"That is unless you don't want to go."

"You'd let me go?"

"You're going with me."

"Where?"

There was another puff of red smoke. Belle looked around and realized she was no longer in the Dark Castle. She was standing in something marshy. It was night wherever they were. A castle covered in vines stood not far away.

"We're in the Half Sunk Kingdom. I've read about this place."

"Ever been?"

"They say there's magic here from other realms," said Belle. She looked at Rumplestiltskin. "What are we doing here?"

"I have a business arrangement to make," said Rumplestiltskin. "You can wait outside."

"Wait outside?," asked Belle. "You brought me all the way here to wait outside?"

He shrugged. "Well, unless you have somewhere else to be, dearie."

Belle watched in disgust as he disappeared inside the castle.


Now

They went next door to Cafe Du Monde and bought pralines from a place called Aunt Sally's that smelled divine. They went to Jackson Square and Belle made Beatrice pose for pictures in front of the statue of Andrew Jackson.

"Do you want to go inside the church?," Beatrice asked motioning at the picturesque Saint Louis Cathedral.

Belle shook her head. "No, outside is good enough for me. I'm not much for churches."

There was a jazz band playing in the square. They listened to the music for a while then moved on to watch the street performers. There were various people doing tarot and palm readings.

"What do you think?," Belle asked.

"Palm reading? Seriously, Mom?"

"We'll have fun," said Belle. "Come on."

They stood in line and waited for an old woman in a purple cloak.

"How much?," asked Belle.

She looked at Beatrice quizzically. "Whatever you want to pay."

Belle shrugged and got out a twenty. She looked at her daughter. "Do you want to go first?"

"No, you first."

The woman took Belle's hand, tracing it with her finger.

"Oh, yes, I can see very clearly..."

Belle exchanged a mirthful smile with Beatrice and looked back at the fortune teller.

"There is a man. A dark man."

"A man?"

"Darkest of all. He looks for you in a cup."

"Well, I'm not there," said Belle.

"That doesn't stop him looking. He's a man."

"Sounds like a romantic," she said smiling at her daughter. Belle turned back to the woman. "You haven't got a name or something?"

"It's written on the blade of a knife."

Belle nodded. That was a little weird. "Right. Your turn, Beatrice."

Beatrice sat and held her hand out. The woman didn't take it.

"There's a swan."

"A swan?"

"You'll defeat a dragon."

Beatrice looked at the woman skeptically. "Are you sure you don't want to take my hand?"

"I can see your future as clear as day. You'll go on a quest and you will have to make a choice."

"Getting all that from just looking at me?"

"There's a darkness in you."

"Okay," said Belle, taking Beatrice's hand. "Thank you very much, but I think we are done here."

"You'll find him."

"Come on, Beatrice," said Belle, dragging her away.

"Find who?," asked Beatrice.

"It doesn't mean anything, Beatrice. It's just for fun," said Belle. "I thought I saw a bookshop down this street."

"You didn't think that it was just for fun when she said there was a darkness in me."

Belle stopped walking and looked at her daughter. "There's no darkness in you."

They went to the shop and Belle eagerly chatted up the owner of the establishment about the best of the local history section. Beatrice reached in her jacket to get her iPhone and found a tarot card with an address written on the back.

She flipped over the card to see what it was.

The Magician.


Then

Belle wandered through the marsh by the swamp. There wasn't much to look at. It was night and Belle had decided a swamp was a swamp.

She paid no attention to the sound of rustling in the water. A book she had read said it was full of nocturnal fish that came out to feast. Nothing to worry about.

Then she looked up to realize a huge winged creature was emerging from the swamp as if rising by smoke. It looked at her with hungry iridescent eyes and lunged towards her. Belle started backwards only to trip on her skirts in the marsh and looked up at the monster's snarl. Suddenly it burst apart like fireworks and Belle saw a dark skinned woman in a purple cloak standing nearby.

"You should be more careful around swamp dragons," said the woman. "It wouldn't do to have you swallowed up."

Belle caught her breath. "I don't know how to thank you."

"I'm the priestess of this land." She appraised Belle a moment. "Come inside."

The woman walked in a tent that Belle hadn't noticed before. Belle got up and did her best to get what dirt she could off the new frock and followed the woman inside.


Now

Beatrice waited until her mother went to another conference session to get to the address on the card. She found it in a somewhat dark street with an unassuming sign "Voodoo Objects and Services."

Beatrice walked into the shop. The old woman from the square sat behind the low counter.

"Welcome, Beatrice."

"How do you know my name?"

"I can see your name as plain as the nose on your face."

She took the tarot card out of her pocket. "The Magician. Why did you give it to me?"

"To give you an answer."

"An answer to what?"

"Your question. The only question you have. The only question you've ever had. Who is your father?"

Beatrice closed in on the counter. "How could you know that? How could you possibly know that?"

"Magic."

"Magic's not real."

"For the people of this realm, perhaps. Few of them can access what little magic there is in this land. You, however, are not of this realm."

"I'm from New York."

"But not conceived there."

"Ew..." Beatrice couldn't help but say.

"Your life began far away, but you're going back to it. Back to magic."

"Right, because my dad is a magician or something..." Which would be about the most embarrassing thing he could possibly be next to surf instructor.

Boy band member?

Billy Ray Cyrus. Yes, that was as bad as it could be.

"Until you believe in your own power, you'll never be able to find him."

"My own power?"

"Why don't you pick something?"

Beatrice looked back. There were three sacks on the counter she hadn't noticed before.

"They're all the same."

"Then you should have no problem making the choice."

Beatrice picked up the one on the right.

"You've chosen wisely. You'll need it where you're going."

"I am so getting out of here," Beatrice muttered.


Then

Belle followed the woman inside her tent. It was full of trinkets, some Belle recognized from the Dark Castle, but mostly new. She sat at a table and motioned to Belle to take the chair on the opposite side.

"Pick a card," said the woman in the cloak.

Belle looked, they were all face down. She pointed at one and the priestess flipped it over.

"Ah, the lovers."

"The lovers?," asked Belle. "Is that a good thing?"

"It suggests passion and an intense connection..."

Belle beamed at that.

"You have a choice to make."

"What?," asked Belle. "No, I don't."

"See, the card is reversed. It means you're not certain of your relationship, you're questioning the choice you already made and now you have to decide if you want to change your mind."

"No, I won't change my mind," said Belle.

"Is that wise?," asked the woman. "Sometimes we set off on a path and think there's no way back, but there is. Now is the time to decide if you want to go back."

"Go back?," asked Belle.

"This path leads you to darkness and isolation-"

"And true love," said Belle. "I won't give that up. I won't stop fighting for it."

The priestess collected her cards. "We'll see each other in the next world."

"The next world?," asked Belle.

The tent disappeared and Belle found herself sitting on the ground. She stood and again dusted herself off.

"Belle! Belle, dearie!"

Rumplestiltskin appeared out of the high grass. "Oh, good, you're there. I was starting to worry that I would have to find a new housekeeper. Come on. We're finished here."

"What about magic from another land?"

He shook his head. "just some interesting powder and we're off!"

"Rumplestiltskin-"

"Places to go, people to see, dearie!"

"Rumplestiltskin!," she screamed.

He turned back and wrinkled his face at her. "What did you shout like that for? Usually when people shout like that, I get their firstborn in return."

Belle decided to leave the matter of the firstborn for a later date. She was desperate to get this out at all. "Do you even want to love me? I saw your face change, I know it was true love, but do you even want to love me?"

He frowned at her.

"I've been back two months and we are scarcely different than when I left." She motioned around. "You brought me to a province neighboring my father's like you want me to escape!"

"Don't you want to escape?"

"Would I have come back if I did?"

"Oh, but you will, dearie-"

"Stop calling me 'dearie.'"

"Why?"

"You call everyone that. You call people you don't like that." Belle walked closer. "I'm not changing my mind. I just need you to believe in me."

"Belle..." He drew in his breath. "You deserve much more than I can give you."

"Can you give me love?," she asked.

Rumplestiltskin drew in his breath sharply. "Yes..." he said weakly, desperately willing it to be true.

"Then let me worry about what I deserve."

He appeared to consider what she had said. "As you wish."

Chapter Text

Then

Belle looked out the window of the horseless carriage. She was starting to recognize the outer limits of her father's lands. She soon went past the gawking villagers as they wondered at the carriage, what sort of magic it used and who the occupant must be.

The spring wildflowers were fully in bloom, palettes of color dotting the countryside. Belle had been many places, seen many things, but she was still taken with the beauty of her homeland.

She had not been home since she first left with Rumplestiltskin. When she first left him, she had wandered, but not home, either too embarrassed or unwilling to explain how her heart had broken. Now she had word that Sir Maurice was ill and needed his daughter's help. It took every bit of convincing Rumplestiltskin that she needed to go. She was a free woman, not that he liked to hear it. Still, Belle realized their arrangement would be a bit touchy with Sir Maurice to say the least. Perhaps that was the true reason she hadn't written her father, it was the sort of development that had to be explained in person.

She knew almost for certain that this would be her last visit home.

Once she was inside the grounds of her father's house, the carriage stopped. She got out and examined it. Nothing seemed broken, but then again she didn't know much about magical carriages.

She continued on through the garden to the entrance.

Her father's man, Jean, opened the door.

"Belle," he said in astonishment. "The beast let you leave?"

"Don't call him that," Belle warned. "I shall go to my father."

Belle began up the grand staircase.

Jean cleared his throat. "Sir Maurice is in the receiving room."

Belle turned back to Jean. "The receiving room? Surely he's too ill to be conducting business."

Belle made her way to the receiving room. The doors opened and she found Sir Maurice sitting in his chair. Off to his side, floating, was the Blue Fairy. Her presence gave Belle pause.

"Father?"

The doors shut behind Belle and she heard them lock.

"Hello, Belle," said the Blue Fairy.


Now

It was Saturday morning and the night before August had called to say that he was in town. Belle couldn't meet for brunch, but sent Beatrice.

She walked on her own. She was a New York kid. Walking on her own didn't bother her, nor did riding the subway. The restaurant was just a few blocks so she walked, but couldn't escape the feeling that she was being followed. She looked back after a couple of corners, but didn't see anyone.

"What does your mom do on Saturday mornings at the library?," asked August as he dug into his eggs.

Beatrice shrugged. "She helps with this charity thing, teen mothers who are studying for their GED.

"Does she get paid?"

"No."

"That's Belle..." said August.

"What do you mean?"

August shrugged it off. "She just likes to help people."

"Is that what she was like growing up?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"You know," said Beatrice, "it might be nice to have some stories about her. Something about her wild years? Something I could bring up when we're having knockdown drag out mother-teenage daughter fights."

August shook his head. "You're never going to have those. Your mom's too nice."

"What made you finally leave Thailand?," asked Beatrice.

"I've got some business to deal with," said August.

"Another deadline?"

"Yeah, you might say that."


Then

Belle listened as her father and the Blue Fairy speak for some time.

"No, Father, you have it all wrong. He let me go!"

"Yes, now we can save you," said Sir Maurice.

Belle shook her head. "No, I mean he let me go before."

Sir Maurice looked puzzled. "Before?"

"Yes, then I went back. I chose to go back."

"There's no need to keep your bargain with that monster, Belle."

Belle shook her head. "No, Father, that's not it at all."

Belle noted that none of this seemed to be a surprise to the Blue Fairy who had stayed oddly silent. Belle supposed her own Fairy Godmother had recounted their conversation to her.

"Yes, I went back." Belle decided to spare some of the details and what had happened in between. "I went back because I love him."

Belle felt her smile threatening to overtake her whole face. Sir Maurice actually looked ill now.

"He can never love you back, Belle," said the Blue Fairy. "The Dark One cares only for his own power. He lost his own son because of it."

"Yes, he told me about Baelfire and your role in it."

"He had only himself to blame," the fairy added.

"Yes, he realizes his mistake. He's changing. I know he loves me."

"Why? Because he gives you bribes?," Moe asked looking with contempt at Belle's golden adornments.

Belle looked down at her gown and the necklace. "These were gifts."

"Rumplestiltskin's gifts always come with a price," said the Blue Fairy.

Belle stood. "I am done."

"Belle, I forbid you to return to that monster!," Maurice shouted.

"No one chooses my fate but me and do not call him that." She walked back to the doors, having forgotten that they were locked. "Would someone open this?!"

She realized the Blue Fairy was floating next to her. "We know, Belle."

Belle felt her heart stop.

"Such events do not escape our notice," said the fairy.

"Know what?," asked Sir Maurice.

"Is this the reason I was summoned?," asked Belle. "Is this the reason for the ruse? Why you said my father was dying?"

"It was necessary," said the Blue Fairy.

"What if you were right? What if he hadn't let me come?," asked Belle.

"What is going on?," asked Maurice.

The Blue Fairy turned. "Sir Maurice, your daughter is going to have a child. The child of the Dark One."

Belle turned back to look upon her father. His face was a mixture of grief and dread and perhaps even disgust.

"What can be done?," Sir Maurice lamented.

"Done?," asked Belle.

"Belle, you are not tied to this monster because you bear his demon seed. He will be made to answer for this and you will not be dishonored."

"Do not use those despicable words," said Belle. "I have not been dishonored."

"The Dark One's power cannot be permitted to propagate in any way," said the Blue Fairy. "You must do this, Belle. Cora and Regina the Queen, these are the Dark One's past pupils and the same destiny awaits this child."

"What sort of a fairy are you?," Belle asked with disgust. "This is a child. She has done nothing wrong."

"She?," the Blue Fairy asked inquisitively.

"It's true, then," said Maurice. "The child has dark magic."

"It was just words," said Belle. "It doesn't prove anything. This isn't some demon you're talking about, Papa. This is your grandchild."

Belle looked in her father's eyes and somehow in these few minutes something had changed within him. She knew he wouldn't try to understand, that he had turned.

"If you are going to act, it must be quickly, Sir Maurice," said the Blue Fairy. "You will have limited time to act."

Belle didn't like where this was headed.

"Rumple-"

She was cut off by the sudden loss of her own voice. She looked desperately at her father and screamed silently as the guards dragged her away.


Now

Beatrice went by the library after parting ways with August. She had the same feeling again and looked back to see a man in a green jacket. She went on to the library and up the stairs. She spotted the man downstairs, talking to one of the reference librarians and supposed it had just been a coincidence. Lots of people went to the New York Public Library.

Belle French had recounted many times for her daughter their first visit to the Stephen Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. To be fair, Beatrice was in utero at the time. Belle had just started living in New York and August urged her to go, saying she would enjoy it. When Belle got there, she thought it looked like a castle of books, complete with a lion statue out front to guard it. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and knew she just had to work there. She got a GED, went to college and got a Master's in Library Science. When she graduated, the only job available at the time was at the Riker's Island branch, she took it. Her supervisor flatly said she wouldn't last, but none of the inmates frightened Belle. She worked her way up, promotion after promotion and was finally at her castle.

Upstairs, there were classrooms where the meetings were held. Beatrice spotted her mother inside. The classroom was nearly empty. Belle was holding the hand of a girl not much older than Beatrice herself, heavily pregnant as she cried. Beatrice waited quietly and looked the other way until the girl had presumably calmed down and Belle was showing her out.

"Oh, Nina," said Belle, "this is my daughter, Beatrice."

"Hi," said Nina.

"Hi," said Beatrice. The girl didn't seem to be in a conversational mood, not that Beatrice could blame her.

"Well, Nina, call me if you need anything."

"Thank you, Ms. French."

Nina left. Belle turned to her daughter. "Come on. Help me clean up."

Beatrice helped Belle pick up some books and trash that had been left behind.

"Had you been waiting long?," asked Belle.

"A few minutes."

"Poor thing," said Belle. "Entire family is telling her what to do with her life. I know what that's like."

"Really?," asked Beatrice.

Belle nodded.

"You weren't that young when you had me," said Beatrice.

"Well, don't tell my father that."

"What did he say?"

Belle stopped. "Well, you know I don't remember much, but I got an earful, he'd disown me. He made me go talk to these awful nuns," she recalled with a shudder. "Everyone tried to talk me out of what I knew for certain."

"What did you know?"

"That I loved my baby," Belle said with a smile. "Once you know that, there's nothing more to talk about."


Then

In a dungeon, Belle was coming back to consciousness. She looked around, catching the glimmer of the fairy on the far side. There were several of the local clerics talking with her father. Finally, there was an old woman she recognized. She lived out on the fringes of her father's lands and was known for her questionable teas and potions. Everyone knew what she did and yet no one spoke of her.

Belle's throat still burned from whatever she had been forced to consume. She opened her mouth and still no sounds came out. She felt tears rolling down her cheek.

She stopped as she felt movement in her womb.

It hadn't worked. Her child was alive.

"I used every remedy," said the old woman. "They've all failed."

"Try something else!," Sir Maurice insisted.

"I fear the Dark One's influence is too strong," said the Blue Fairy.

"You must do something," said Sir Maurice. "Or surely Belle is truly lost."

"You misunderstand, Sir Maurice. Fairies have certain rules, that is why I have left it to you and the clerics and the medicine woman."

"Then what is there?"

"I believe there may be another way that I can act," said the Blue Fairy.


Now

Belle and Beatrice walked home from the library. They made a quick stop at the grocery store and that was where Beatrice noticed the man in the green jacket in the frozen food aisle.

"Beatrice," said Belle.

She turned back to her mother.

"Why don't you pick out some cereal and yogurts for your breakfast?," asked Belle.

"I'll just go to Starbucks."

Belle frowned. This was as close as she ever got to scolding or punishment. "A growing girl cannot survive on espressos alone. Pick some out."

Beatrice looked back for the man in the green jacket.

He was gone.

"Beatrice, what is it?," asked Belle.

Beatrice looked back as her mother waited expectantly.

"Yeah, yogurt, coming up," said Beatrice.

Chapter Text

Then

Belle looked out the window of the King of Agrabah's library. Night had fallen and it still seemed to be as hot as the day. She could see the lights of hearths of clay houses and the campfires of the desert nomads. This was such a wondrous land and yet Belle had only seen it from inside the palace walls. Apparently, women had even less opportunity in this land than her own and Rumplestiltskin insisted that she stay in the palace, the access to a new library was partial payment for his services.

Belle was reading her fourth book of the evening when she noticed a golden glow in the sky heading towards her.

"I've been looking for you, Belle."

The gold dot blossomed and became a fully formed woman in a gold dress.

"Fairy Godmother," said Belle. "What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing."

"I'm just visiting."

"That's not what I meant."

Belle suddenly felt as if she were being scolded. The look on her Fairy Godmother's face said everything.

"This is about Rumplestiltskin?"

"You're a good and smart and beautiful girl, Belle. What are you doing with him?"

"He saved my people from the ogres."

"Yes, and it was noble of you to sacrifice yourself, but dealing in dark magic cannot leave you untouched."

"Dealing in dark magic? You say it as if I had other options when I did not. You offered no help when I asked."

"Fairy dust has limits, Belle."

"That still would have done nothing for my people."

"I can use it to help you, Belle, to get you away from him."

"Belle!"

She heard Rumplestiltskin down the hall, his footsteps approaching. She looked back at her Fairy Godmother.

"I'll give you three days and I'll return," said the Gold Fairy, going back into her magical form and shimmered away.

Belle looked back to the door as it magically opened. Rumplestiltskin entered.

"You're back."

"Miss me?"

Belle embraced him. "Did you get your genie?"

"Not yet, but I will." He stood back to admire her in the Agrabah court dress, a gauzy blue midriff revealing affair embellished with precious gems. "The local couture seems to suit you."

"Does it?"

"Yes." He pulled her closer, bending his head down to kiss her shoulder. "Everything does."

"I was reading."

"You'll strain your eyes. Come to bed."

"Strain my eyes?"

"Yes, it would be a pity."

"Wouldn't you fix them?"

"But what would you offer me in return?"

"I have to offer something?"

"Everything has a price."

Belle smiled. "What could I give you in return?"

"We'll come up with something," said Rumplestiltskin.


Now

It had been a few days since the first sighting of the man in the green jacket. Beatrice couldn't decide if she was being paranoid or if he was really following her. She saw him again at the library and at Starbucks in line behind her, but those weren't exactly places only she went. She hadn't told her mother anything yet, she hated to worry her. Yet the thought distracted her while she tried to concentrate on her homework.

"Beatrice! I'm home!"

Beatrice looked up.

There was a man with her mother.

Why was there a man with her mother? Her mother didn't date. Here he was, middle-aged, balding, with a genial smile that Beatrice's gut told her not to trust.

"Beatrice, this is Owen Flynn. He just started at the library. He was helping me get these home."

"Hi, Beatrice."

"Hi, Owen."

"Interesting book you have there."

Beatrice looked down. It was the voodoo book that she had found to try to understand what was in the sack.

"We were just in New Orleans for a conference," said Belle. "Beatrice became very interested in the voodoo culture."

"Did she?"

Beatrice didn't answer.

Belle tried to fill the air. "We bought these amazing pralines. Let me get you one to thank you for being so helpful."

Owen followed Belle into the kitchen.

"Don't give him our pralines," Beatrice hissed.

She watched in horror as Belle chatted with Owen more. After what seemed like forever, he left.

"You cannot go out with that guy," said Beatrice.

Belle looked at her. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me."

"Well, last I checked, I'm the mother here."

"Last I checked, you're too nice."

Belle laughed. "I'm too nice?"

"Yes, you are, you think that there's good in everyone-"

"I do not."

Beatrice bent down to look her mother in the eyes. "Yes, you do."

Belle seemed more amused than anything by her daughter. "How can you be this cynical at your age?"

"I was born cynical," said Beatrice. "I'm also right."

"Name three times I have been too nice."

"Ilsa, who was stealing from us."

"She probably just needed the money for her family."

"Mom, she had a Rolex. There was also those supposed Girl Scouts who never delivered those cookies. You always give homeless guys money, even when they're not really homeless, they're just lazy college students!"

"Do you not want me to date? Is that it?"

"Well, not until I've done background checks on everyone."

"Beatrice, he's a librarian."

"Why isn't he married? What's wrong with him?"

"Is something wrong with me that I'm not married?"

"Is his favorite book 'Catcher In The Rye?,'" asked Beatrice.

"Why are you being weird about this?," asked Belle. "Is something else going on?"

Beatrice scoffed. "No, nothing else is going on. What's going on is you are, are, I don't know..." She stormed off.

"Beatrice!," Belle called after her. "Beatrice, come on! Don't be like that!"


Now

Belle was reading when she noticed the point of a blade over the page of her book and at her neck. One of the king's daughters was staring her down.

"Uh, Jasmine, isn't it?," Belle asked still staring at the knife.

A bag went over her head and she fought as she felt herself being pulled away.

When the bag finally came off, Belle was next to a tiger in a sandy dungeon.

Jasmine stood over her. "Heel, Raja."

The tiger stopped sniffing at Belle and sat back.

"Now," said Belle, "why have you kidnapped me?"

"My father sent for your imp to find the djinn. I need him to stop."

Belle nodded. "I don't like you calling him an imp."

"Then what shall I call him?"

"How about his name for a start?"

Jasmine grunted.

Belle nodded. "Uh, look, Jasmine, here's the thing. I've been on a few of these sort of business trips with Rumplestiltskin and sometimes people try to get to him through me and it doesn't end well."

Jasmine looked at her questioningly.

"I mean, I can usually get him to change whoever it is back into whatever they were, but it's, well, I'd rather just not go through it."

"I need that djinn."

"What for?," asked Belle.

Jasmine waited a while before finally answering. "There's a man."


Now

Belle couldn't remember the last time she had been on a date.

Or she mostly just couldn't remember. It certainly wasn't since Beatrice was born and though the details of her daughter's conception were sketchy Belle hoped there was dinner involved and maybe more.

"Thanks for taking me out, Owen," said Belle. "I don't know when I've been out."

"You should get out more often," said Owen. "A woman like you shouldn't be alone."

Belle smiled and shook her head. "I'm not alone. I have Beatrice."

"Does she see much of your ex?"

Belle smiled again. Certainly not knowing your daughter's paternity was a second date conversation. "No, not as much as we'd like."

"We'd? The split must have been amicable then."

Belle shrugged. "Why not be friendly?"

"Does he live far?"

Belle looked at the menu, eager to stop this topic of conversation. "So, I was thinking about the chicken satay."

Beatrice sat in the kitchen. She had suggested the Thai restaurant to Belle, pretending to be supportive, but mostly because her physics lab partner Tommy's family owned it and his older cousin, Non, was a waiter.

"Kid, are you going to sit here all night?," asked Non.

Beatrice shrugged. "Hey, you got your money. Also, I need more spring rolls. What were they talking about?"

"Your dad, I'm guessing."

"My dad? What did she say?"

"Not much. Sort of a weird conversation."

"Anything else?"

The waiter thought. "He likes to take pictures of his food. I wouldn't worry too much. I don't think there's going to be a second date."

Beatrice peered back out the kitchen window at her mother and Owen. Belle was getting bored now. Owen was still leading the conversation.

Beatrice walked over to Non. "Twenty dollars if you spill something on him."

"Would have done it for ten," said Non.

"Crap," muttered Beatrice.

The date was tragically cut short after Owen had to leave due to a terrible soup spill, Beatrice followed him as he went home.

Where the man in the green jacket was waiting.

"What happened to you?," asked the man.

"Long story," said Owen. "What about the girl?"

"I haven't seen any magic."

"She's curious. God knows she's got it in her."

"And the woman?"

"Oh, she's one of them. Believe me on that."

"But if they can leave the town now, if that girl is out here-"

"Don't worry, it won't come to that. I'll see to it."

As soon as they went inside, Beatrice bailed, running home.

On the elevator ride up to her apartment, she thrust her hands in her jacket pocket and pulled out the sack the woman had given her and the tarot card.

The Magician.

"No way..."

She went inside the apartment. Belle still wasn't home. She went to her room and opened the sack. It contained candles, some stones and something labelled "zombie powder."


Then

Belle listened as Jasmine explained.

"So, he's poor?"

"And my father's forbidden me even seeing him. That's why we had to steal the lamp so he could present himself properly."

"Jasmine, you don't need the lamp," said Belle. "You just need to believe in Aladdin and yourself and your love."

"Live outside the palace?," asked Jasmine.

"Jasmine, trust me there's a whole world out there and not everyone lives in palaces. You can live in a house..." Belle motioned at Raja. "With a big yard."

"What did your father say when you married him?," asked Jasmine.

"Our initial arrangement was of a somewhat different nature," said Belle. "But it's blossomed into love over time."

"Love? Him?"

"Some might say the same about a penniless boy from the streets," Belle chided. "Or the spoiled princess who won't make any sacrifices for the man she says she loves."

"You two make a strange couple."

Belle nodded in agreement. "But which of us is the strange one?"


Now

Beatrice walked into the Starbucks. She had called August after she got home and he said he would meet her on his way out of town. She spotted him immediately. August waved to her with a smile and she rushed to the table.

"Wow, didn't even stop to order, must be-"

"Is magic real?"

He paused. "What do you think?"

"August, I'm not really in the mood for one of these games where you ask questions after I ask a question. You gave me that book when I was a baby and it says it all takes place in another realm. I met this Voodoo woman-"

"You met who?"

"She said that I was from another realm and she gave me this." Beatrice fished the tarot card out of her pocket.

August looked taken aback. "And who did she say that was?"

"My father."

August was silent.

Beatrice took a breath, not sure she was ready for the answer. "Is that in any way true?"

"It might be." August paused. "Beatrice, do you know anyone with a receding hairline?"

"Oh, yeah, that was totally going to be the other thing."

Beatrice looked back. Owen was heading right towards her.

"Beatrice, I'm so glad I found you. There's been an accident. Your mother's in the hospital. You need to come right away."

"No, she hasn't," said Beatrice.

"I'll take her," said August.

"Who are you?," asked Owen.

"Who are you?," spat Beatrice.

Owen grabbed her by the arm and dragged her as August was in pursuit.

"Let go of me," Beatrice said elbowing him.

He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her into an alley. There was a van waiting. August followed and hit Owen hard enough to free Beatrice. The men fought.

Beatrice reached in her pocket for her phone and instead found the powder. Owen knocked August to the ground and Beatrice threw the powder at his back.

Owen froze.

Beatrice got up. August looked at her in astonishment.

"What was that?"

Beatrice just shook her head.

"That was magic! You used magic. How did you do that?"

"It was just this powder, the woman gave it to me, I..."

August walked over. "Beatrice, what did she say when she gave it to you?"

"She told me to pick one and that I would need it."

August looked at Owen. "Come on," he said helping Beatrice off the ground.

"Should we call someone about him?," asked Beatrice.

"And tell them what? You froze him with magic powder? I don't think so."

"It said 'zombie powder.' You don't think he's going to eat anyone's brain, do you?"

"Let's just go."

"Where are we going?"

"To meet someone."


August led Beatrice to an apartment building. He hit the buzzer for 7B.

"Hello?"

"It's me."

The buzzer sounded and the door opened. August led Beatrice up the stairs and to the apartment. A stubbled man appeared.

"Who's this?," he asked.

"Neal, this is Beatrice. Beatrice, Neal. You two have something in common."

The two stared at each other for a moment.

Beatrice looked up at August. "We do?"

"Neal's from our land," said August.

"We have a land?," asked Beatrice.

With a pained expression, Neal led them inside.

"I don't understand," said Neal. "You said she's from our land, but she looks too young."

"I am right here," said Beatrice.

August spoke up. "Regina had her mother sent away from Storybrooke when she was pregnant. I don't think I totally understood why until just now. She just used magic."

Neal shook his head. "There's no magic here."

"It sounded like something brought over from the other side, but she can use it."

"Who's she supposed to be?," asked Neal.

Beatrice threw her hands up. "Still, standing right here."

"Sorry," said Neal.

"She's Beauty and the Beast's kid," said August.

Beatrice contorted her face in disbelief. "I'm sorry, I'm who?"

August looked back at her. "You didn't know? I dropped some really big hints."

"There's no kid in that story," said Neal.

"There's also no magic in that story, except for the rose," said Beatrice. "And the candelabra and the clock and the teapot. Okay, basically that whole house was magic, but there was definitely no kid."

"Let's say that version of the story wasn't entirely the truth, except there was a rose and a teacup," said August.

"Oh, come on," said Beatrice.

"Okay, what's your mom's name?"

"That's a coincidence."

"What is your mom's name?," asked Neal.

"Belle," Beatrice grumbled.

"Does she like to read?," asked Neal.

Beatrice looked at Neal. "Okay, like, are people named Belle not allowed to read? Is that what we're saying? What kind of message is that?"

"Not when they're from Storybrooke," said August. "Believe me, your mom is the Belle from the book."

Beatrice looked at Neal. "You believe him?"

"I have to," said Neal. "I know it's the truth."

August spoke. "They don't know it. There's a Curse that brought them to this world from another realm. Someone's going to break it."

Beatrice tried to recall the details of the book. "This is why my mom doesn't remember anything," said Beatrice.

August nodded.

"So, what? How do we break this curse?"

"We don't," said Neal.

"Remember the last part of the book? The Savior?," asked August.

"Great, so how do we find-"

"She's actually already in Storybrooke."

Neal looked at August. "You didn't say that."

"I was going to when I saw you," said August.

"If she's there, why hasn't the Curse broken?," asked Beatrice.

"Because she doesn't believe yet."

"Oh, great plan," said Beatrice, "have a savior who doesn't believe in what she's saving. Who came up with this?"

"That's why I'm going back," said August.

"You are?," asked Neal.

August shrugged. "I have to. In the meantime, I need you to keep Beatrice safe."


Then

Belle went back to her suite, exhausted and certainly not in the state she wanted to be in for her visitor.

"Fairy Godmother," she said.

"I've come to see what you have to say, Belle."

Belle sat on the chaise lounge. "I love him."

"Belle-"

"I love him. I know full well who he is and I still love him. I want to be with him, to help him."

"Belle, he is the Dark One. He only cares about his own power."

Belle shook her head. "That's just a part of him."

"His power will consume him, Belle and nothing, not even you, will be untouched."

"He needs me."

"Have you thought of children, Belle?"

Belle shook her head. She sincerely hadn't. "I suppose children will come if it's meant to be."

"Such children would surely be monsters and there would be people with an interest in stopping that."

"I don't believe they would be. How could any child born of true love be a monster?"

The Gold Fairy sighed. "I want to be perfectly clear, Belle. Once I leave you tonight, I can no longer help you."

"I understand."

"I'm supposed to report this immediately to the Blue Fairy," she said.

"No, please, he-"

The Gold Fairy held up a hand to stop Belle. "I saw what you did to help Princess Jasmine. In light of that, what I will do is forget to do so."

"You'll forget?"

"Fairies can't lie," Gold explained. She paused. "Be careful, Belle."

The fairy imploded back into her smaller form and Belle watched as she flew away.


Now

August left Beatrice with Neal to get her home. They stood outside his building and Neal tried to hail a cab.

"Why aren't you in Storybrooke?," Beatrice asked Neal.

"I left that world a long time before the Curse."

"Why won't you go back?"

"My father."

"Your father? What did he do?"

Neal was silent as he kept trying to hail a taxi.

"Seriously, what?," asked Beatrice. "You haven't seen him in years and you're still hiding. What did he do?"

Neal scowled. "You wouldn't understand."

"No, I wouldn't. I don't even know my father. Well, except he's the Beast or whatever."

Neal nodded. "Well, I can guarantee he won't be as bad as mine."

Beatrice sighed at Neal's ineffective taxi hailing. "Let me." She stepped out, raised her right hand and one immediately came to a stop.

"Wow, August is right, you are magical," he said dryly.

"Ha ha."

"Call me if that guy shows up again or anyone else starts sniffing around," said Neal.


Then

"Funny thing," said Rumplestiltskin.

Belle looked up from her book, startled.

"You see, I went to an awful lot of trouble to find the genie that was causing all that trouble, I capture the miscreant, bring him back and the King has another job for me."

"Oh?," asked Belle.

"Yes, it seems one of his daughters and her pet tiger have disappeared. He offered me all the treasure in Ali Baba's den to find her."

"Really?"

"And the library, but I thought I would check with you first."

"Oh," said Belle, looking around. It was too bad. It was an impressive library. "You didn't want what was in Ali Baba's den?"

"Really, Belle, if there was anything worth having there, I would have it already." He motioned around. "You didn't want the library?"

"No," Belle lied.

"Well, then, I suppose we should just hope the poor princess can make it on her own."

"I suppose."

"Did anything else happen while I was gone?"

Belle shook her head. "No."

Rumplestiltskin nodded. "Ah."

"I guess we should be going, then," Belle said, putting her book down and looking longingly at the library.

"Why don't you finish reading that one while I tell the King no?"

Belle smiled. "Okay."

Rumplestiltskin walked out of the library, glancing back at a contented Belle. He stepped out onto one of the palace's verandas.

"Still there, Goldie?"

The Gold Fairy appeared. "Yes, Rumplestiltskin?"

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

"I thought it was best not to deal with you directly." She paused. "Belle's a wonderful woman."

"Oh, something we can agree on. I suppose you're going to fly back and tell all?"

"No, I will keep my promise to Belle for as long as I can," said the Gold Fairy. "For her. Not for you."

Rumplestiltskin snorted. "Well, there was never any confusion on that score. If you do have to pass it along, add in this: a fairy helped to take my son away and I won't let that happen again. Is that clear?"

"Very."

"Good. Now, fly away, fairy."


Now

Beatrice went home. She took a shower, got in her pajamas and took out the book, poring over the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

"Beatrice."

She looked up to see her mother smiling. Belle came in and sat at the foot of the bed.

"You had me worried with that strange call of yours, earlier," said Belle. "Asking if I was alright? What was all that about?"

Beatrice shook her head. "I just had a bad feeling."

"If it's about Owen, you don't have to worry," said Belle.

"Oh?," Beatrice asked nonchalantly.

Belle shook her head. "Not for me."

"That was quick."

"I didn't need very long."

"I thought you had to get to know people and understand them, people have layers..."

"Mock all you like. That's still true. Owen just had less layers than I would have liked." Belle paused. "I've never told you something. Do you know how I know I loved your father even though I can't remember my old life?"

"No."

"Because it hurts and I know when I find someone else, it will stop hurting."

"Tale as old as time," said Beatrice.

Belle looked at her with a frown. "What?"

"True as it can be."

"Why are you being so silly?," asked Belle.

"It's that sort of day."

Belle kissed her on the cheek. "I'm going to start dinner."

Belle got up and left. Beatrice laid back and pulled her pillow over her head.

She was living with a freaking Disney princess.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Grumpy was the leader of Snow White's Royal Guard. As such, he had to keep an ear to the ground for developments. Who knew what Regina might be planning in her exile? And Rumplestiltskin. That imp was always up to something.

Then one day Sir Maurice arrived unexpectedly seeking refuge. He appeared before Snow White and the Prince at court, looking like a broken, disgraced man. His was a small principality, but it had been in his family for generations and there had never been problems. To lose it seemed to have taken a great toll as he told his tale in front of the court.

"I don't understand, Sir Maurice," said Snow White. "Your land has always been prosperous. Your people were always content. You even managed to defeat the Ogres. What made them rebel against your rule?"

Sir Maurice looked ashamed. "They have fallen under the spell of the Dark One."

Charming and Snow exchanged glances. The audience murmured.

"Rumplestiltskin?," asked the Prince.

"Why?," asked Snow.

"I'm afraid I couldn't say, Your Highness," said Sir Maurice.

"You're welcome to stay as long as you need, Sir Maurice," said Charming.

"Will Belle be joining us?," asked Snow.

Sir Maurice seemed almost startled by the question. "My daughter was traveling when the revolt began. I sent word for her to stay away."

Grumpy eyed Sir Maurice. He was definitely lying about that and Grumpy thought for sure it was about Belle.

Sir Maurice said some words of thanks to the royals and went off.

"Why would Rumplestiltskin cause a rebellion against Sir Maurice?," asked Snow White.

Charming shrugged. "Why does he do anything? He's insane."

"I don't think so," said Snow White. "He's always tried to get us together."

"But why?," asked Charming.

"I don't know why, I just know he has a reason," said Snow White. "I don't see what leaving Sir Maurice landless accomplishes or what it has to do with anything."

"Do you know Belle?," asked Grumpy.

"Yes," said Snow. "Her mother, Lady Reinette, was lady-in-waiting to my mother. We used to play together at the Summer Palace."

"Good thing she was away during the revolt," said Charming.

"Yeah," mused Grumpy. "Good thing."


Now

"Hello?"

"Neal, hi."

He groaned. "Beatrice. Seriously? What time is it?"

"It's three."

"Beatrice, why are you calling me?"

Beatrice flipped through the pages of the storybook. "These other realms, are they like other dimensions?"

"What?"

"You know, the Enchanted Forest is a parallel universe, so is Neverland and Wonderland. Although, as far as Neverland goes, if it's a whole other universe, why does it seem to just be one freaking island?"

"I don't know, Beatrice, I never bothered asking." His voice still sounded asleep.

"You went hopping between dimensions and didn't bother asking how it worked?"

"People don't really think like that where we're from."

"They really should."

"Why aren't you asleep?"

"Nightmares."

"Go back to bed."

"They just start again."

Neal groaned. "What kind of nightmares?"

"There's a room and it's dark, but there's fire."

"Sounds like a sleeping curse."

"It sounds like a what?"

Neal cleared his throat. "It's a sleeping curse. You were under a sleeping curse at some point."

"What do you know about sleeping curses?"

"My dad used to... Just trust me, I know about curses. Your soul visits this Netherworld-"

"My soul is in a what?!," Beatrice shrieked.

"It'll fade..."

"This Netherworld, is it another dimension or a different plane of consciousness?"

"Beatrice, I'm going back to sleep."

"Excuse me for wanting to know where my soul is going while I'm asleep!"

Beatrice no longer heard anything and looked at her iPhone.

"He ended the call," she muttered. "Jerk."


Then

Grumpy kept an eye on Sir Maurice while he stayed as a guest at the palace. Grumpy noticed that he and the Blue Fairy kept meeting in the garden. Ever since what had happened with Nova, Grumpy had been unable to set aside his personal feelings when it came to fairies. He supposed they had their uses and they had helped in the fight against Regina, but he didn't have to like them.

He had seen Belle once again on her way back from adventure as she stopped off in the tavern for something to eat. She explained she was going back to fight for true love, because it was worth fighting for. He got the feeling she was holding back on something.

"When I think of my poor daughter and what that monster did to her..." said Sir Maurice. "He must have done something to her, cast some spell..."

"I wish it were so, Sir Maurice," said Blue. "Belle made her own choice to choose the Dark One over all else, even good and now she is surely paying the price."

The Dark One! Rumplestiltskin? Had she loved him? Grumpy found it difficult to fathom, but, hey, whatever. Blue was right, though, she wasn't under any kind of spell.

"Does she... suffer?"

"No, she's simply sleeping."

Grumpy waited until the fairy left the palace grounds and followed her blue light out deep into the forest. He watched from a distance as she descended and used her wand to move aside an overgrowth of vines to reveal a glass coffin. He couldn't see the occupant from his vantage point, but watched as the fairy waved her wand again and flew off.

Grumpy waited until the Blue Fairy was gone to go over to the spot with the vines. He pushed the overgrowth aside by hand and was able to see the coffin's occupant.

"Belle..." he gasped.


Now

"Beatrice," Belle said in shock.

Beatrice looked up. Her mother stood in the doorway. She had been hovering between consciousness and unconsciousness for most of the night, finally noting that morning had arrived. She had to do something, what was it?

Right. School.

"I'm getting ready, I swear," said Beatrice, willing her body to move. "Just one second."

"You look awful," said Belle.

"Thanks, Mom. I'll fix it. I just need my glasses."

"They're on your face."

Beatrice blinked. "Are they?"

Belle walked over and put her hand on Beatrice's forehead. "You're not warm. Is it something else?"

"I didn't get much sleep."

"Well, how much did you get?"

"I don't know, an hour?"

"An hour?!," Belle exclaimed. She frowned. "Beatrice, were you up all night watching Doctor Who again?"

"No," she said defensively. "I had... nightmares."

"Nightmares?," asked Belle. "What sort of nightmares?"

"Nothing, here, I'll go to school," said Beatrice, sitting up. She swung her right leg off the bed. "Give me a minute, I'll get the left one going."

"Beatrice, tell me..."

"You know what, I'll just crawl," she said unceremoniously dropping to the floor. "Maybe I can stand by the time I get to Starbucks."

"Beatrice, how long has this been going on?"

Just ever since she had used magic. Or whatever. "I don't know, a few weeks."

"Beatrice, why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm fine. It's not a big deal."

Belle shook her head. "You can't go to school like this. Get back in bed."

"I'm fine."

"Back in bed. Now."

Beatrice sighed in resignation and climbed back on to her bed, collapsing and unable to move.


Then

Snow rode a carriage deep into the woods as the dwarves led the way. She wasn't used to not being on a horse, but she was pregnant and had to get used to that. Grumpy had said there was something she needed to see out here and she trusted him enough to go without further details.

When the carriage stopped, Snow got out. The dwarves parted ways to show her what they had traveled to see.

"My glass coffin," said Snow.

It was grown over. Snow had the dwarves help her pull off the brush and greenery to see that it was Belle.

"Oh, my poor dear friend," said Snow. She turned to the dwarves. "Do you know who has done this? Was it Regina?"

"That's the kicker," said Grumpy.

Before Snow could ask what he meant, the Blue Fairy arrived.

"Oh, Blue, thank the gods you're here. My friend Belle has been put under some sort of spell, for some time it would seem. She needs your help."

The Blue Fairy didn't answer.

"What's wrong?"

With no answer, Snow White looked to the dwarves.

Grumpy shot Blue a glare. "Why don't you ask her who put Belle under the spell?"

Snow White turned to the fairy.

"Snow White, there are things you do not understand-"

"Like what?"

"Belle is carrying the Dark One's daughter. That cannot be allowed."

"Allowed?," Snow asked with disdain.

"The child's existence would only enhance the Dark One's power. That cannot be allowed. If such power fell into the wrong hands, which it surely would-"

"What about Belle's hands?"

"The Dark One is sure to corrupt."

"You sure like telling people how to run their lives," said Grumpy.

This earned a glare of disapproval from the fairy, not that Grumpy cared.

"I want to talk to Belle," said Snow White.

"I can't do that. The risk is too great."

"You are speaking nonsense. The child is innocent, no matter her father. Belle can guide her daughter." She didn't add that Rumplestiltskin had confided in her about her about heartbreak when she went to him to forget her now husband.

"Your Highness-"

"Or I'll summon the Dark One," said Snow White.

The Blue Fairy looked at her in shock. Grumpy smiled as the dwarves stood resolutely with their princess.

"I will summon him and tell him what has happened and who is responsible."

"You don't know what that would mean."

"I know what this means," said Snow. "Wake her up.

The Blue Fairy waved her wand and beneath the glass, Belle's eyes flew open. Grumpy led the dwarves in taking the cover off.

"There," said Snow helping her sit up, "there my dear friend. You're alright."

Belle opened her mouth. No sound came out.

Snow White turned back to the Blue Fairy. "Why can't she speak?"

"She tried to summon the Dark One."

"And what do you think will happen if I return her to Rumplestiltskin without her voice?," asked Snow White.

"You would return her?"

"If it's what she wishes."

The Blue Fairy waved her wand again.

"Hello, hello..." Belle said, testing out her own voice. "Your Highness."

Snow shook her head. "Just Snow for you my very dear friend."

Belle turned to the Blue Fairy, but she was flying away. She looked back at Snow.

"Belle, tell me what happened."

Belle tried to collect herself, but it was no use. "They tried to kill my baby!," she sobbed as she fell into Snow's arms.

Snow held her friend. "No harm will come to her or you. You have my promise."


Now

Beatrice was surrounded by flames.

"Oh, come on," she muttered. She had fallen asleep.

The flames leapt up and hit her left arm. She howled in pain and looked at her arm. It was burned.

"Help!," she heard a voice scream. "Help!"

Beatrice made her way through the flames. One leapt in front of her, obscuring her view and she waved her hand in instinct, but saw that the flame dissipated. She frowned and tried it again, the flames disappeared, until the whole room was empty and she saw a frightened young woman in a pale pink dress.

"How did you do that?," she asked.

"I don't know," said Beatrice. "Magic?"

"Magic," she said, looking scared. "Did Maleficent send you?"

"Maleficent?," asked Beatrice. "Oh, no way. You're Sleeping Beauty?"

"No, that was my mother."

"Oh, well, my mom is Belle."

The young woman looked at her. "Who?"

"Belle, you know, Beauty and the Beast. Tale as old as time, true as it can be? Barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly..." she tried to sing the last word and the girl seemed unimpressed. "Yeah, I've been listening to that a lot lately."

The woman stood. "I'm Princess Aurora."

"Beatrice."

"What sort of clothes are those?"

Beatrice looked down at her pajama bottoms and t-shirt. "I'm sleeping. These are pajamas. Not all of us fall asleep dressed for the Oscars."

"I was spinning."

"Really? Don't you people learn? Stay away from spinning wheels!"

Aurora looked taken aback.

"What are you spinning for anyway? You're a princess! Go shopping!"

"What land do you come from?," asked Aurora.

"New York."

"And you practice magic there?"

"Well, I did this thing with some powder and just whatever that was. It's not like I go around trying to practice magic."

"Beatrice! I'm home!"

Beatrice awoke in her bed. The sun was setting.

Belle popped her head in. "Did you get any rest?"

"Yeah, I got some."

"Good, I brought dinner."

Beatrice got up and stumbled out to the kitchen.

"Ooh, dumplings," said Beatrice reaching with her left arm across the counter.

"Beatrice!," Belle gasped.

"What?"

Belle gripped either side of the burned forearm. "Beatrice, what happened to your arm?"

Beatrice stared at the arm in horror. How could that be? How could that possibly be?

"I burned myself, uh, cooking. It's not that bad."

Belle looked up at her daughter, positively stricken. "Beatrice, what have you done to yourself?"

"It was just an accident on the uh, stove..."

"Beatrice, the stove is broken."

Oh, right. The super said he would fix it a week ago.

Belle looked ready to cry, taking her daughter in her arms.

This was going to be hard to explain.

Chapter Text

Then

Snow White wondered what had possessed Charming. Why he thought he could borrow one of her birds and trap Rumplestiltskin without so much as running it by her. She had left Belle there scarcely two weeks ago and now she would be alone again with no one to protect her. She blew into the room where the Prince was trying to comfort Cinderella.

"You never said anything about trapping Rumplestiltskin!"

"Snow..." Charming began.

"What were you thinking?!," Snow shouted. She looked at Grumpy. "Grumpy, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"He was acting under my orders, Snow," said Charming.

"Which no one bothered to inform me of!"

Cinderella shook her head. "What does it matter? He's a monster!"

Snow thought of her friend, Belle, sitting alone at the Dark Castle, pregnant with her true love's child, waiting for him to return. Perhaps worried that something had happened to him. "Maybe you don't know everything about him."

"What's there to know?," asked Cinderella. "He's a horrible imp."

"Snow, he's the most dangerous man in all the realms. He had to be captured," said Charming.

"He's taken Thomas," Cinderella sobbed.

Snow threw up her hands. "Okay, I'm going to say this and I know it's not going to be popular, but maybe you should have read the contract in the first place."

Cinderella looked aghast at Snow White. "How was I to know he would want my child?"

Snow shrugged. "Maybe because he's Rumplestiltskin. Maybe because his deals come with a price, which he mentions a lot."

Charming exchanged looks with Grumpy. Snow knew the look. They had both clearly decided this was a case of pregnancy hormones run amok. Though she knew she was perhaps not as gentle as her usual self, this only angered Snow White more.

"Snow, maybe we should talk in the other room?," said Charming.

"I don't want to talk to you right now," said Snow. "Could someone please send for Lancelot?"

Grumpy followed her out into the hall. "You made us swear not to tell."

"That was because I didn't want rumors spreading, to put Belle and her child's lives in further danger!," said Snow. "You heard Belle tell what her own father and the fairies did! What would everyone else do?"

"Even though Belle loves him, Rumplestiltskin is still dangerous," said Grumpy. "Something had to be done."

"With Belle left on her own?," asked Snow White. "Send for Lancelot now."


Now

Beatrice was in a psychiatrist's office.

Since dragging her daughter to the emergency room with an inexplicably burned arm and nightmares, Belle French had made it her mission in life to see to her daughter's mental health. She had taken an emergency leave of absence, gotten Beatrice excused from school and read every book the New York Public Library offered on curing your insane teenage daughter. The titles phrased it nicer. Now, they were sitting in the waiting room of a psychiatrist's office. Beatrice looked around, the practice seemed to cater to teenagers so the room was full of other kids her own age who didn't want to be there. Belle was one of two parents. Beatrice watched as a boy muttered to himself.

"I am not crazy," said Beatrice.

"No, no, I would never say that," said Belle. "Maybe you're just stressed?"

"I'm not stressed!," she shouted capturing the attention of the other patients in the waiting room.

"Beatrice, please. I just want to help you."

"Miss French?"

A young-looking woman led Beatrice into her office. Beatrice thought this must be a receptionist until she insisted upon calling herself "Doctor Amy." The office decor was clearly designed with the intention of looking cool to her young patients, decorated with concert posters and hip furniture.

"So, Beatrice, tell me about yourself," she said, reclining in her chair. "What do you like to do?"

"Not be crazy."

"That's not why we're here, Beatrice. Nobody's saying that."

"I can't think of what else we would be here for."

"Do you like to hang out with your friends?"

"I don't have friends," said Beatrice. Although, Princess Aurora and I are starting to get along, but I think she likes that I can stop the flames.

"Boyfriends?"

Beatrice snorted. "Yeah, have you seen the boys running around high school lately?"

"Girlfriends?"

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "I'm not a lesbian. When there's a boy worth being into, you can count me in."

"A boy worth being into?"

"Yes, I have standards."

"What sort of standards?"

"What about not completely lame?"

"Fair enough," said Doctor Amy. "So, what do you like to do?"

"I like my computer. I like books. I like Doctor Who and I like coffee. Is that enough?"

"There's no right or wrong answer, Beatrice," Doctor Amy said as she wrote on her clipboard. "And what about your mom? Do you two have a good relationship?"

"Yes."

"Do you want to expand on that?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because you asked me a yes or no question, not an open-ended one and I don't need you trying to come up with some way that my mom is the problem. She's seriously not."

"And your dad?"

Beatrice froze. Doctor Amy looked as if she had struck gold.

"I don't have a dad so I don't see how I could have any issues with him," Beatrice stonewalled.

"Does that bother you?"

Beatrice wanted to scream. What did she think? "No, I'm totally fine not knowing one of my parents at all. It doesn't bother me at all," she said sarcastically.

"Do you think about your father a lot?"

"No."

"Do you ever wonder who he might be?"

"No." Because I'm fairly convinced he's a cursed fairy tale character in Maine, some sort of Beast who does magic? Beast Magician? Beastician?

"So, everything's okay at home?"

"Fine." Except for the part where my mom was dating some guy doing magical surveillance on me and oh, yeah, I have magic powers.

"How did you hurt your arm?"

"Burned it." In a Netherworld where my soul goes while I'm asleep since I was under a sleeping curse one time and it is a good thing I am not saying any of this out loud.

"How did you burn it?"

"Accident."

"Beatrice, it's okay, you can say anything here."

"Being okay to say anything implies that I have the choice to not say anything."

"That's not why you're here. To get the most out of treatment, you need to participate in it."

"I don't need to get anything out of treatment because I don't need it."

"Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?"

"No!"

"About suicide?"

"No and do not go out there and tell my mom I'm suicidal because I'm not."

"Do you remember burning yourself?"

"It was an accident."

Belle went in after Beatrice to talk to Doctor Amy alone. Beatrice sat in the waiting room and Belle emerged having clearly been crying. She forced a smile on as they walked to the elevator.

"So, did you like her?," asked Belle.

"No," said Beatrice.

Belle nodded. "Well, I'll see if we can get a referral, but you'll be coming three times a week."

"Three times a week?," asked Beatrice. "What am I supposed to talk to that woman about for three times a week?!"

"Beatrice, please," said Belle. "Please try for me."

"There is nothing wrong with me."

"Beatrice, I need you to try and I need you to swear to me you won't hurt yourself again."

"I didn't!"

"Beatrice, please."

Belle looked away, Beatrice knew she was trying to keep herself together. So she turned the other way.


Then

"Your Highness," said Lancelot, bowing his head.

"Lancelot, thank you for coming," said Snow. She glanced out at Charming talking with his men and shut the door. "I need your help."

"Surely the Prince can do your bidding?," he teased.

She scowled. "We disagree on this. Are you aware of what has happened to Prince Thomas?"

"The kingdom is full of it." He leaned towards Snow White. "Did she even bother reading the contract?"

"That's neither here nor there," said Snow. "I think I may have a way to help, but this has to be done in the strictest confidence. No one can know and especially not the fairies."

"I'm intrigued."

"Rumplestiltskin is not the man you think he is or rather he's not the man he would have us think he is. He has a... a..."

Lancelot eyed her curiously.

"I'm not sure what you would call her."

"A woman?," Lancelot asked in disbelief. "Rumplestiltskin has a lover?"

"You're one to talk," she snapped.

Lancelot put his hands up in mock surrender.

"She's to have his child."

Lancelot nodded. "You want to trade his lover for Prince Thomas?"

"No," said Snow.

"Then the Dark One's child for Cinderella's child?"

"No!," said Snow. "I am sworn to protect that child. Using her as a bargaining chip does not fit in with that. Nor do I think it's in our best interests to anger Rumplestiltskin in such a way."

"Then what's your plan?"

"Rumplestiltskin has been forced to endure a long separation from the woman he loves. His heart has hardened. The man in the dwarf mines is not the man I've dealt with before."

"You mean completely crazy?"

"Belle says she brings out the good in him. Maybe if we let him see her he'll be more willing to listen to us and we can get Thomas back."

"The best in him? Do you think there's anything good in him to bring out?"

"Belle thinks there is and so do I." She handed him a piece of parchment. "I've written Belle to explain. Take a carriage and bring her here. Let no one know who your passenger is."

"Yes, your highness."

"Make haste. Rumplestiltskin has many enemies."


Now

Beatrice was having a hard time getting a hold of August. His phone always went to voice mail.

"Hello?"

"August, thank God!" Beatrice glanced out her door at Belle. She was reading yet another book from the what to do with your insane daughter genre. She ducked back in her room. "Look, I need help. Neal told me what he could, but I need someone with more expertise."

"I don't know how much more expertise I have than Neal."

"Look, I was under a sleeping curse and I keep visiting this Netherworld. The problem is somehow I burned my arm there and now I'm seeing a shrink and my mom won't let me more than ten feet away because she thinks I'm crazy."

"I'm sorry, Beatrice, I don't know how to help-"

"Is there anyone there who can help? You know? Someone in Fairy Tale Town who knows about this stuff?"

"No, Beatrice, they're all under the Curse-"

"A book or something? First Aid Treatment for injuries from the Netherworld?"

"No, look, right now I've got to focus on getting Emma to believe."

"Savior girl?"

"Yes, there have been a lot of distractions here-"

"There have been a lot of distractions here, August, but I'm a believer so maybe help me out."

"Beatrice, I'm running out of time. We all have problems. Once Emma believes and the Curse is broken, everything can be fixed."

"Yeah, that's only taken twenty-eight years, how much longer do you think it will be? Before or after I end up in the asylum?"

"Your mom won't send you to an asylum."

"No, she's already made one in the apartment."

"Look, I've got to go, you're going to have to just hang on a while longer." He groaned.

Beatrice frowned. "August, is something wrong?"

"I'm fine, gotta go," he said with a tense voice.

Beatrice screeched in frustration and threw her iPhone at the bed.

"Stupid savior girl! Take a hint!"

"Beatrice?"

Beatrice froze and turned around to see Belle in the doorway.

Yeah, that last thing probably seemed a little crazy.


Then

Snow White wondered what was keeping Lancelot. It wasn't that far to the Dark Castle. The fear of Regina's threat continued to gnaw at her and that led her and Charming to see Rumplestiltskin and learn about the Curse. By the time she saw Lancelot, his men and the carriage, she had nearly forgotten they existed. In the moments as she raced downstairs, she let herself cling on to a brief hope that somehow they could avert the Curse.

She hurried downstairs.

"Lancelot!"

Snow realized the carriage was empty.

"Where is she?"

"I'm sorry. Belle was gone."

Snow White noticed his arm. "How did you hurt yourself?"

"We ran into Regina's soldiers."

"Doc should look at you-"

"Snow White, that wasn't all. There were rumblings that King George took Belle."

"King George? Who told him where to find her? And why would he-"

"A gift. For Regina."

Snow gasped in horror. Her shoulders dropped.

Lancelot shook his head. "I'm sorry, Your Highness."


Now

Beatrice awoke. Belle stood over her in concern.

"Sweetheart, are you alright?"

"I'm fine."

"You were screaming." Belle flipped on the light. "Beatrice, my God, your other arm!"

Beatrice looked. The right arm had gotten the worst of it this time.

Belle sat on the bed. "Beatrice, why are you doing this to yourself? Sweetheart, please, tell me. Whatever it is. I can't bear to see you hurting yourself."

"I'm not hurting myself!"

"Then how is it happening? When you went to bed, your arm was perfectly fine and now..." She shook her head. "Come. Let me clean it."

Belle dragged Beatrice to the bathroom. Beatrice watched as her mother brought out the various bottles and ointments, eyes full of water.

"Mom?"

Belle looked up hopefully.

"Whatever I say, do you promise to believe me?"

"Believe you? Of course I'll believe you. You're my girl."

Beatrice was resigned to this. Anything was better than seeing her mother cry, letting her worry herself sick.

"There's a parallel universe, actually, there's a few. Actually, it could be infinite-"

"Beatrice, what does this have to do with-"

"There's one called the Enchanted Forest."

"The Enchanted Forest?" Belle looked skeptical.

"I don't make up the names, but anyway, you're from there-"

"I'm from there?"

"Yeah and there was this curse while you were pregnant with me that brought everyone from there here- well, to Maine, actually- and took away all of your memories of your past life and replaced them with false ones."

"Right..." said Belle. "Is there anything else?"

"Regina Mills-"

"Wait, where did you get that name?"

"She's really the Evil Queen because everyone in the town in Maine is a character from a fairy tale. Or possibly Alice in Wonderland. Or Peter Pan for some reason."

"Then who am I?"

"Belle."

Her mother stared at her blankly.

"You know, Belle? Likes books and the Beast? I didn't think this would be such a hard transition."

Belle shook her head. "Beatrice, that's just a coincidence."

"No, not really, when you add it in with all the other stuff I just said."

Belle stared at her blankly. "And what does this have to do with your arms?"

"At some point, you were under a sleeping curse and the people under a sleeping curse visit this Netherworld and there are flames there."

"And you're under a sleeping curse?"

"No. You were while you were pregnant with me. I'm still trying to work that out."

"Right, well," said Belle finishing up with a bandage wrapping around Beatrice's arm. "We can talk about this more in the morning."

"You don't believe me."

"Of course I believe you."

"No, you don't. You're the worst liar ever. You don't believe me. Did you read some book that told you to humor me?"

"Beatrice, I-"

"I didn't tell you the truth because you would think I was crazy! Then you thought I was crazy anyway! So what's the point?!"

"I don't think you're crazy."

"Yes, you do! You're going to have me locked up with girls with real problems! Not stupid magical ones!"

"Beatrice, just please, go to sleep." Belle hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. "I love you. We'll talk in the morning."

Beatrice sat on her bed, defeated as her mother left.


Then

Lancelot escorted Snow White down to the dwarf mines. Rumplestiltskin was in his cell as ever.

"Come back, dearie?," he called. "I'm afraid nothing's changed! You're all still doomed!"

Snow White walked below the light of the torch.

"No Charming, I see? Should I be worried?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"Belle's fairy godmother was the same as Cinderella's," said Snow White.

She saw the imp stiffen.

"I don't know who you mean, dearie."

Snow White ignored him and tried to carry on as she started to sniffle. "That's why you killed the Gold Fairy, isn't it? It wasn't power, it was revenge. You thought she should have helped."

"I don't need a reason to kill a fairy," said Rumplestiltskin.

"Belle was the first person to hide me from Regina," said Snow White.

"What a delightful piece of trivia," the Dark One quipped without his usual enthusiasm.

"I'm sorry," said Snow.

Rumplestiltskin looked up at her. In the flickers of torchlight, he could see that her eyes and face were red. Tears flowed freely.

"I'm so sorry," said Snow White. "I'm so sorry you lost her."

Rumplestiltskin eyed her. "Just a housekeeper, dearie."

Snow White nodded through her tears. She knew Rumplestiltskin would never reveal himself in front of her. Though everyone in the kingdom made deals and then spoke of him with disdain, Belle was the only one who seemed to know him.

"I'm sorry," said Snow, still sobbing. "I'm sorry."

Snow White cried and Rumplestiltskin was forced by the nature of his plans to act disinterested.

He could only wonder what had possessed the princess to bring up someone who had been dead for years.

Chapter Text

Now

Belle laid awake most of the night.

What was Beatrice possibly thinking? That she had been some princess in a fairy tale? She hadn't been anybody. She had been locked away in a place no better than a cell. She couldn't even remember anyone coming to visit her.

Maybe she had deserved to be there. Maybe she had been crazy.

Then she heard the front door shut.


Then

"Gold."

The Gold Fairy Godmother froze and turned back as the Blue Fairy hopped across clouds to come near her.

"You were so quiet at the meeting today," said Blue. "Nothing to report on your charges?"

Gold shrugged. "Aurora remains free of Maleficent for now. Cinderella continues to toil for her stepmother, but her ball has not yet come."

"And what of Belle?"

Gold didn't speak. There was no point. The Blue Fairy would know all.

"She is your charge and she has become the Dark One's lover," Blue said with contempt. "How can you explain yourself and this utter failure?"

"She loves him," said Gold. It was the only answer.

"She is infatuated, it is your job to guide her."

"It's not an infatuation," Gold insisted. "It's True Love."

"And how can you know that to be certain?"

"Because she kissed him and the curse of the Dark One weakened."

"I see. Then why does the Dark One continue to plague the kingdom?"

"Because he stopped her." Gold saw Blue's disapproval beginning again. "He thought it was a trick by Regina the Queen. They have worked through it."

"And yet the Dark One remains."

"Belle says he needs his power to find his son and she won't take that from him," said Gold. Sensing Blue was about to say more, she quickly added, "Which I think is more proof of True Love than any kiss."

"He made his choice about his son long ago."

"A choice he's lived to regret."

"Are you Fairy Godmother to Belle or the Dark One?"

"Perhaps he needs one or perhaps it's Belle."

"Do you have any idea what havoc your negligence has wrought? There was a spark of magic which has been traced to be growing in your charge."

"Children born of True Love always have magic."

"More likely it's the Dark One expanding his power, creating a new pupil, like Cora and Regina. This child is destined to go down their path."

"I don't think he would do that."

"Oh. Do you now?"

"He's gentle with Belle," said Gold. "And we all know Rumplestiltskin's tale, that he was a poor spinner who took on the Dark One's powers to save his son. He never tried to steer him towards the practice of magic. It seems to me impossible that a father could risk his soul for one child and lead another down a path he knows all too well is a burden."

"Is this what you told Belle?"

"No, I did my very best to dissuade her, even saying that their children might be monsters and it didn't work."

"I'll be taking over as Belle's Fairy Godmother."

Gold was stunned. "You can't do that! I was godmother to her mother, Reinette, and her mother and her mother before that and so on."

"I suppose you want to be Fairy Godmother to the Dark One's child as well?"

That was indeed a frightening thought, but Gold tried to shake it off. "She might well need one."

"She will never have one."

"What does that mean?," asked Gold.

"She's not your concern anymore," said Blue, turning back amongst the clouds.

"He won't let you near her!," said Gold, calling after her. "Of all of us, he despises you the most."

Gold could only watch as Blue flew away.


Now

"Beatrice!," Belle shouted.

Beatrice stood on the train platform, wishing she couldn't hear her mother or had the heart to ignore her. Before she knew it, Belle had grabbed her and turned her around to face her.

"Beatrice, what are you doing?"

"How did you even find me?"

"Credit card activity."

Beatrice looked incredulous. "You know how to do that?"

"A woman in India talked me through it. Now, what are you doing?"

Beatrice shook her head. "You asked me to tell you the truth. I did and you don't believe me, which is sort of ironic when you think about it!"

"Beatrice, I believe that you believe that's the truth," said Belle.

"No! That's the truth!"

"You need help, sweetheart."

"They want to lock me up!"

Belle shook her head. "No, I am never going to let anyone lock you up. We can figure this out together."

"Then let's go."

"Go where?"

"Storybrooke."

"Beatrice, no, you don't understand, I can't go back there."

"Why not?"

"Beatrice, I was in a mental asylum there. The mayor said I was some kind of prostitute..."

Beatrice shook her head in incredulity. "You were not a prostitute-"

"That's why I don't know who your father is-"

"Mom, I go to a high school full of slutty girls and you are not a slut-"

"Is that any less likely than my being a princess in a fairy tale?"

"Yes, actually! It is!"

"Beatrice..."

"Take me to Storybrooke and prove me wrong! Do that and I will go wherever you want and be locked up."

"That's not what I want-"

"What if I can give you one other person who says the same thing?," asked Beatrice. "If I have one other person that says the same thing, will you at least go to Storybrooke?"

"Beatrice..."

"That's my deal."

Belle nodded. "Alright, it's a deal."


Then

The Gold Fairy resumed her duties with less than her usual enthusiasm. Belle's fate weighed on her, especially since she heard her former charge had disappeared. The Blue Fairy was silent on the subject and rumors of Rumplestiltskin's latest streak of trouble ran rampant throughout the land. Today she was off to a tower to visit a girl who was locked up and would need hope.

"Rapunzel?," called the Gold Fairy. "Rapunzel?"

"She's not here, Goldie," said Rumplestiltskin.

The Gold Fairy froze with fright as the Dark One lit a candle.

"What have you done to her?," asked Gold.

"I've set her free."

"And what price did you exact from her?," asked the Gold Fairy.

Rumplestiltskin edged closer to the fairy. "I just wanted the chance to talk to you. It's not as if you were giving her a lot of help, leaving her locked up in a tower when a mere wave of your wand could set her free."

"These things have a timetable. You wouldn't understand."

Rumplestiltskin smiled. "Oh, I know all about timetables. And what about Belle's timetable?"

"I don't know," said Gold.

"You're lying."

"We don't do that."

"Another lie."

"I don't know," she repeated. "Her fate was taken out of my control because of her association with you. The Blue Fairy took over. She's not exactly a fan of yours."

"The feeling's mutual." Rumplestiltskin edged closer. "That still doesn't tell me where Belle is."

"And neither can I."


Now

Neal opened the door. He saw Beatrice and someone he would have had to guess was Belle. "Uh..."

Beatrice pushed past Neal and entered. Belle followed.

"Hi, Beatrice," Neal said dryly as he shut the door. "Please come in."

"Neal, this is my mom. Tell her."

Belle looked up and down at Neal. "How do you two know each other?"

"Tell her!," Beatrice shouted.

Neal shook his head. "Why am I-"

"Neal, I realize you've got daddy issues and everything, but you telling her the truth is the line between me and an insane asylum, so it would really be helping me out if you could just put that aside and tell her the truth!"

Belle stared at Neal.

"I'm from a place called the Enchanted Forest," said Neal. "It's the same land you're from. Someone cast a curse and brought everyone from that realm here, that's why you don't remember things, why things are hazy-"

Belle shook her head. "What you're talking about is impossible-"

Neal interrupted her. "That guy you went on the date with. Owen. You haven't seen him in a while, right?"

"Yeah," said Belle.

"He was dating you to gain your trust. He was working with someone who was following Beatrice."

Belle looked at Beatrice. "Is that true?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you say anything?," asked Belle. "Were you hurt? Did something happen?"

"No."

"Why would he be following you?"

Luckily, Neal seemed to pick up on the fact that Beatrice wasn't quite ready to reveal the magic thing. "He and perhaps some others are curious about the world we come from. You're the only people to have left Storybrooke."

"No, we aren't," said Belle.

"We so are," said Beatrice. "Have you ever met anyone else from there? Have you ever met anyone who's even heard of it?"

Belle shook her head. "It's a small town."

"It doesn't even have a Wikipedia page," said Beatrice.

"You know I hate Wikipedia," said Belle.

"Then name a book that mentions it," said Beatrice. She looked at Belle. "I did what I said I would. I have given you one other person who has the same crazy story as me."

"You're not crazy," said Belle.

"No, she's not," said Neal. "Believe me, I wish she was. My life would be a lot easier."

"Yes, because this is about you," said Beatrice.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is your thing now," said Neal.

"Yeah, it's my thing since you won't help."

"You don't know my life!"

Belle shook her head. "Would you two stop bickering like children?"

Beatrice turned to Belle. "I believe we had a deal."


Then

The Gold Fairy looked on in satisfaction as Princess Aurora danced with Prince Philip at the ball. The royals and the courtiers looked on in admiration at the sight of new love. Aurora was safe. She had True Love now and nothing could hurt her.

She wished the same could be said for all of her other charges.

"Belle's dead."

The Gold Fairy froze. Of all the people to sneak up on someone, the worst had to be Rumplestiltskin.

She floated back to face the Dark One. "And who told you that?"

"I have my sources."

"And did they say anything else?"

Rumplestiltskin looked puzzled. "She's dead. Did you want details?"

"The Blue Fairy no matter what you think of her, she wouldn't kill."

"No, of course not, you fairies never do anything wrong," Rumplestiltskin grumbled.

"And why have you come? To exact your revenge?"

"I think not today, dearie. These things have timetables."

The Gold Fairy looked at him curiously. "Timetables? For what?"

"That will all become apparent soon enough," said Rumplestiltskin. "Too bad you won't be around for it."

"This isn't my fault," said the Gold Fairy.

"And it's mine?!"

"Yes! Because you know what you are and you still persist! Your darkness leaves no one untouched! You should have sent her away!"

"I tried that! Don't you think I tried that?! If you think I could have, then you never understood her! No one did! No one!"

By this time, the guards of the palace had come out to the garden to see the strange sight of the Dark One and a fairy arguing.

Rumplestiltskin disappeared into a puff of smoke.

The Gold Fairy felt pity for the Dark One.

Yet somehow she had never been more afraid. True Love was the most powerful magic, but when it got taken away from someone who was so desperate for it, that's when True Love soured and that could be just as powerful.


Now

Beatrice could be insistent upon deals and Belle often complied for reasons she didn't understand. Before she knew it, Belle had suspended the newspaper subscription, bought an atlas and rented a car. She didn't like this idea one bit, but she had made a deal with Beatrice and she was the one person in the world she would never let down, even if it meant going back to Storybrooke. Even if it meant facing her father or Regina.

Belle got in the driver's seat and looked at Beatrice. She was set to go with what would be the first Starbucks of the day and looked as if she was on a mission.

"I still can't believe I'm doing this," said Belle.

"We made a deal."

"I know." Belle looked at Beatrice. "There may be things in Storybrooke that you might not like hearing."

"I expect there might be," said Beatrice. She looked at Belle. "Not changing my mind."

"Neither am I," said Belle and she started the car.

Chapter Text

 


Then

In Storybrooke, Regina Mills was a respected if somewhat feared mayor. That came with a certain expectation of behavior, even if they were all cursed imbeciles. She couldn't go around giving out the verbal lashings she wanted to, but that left one person she did still get some joy out of torturing.

She went through the exit door that led to Storybrooke Hospital's mental ward.

The icy nurse was waiting as ever.

"Any visitors?" Regina was confident there would never be any. Gold thought she was dead. Moe thought she was a fallen woman. Just like the Enchanted Forest. Still, one could never be too careful with Rumplestiltskin as her adversary.

"No visitors," said the nurse. "She has been sick, though."

"The poor little dearie," Regina said with an irony only she recognized as she walked towards room twelve.

She opened the hatch and looked inside. Belle did look positively pale. Or that might have been not having left her room in thirteen years.

"He's still not coming," said Regina. "Not now. Not ever. He doesn't even know you exist and even if he did-"

Regina's taunts were interrupted by Belle dropping her head to vomit the hospital slop. Regina stepped back in disgust and shut the hatch.

That had really taken the fun out of that.


Now

Belle took a deep breath as she passed the "Welcome to Storybrooke" sign. Beatrice had dozed off in the front seat and she was grateful that the screams hadn't resumed.

She hadn't been here since the day she left in the ambulance for Boston. The details of how she had ended up in the mental ward were all a haze. Her father's disapproval was the only thing she was certain of.

Her whole life was a haze. She could only guess at it. What had happened? She wasn't going to have any answers here, all she could do was disappoint Beatrice.

She drove on anyway.


Since August's deception, Gold had found the pleasure was really taken out of his usual routine. It had, of course, been progressively lessening since Emma's arrival awoke him from the Curse. Some things had been more fun, like taking Moe French's van or having Mother Superior pay him the rent. Seeing the rest of them suffer the Curse was just starting to be tiresome. It was a testament to Regina's limited imagination that she could have possibly gotten satisfaction from lording over this cursed town for twenty-eight years.

Of course, now it was rather fun to watch to her work desperately to save it all.

So it was merely out of routine that he went to Granny's for the rent on his rounds.

"Is it rent day?," asked Granny.

Oh, why did this woman insist on being so tiresome even in her cursed state? Would it kill someone to greet him with something other than some excuse about the rent? At least in the Enchanted Forest people would at least amuse him for a moment with how they needed to leave their larcenous parents or how they needed to forget their True Love. Even Regina had become monotonous here with her single-mindedness about getting rid of Miss Swan.

"Yes-" Gold began with disdain.

"Excuse me?"

He froze in mid-sentence.

That voice. Unforgettable. Unmistakable.

Impossible.

Gold turned to see the face that accompanied the voice.

Impossible. Older maybe, but not in any way that would ever matter to Gold or that he would even notice. The modern clothes seemed strange, but the colors were all her, but, still.

Impossible.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Belle. "You were doing something."

"No," he said softly, "no, it's quite alright. Be my guest."

Belle smiled and edged up to Granny. "I'd like a room, please."

"Just you, honey?"

"No, actually, my daughter and I will be staying."

Daughter. That word dealt a blow to Gold.

"How many nights?," asked Granny.

"I'm not sure actually," said Belle. "We're on a bit of a quest."

"A quest?," asked Gold.

Belle turned to face him and shrugged. "It's hard to explain."

"That's quite alright."

"Here you go, hon," said Granny, giving her a key.

"Thank you."


Beatrice awoke in the car. It was parked outside some inn. This had to be it. She grabbed her bag and got out of the car.

Being from New York as she was, Beatrice wasn't much for small towns. This one, though, it was all wrong. Everything seemed slightly out of date. For one thing, the cars. Nobody had a new car, like the positively ancient Cadillac on the corner. She walked around. The shop windows seemed just a little bit out of date. She supposed that was the whole frozen in time thing.

It wsn't long before she found a diner. An actual diner and looked inside to see August.

August looked up at her in shock. "Beatrice, what are you doing here?"

"What am I doing here?" She sat down in the booth next to the kid. "Well, let's see, at night I've been visiting a Netherworld in my sleep-"

"Beatrice-"

"And I got this!" She pulled down her sleeve, revealing the bandaged arm. "Oh, yeah, then this!" She pulled the other sleeve.

"I'm sorry, Beatrice. I thought that world was closed off-"

"Apparently, it's not! It's wide open! And I am trying to explain to my mother that I'm not some emo girl who burns herself, but it's kind of hard considering she doesn't know who she really is, but I've managed to get her here and now I need this stupid curse broken!"

"Is Neal with you?"

Beatrice snorted. "Yeah, he's got serious Daddy issues."

"Has anyone seen you? Like Regina or Mr. Gold?"

Beatrice looked at the kid. "Who is he?"

"I'm Henry."

"He's got the same book as me," said Beatrice.

"Has Mr. Gold seen you?"

"I have literally no idea who that is," said Beatrice.

"Wait, so she knows about the curse, too?," asked Henry.

"Um, hello," Beatrice said holding up her wrists, "I've been in a Netherworld talking to Princess Aurora every night."

"You what?," asked August.

"Yeah, I tried explaining Doctor Who. She didn't get it."


Then

A week after her last visit to Belle, Regina walked down the street doing the usual morning rounds.

That's when she noticed Mary Margaret, Doctor Hopper and Marco standing around the clock tower. Other groups had gathered as well.

"What's going on here? What's all this?," asked Regina.

"Oh, good morning, Madame Mayor," said Doctor Hopper.

"We just couldn't help but notice the clock moved," Mary Margaret offered weakly.

Regina looked up. For thirteen years, the clock had sat at 8:14. It now said 8:15.

Which could only mean the Curse was weakening.

She stalked immediately into Mr. Gold's shop.

"Good morning, Madame Mayor," he said as he wiped down the glass case.

"What did you do? To the clock?"

He looked at her as if she were crazy. "To the clock?"

"It moved!"

"Oh, you mean above the library? Such a strange occurrence."

"And you had nothing to do with it?"

Gold looked at her curiously. "Do I seem like the sort of man to go around fixing clock towers?"

"You are the sort of man who does anything he sees fit to his purpose."

"And to what possible purpose would repairing the clock be?," he asked incredulously.

She eyed him again. He really had no idea what she meant. She turned on her heels and left.

Because there was only one other possible explanation.


Now

Gold tried to be subtle in following Belle out of the inn. Subtlety was in short supply as the town pariah walking with a cane.

"Oh, my God!," Belle exclaimed.

He turned, grateful for an excuse to talk to her. "Is something the matter?"

"My daughter, she was asleep and I didn't want to wake her and now she's..."

Belle put her face in her hands.

"Perhaps she just went in search of you. How old is your girl?," asked Gold.

"Sorry?," asked Belle, casting him a suspicious glance.

Gold smiled. "It might help if I knew who I was looking for."

"Right, of course, she's fifteen."

"Fifteen? That's an interesting age." Indeed it was, as it explained nothing.

Belle shrugged. "I think it might be the one that does me in."

"Is she trouble generally?"

"Beatrice? No, it's always been just us and she's never given me any problems until recently and she's not trying to be trouble. I don't know, I-" Belle stopped herself. "I'm sorry. I sound like a crazy woman. I shouldn't lay all of this on you."

"No, not at all." He paused. "Beatrice?"

"I know, everyone always has that reaction, but it's from a play-"

"I know. Much Ado About Nothing."

Belle smiled. "I read it when I was pregnant with her. No one gets it."

"Her father didn't care for it?"

"It wasn't really an issue." She paused. "There's not a coffee shop, is there? She sort of has a caffeine addiction."

Gold motioned. "Granny's is just there. Perhaps that's where your girl went."


Then

Regina went back to the hospital expecting to see the nurse. She was there, joined by Graham and Whale.

"Sheriff, what are you doing here?"

"Investigating a crime."

"A crime?"

Whale spoke. "The patient in room twelve is pregnant."

Regina now thought she would be the one to throw up.

Whale continued unaware of the mayor's distress. "She's three months and since she's been in here as long as anyone can remember, that means someone got in. She's so non-responsive that it had to have been by force."

"You can't know that," Regina said futilely.

"I just spoke to her myself," said Graham. "That poor girl doesn't have the presence of mind to consent to anything. she barely knows who she is."

Belle was non-responsive because she had no memories. Regina hadn't given her any. It was more fun that way when she came to see her. She gave Gold the sad memory of a brief lost love. She gave Moe the memory of a daughter who sold herself. She gave Belle nothing because she needed nothing.

They also couldn't know that Belle was three months pregnant because she must have been close to that when Regina cast the Curse. New life couldn't grow in Storybrooke, time was frozen. Hell, Cinderella had been walking around whining about being pregnant for thirteen years. That had already gotten old.

Yet somehow Rumplestiltskin's spawn was growing if the morning sickness was anything to judge by.

Regina walked back down the hall and looked through the hatch.

Belle still didn't know who she was, but somehow her eyes weren't quite as blank and lifeless. There was a spark in them as she sat on the bed, hand over her belly.

If this were the Enchanted Forest, Regina would have had any number of ideas. The child could have always been used as a bargaining chip with Rumplestiltskin, she always needed those. Or she could have adopted the child, trained him or her and enjoyed a delicious bit of poetic justice in the final destruction of the Dark One. Perhaps child could have stabbed father with his own dagger. Regina had a bit of fun fantasizing about that particular scenario.

This wasn't the Enchanted Forest, though. If the child was possessed of any magic as the seed of the Dark One's true love was bound to be, then he could only be a problem. The only magic in this world was that which was brought here. What if the spawn weakened the Curse any further? What if it somehow awakened Rumplestiltskin?

Regina had nightmares about what he would do to her if he found out.

Well, there was just one thing to do.


Now

Inside Granny's, Beatrice could not believe what had happened.

Beatrice looked at Ruby. "No mocha?"

"No."

"Latte."

"No."

"Americano."

"Sorry, just coffee..." Ruby said warily.

"Oh, God, what have I done?," asked Beatrice.

August looked at Ruby. "Just keep the coffee coming."

Ruby nodded and walked back to the counter.

"If you grew up in New York, that means you can leave!," exclaimed Henry. "Why can you leave?"

"I don't know," said Beatrice. She looked back at August. "Why can I leave?"

"Guys, this is all fascinating, but-" August's face dropped.

"What?," Beatrice asked, turning back. Belle had just come in with an older man with a cane. There was something about him. Everyone in the diner looked away.

"Your mom's here," said August.

"Who's she with?"

"That's Mr. Gold," Henry supplied.

Beatrice looked back at August. "And who is Mr. Gold? Why wasn't I supposed to see him? Is he going to do something to her?"

"No," said August.

"Beatrice..." said Belle. "August, what are you doing here?"

"I write here."

"You know Mr. Booth?," asked Gold.

"Oh, yes, we're old friends," said Belle.

"How nice," Gold remarked. He looked to Beatrice. "And this must be your girl."

"Yeah, here she is. The elusive Beatrice," said Belle.

Beatrice watched Gold. He was looking her over, for what purpose she couldn't figure out. He stopped at her glasses and then again at the bandages on her arms. Beatrice tugged her sleeves down self-consciously.

"Well, Miss French," said Gold, "now that you're reunited with your daughter, I suppose I should be leaving you."

"Thank you for your help," said Belle.

"Not at all. If you need anything while you're here, you can find me at my shop." He turned to August. "Mr. Booth knows where it is. I believe I'll be seeing him there later."

"Right," said August, looking not so thrilled about that prospect.

Gold nodded giving Beatrice one last examining look and walked off.

"He seems nice," said Belle.

Henry looked at Belle in shock.

"Seriously, what is happening here?," asked Beatrice.

"You ran off again," said Belle, sitting down next to August. She looked at Henry. "Who's your friend, August?"

"This is Henry," said August.

"Hi, Henry. I'm Belle."

"Belle?," Henry asked in disbelief.

Beatrice shook her head. "I know, right?"

"I should go," said Henry. "My mom will be looking for me."

Beatrice got up to let Henry out.

"So, Belle," said August, "what are you doing here?"

"Neal told her."

"Neal told her what?," asked August.

"Seriously," said Beatrice, "let's just stop the crap, okay?"

"Beatrice..." Belle warned.

"No, really. I'm sick of playing this game where I come off crazy," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice," said Belle, "what is it you're hoping to prove?"

She motioned around. "None of this is right. The fact that you can't get Savior Girl to see it is just a little puzzling."

"Who is Savior Girl?," asked Belle.

"She means Emma Swan," said August with a shrug.

Beatrice remembered the prediction of the voodoo woman. "I'm sorry did you say Swan?"

"Yes," said August.

Swan.

Dragon.

Oh great.


Then

It wasn't hard to convince Graham and Whale that the most humane thing to do was to send Belle French away. The Storybrooke mental ward was no place for her. Surely, in a city like Boston they would have the facilities to help her. Perhaps if she did ever regain mental competency, Graham would be able to resume his investigation into who took advantage of the poor girl. The worst possible thing would be to leave her in the place where she had been so misused.

This course of action also had the added benefit of sending her beyond the town line.

It was almost a shame Rumplestiltskin would never know that his lost love was so close and she carried their child. Regina had no intention of waking him up to tell him.

Regina sat in her Mercedes at the side of the road out of town watching as the ambulance carrying Belle went past the town line.

Nothing happened. The ambulance drove safely on its way.

She really hated that imp.

Chapter Text

 


Then

"Belle!," called Lady Reinette. "Belle!"

"Can I help, your ladyship?," asked Johanna.

Reinette smiled at the servant. "Have you seen Belle? She needs to get ready for the evening's events."

"I think I saw her go into the library, milady," said Johanna.

"Of course," said Reinette. "I should have thought of it myself. Thank you, Johanna."

Lady Reinette made her way to the library of the Summer Palace. King Leopold had built this place for Queen Eva and left nothing to chance. Though Queen Eva was not a prolific reader, she did read and the King had seen to that. It was a grand room with walls and walls of bookshelves and beautiful window seats to look out over the kingdom with. The library at Sir Maurice's was decidedly more modest, like a lot of things at Sir Maurice's so when she and Belle visited the Queen and Princess Snow every summer Belle made thorough use of the library.

"Belle."

Belle looked down from the window seat. She was a beautiful girl now and Reinette had no doubt this would carry into her womanhood.

"Yes, Mama?"

"You need to change before this evening's amusements."

"But, Mama..."

"Come now, Belle," said Reinette. Her daughter obliged and got down from the window seat. Reinette took her by the hand. "You are becoming a young lady. You must be careful how you present yourself, especially here."

"Why?"

"Because this is the court of King Leopold and Queen Eva, one of the most prominent in all the lands. Your best chance of making a good marriage is here." She caught Belle's scowl. "Not this year and not for a few yet, but surely someday."

"I would wish to marry for love."

Reinette smiled wistfully. "I wish it for you as well and I think you with your many virtues shall have your wish."


Now

"I don't suppose there's anyone around here whose last name is dragon," said Beatrice as they walked inside the city building that housed Sheriff Swan's office.

"No," said August.

"Great," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice, I don't understand what you're hoping to find at the sheriff's station," said Belle. "I've already told you what I was."

"And I've already told you that's a bunch of crap. So we are going to find or rather not find your arrest records and meet the sheriff. It's a win-win."

"I don't know," said Belle.

"Well, I do and I'm the crazy one, remember?"

Beatrice walked into the sheriff's station where she found Savior Girl finishing up a doughnut.

Beatrice looked at August and motioned at Emma. "Really? Her?"

Emma looked at her skeptically. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, I'm Beatrice French," she said. She motioned at her mother as she came in. "This is my mother, Belle French."

"Belle French?" Emma looked at her. "Is your dad Moe? From the flower shop?"

"Yes."

Beatrice spoke again. "Anyway, you have arrest records, don't you?"

"Yeah," said Emma.

"Then we need hers," said Beatrice.

"If you don't mind, Emma," August added.

Emma led them to a room full of file cabinets.

"Not very often people come in asking to see their arrest reports," said Emma.

"Well, I have reasons," said Beatrice.

"Are you guys just visiting?," asked Emma. "I didn't even know Moe had a daughter."

"He's not likely to mention it," said Belle.

Emma looked at Belle for a minute, like she was trying to figure something out in her mind. She went back to her work at the cabinet.

"Huh," said Emma, stopping the flipping through folders.

"Something amiss?," asked Beatrice.

"There's nothing here," said Emma. She looked at Belle. "You're sure you got arrested?"

Belle shrugged.

"There's nothing here." Emma walked to another cabinet.

"Nothing there," said Beatrice looking pointedly at her mother.

Emma searched through another cabinet. "Okay, Belle French."

"An arrest record?," asked Belle. "Misplaced?"

She cast Beatrice a sideways glance and the girl rolled her eyes.

Emma shook her head. "No, Graham was meticulous with his filing. Wait..."

"Something wrong, Sheriff?," asked Beatrice.

"I found you on an incident report, Belle," said Emma. "The late sheriff, Graham. He wrote it up. This was over fifteen years ago. I didn't think he was that old."

Beatrice shot August a look. "Really? How odd."

Emma frowned and handed the folder to Belle. "I think you should look at it."

Belle leafed through the pages. "I... I don't know what this is. I never..."

Emma looked at August. "August, why don't you take Beatrice out for a minute?"

"What does it say?," asked Beatrice.

"Come on," said August.


Then

The party was made up of royal ladies and their daughters at the Summer Palace to celebrate the Festival of the Equinox Lady. It was one of Queen Eva's favorite events and invitations were hard to get, but Reinette had known her since they were children.

Reinette had been the daughter of a Duke, but was now married to a lowly knight from a small kingdom. Their marriage was out of necessity and Reinette regretted that necessity save for Belle. Love for her was the only thing she and her husband agreed on. They disagreed on everything else, including Belle's upbringing, like these trips in the summer. Reinette wanted to expose her daughter to the best society, Maurice would have been happy for her to marry any errant knight. Reinette knew that Belle was very smart and would need a suitable match. Being mistress of their land wouldn't be enough for her, though she would soldier on cheerfully through a life of duty. The only way to make Belle's life more interesting in Reinette's eyes was through a husband's station who was above their own.

"Now, Snow, girls," said Eva, "we have a special treat for the festival of the Equinox Lady. The good seer, Octavia, she's going to tell you something about your future husbands."

"Oh, a trifle, really," said Octavia. "Who will go first?"

None of the girls stepped forward.

Eva smiled in amusement. "No one? Snow?"

Snow White looked to Belle. "You go first, Belle. You're the bravest."

Belle looked to Reinette and she nodded her approval. Belle stepped forward to the woman.

"Your hand, child."

Belle held out her hand.

"You, child. You will find True Love..."

The girls giggled.

"With the most powerful man in all the realms."

The giggling stopped at the seriousness of Octavia's tone. Reinette's interest was piqued and she was quite pleased with the prophecy. One of the other girls took her turn as Belle came to Reinette.

"Mama, I don't want to marry for power," said Belle.

"And you won't," said Reinette, smiling. "Didn't you hear? You're going to find True Love."

"I want adventure."

"Adventure you will have," said Reinette. "Belle, with True Love anything is possible. Love is hope. You are going to have everything you could ever want."

"I'd want a library," said Belle.

"Well, I'm certain you'll get it," said Reinette.


Now

August took Beatrice out onto the street. He leaned up against a ramp, looking as if he were in pain.

"Is something wrong?," asked Beatrice.

"Emma needs to believe," said August.

"Oddly enough, I've found a shortcut," said Beatrice. "It's called proof."

"This is her destiny."

"Good. I'm thrilled for her," said Beatrice. "I still need help with my thing. Now, who's Mr. Gold?"

"What?"

"Why wasn't I supposed to let him see me? And why is he so interested in my mom?"

"He's just-"

Beatrice shook her head. "Nobody's just anybody here. Who is he?"

August relented. "Rumplestiltskin."

"I haven't been sold to him, have I?," asked Beatrice. "You know, that whole firstborn thing? No, wait, my mom's too smart to not actually read the contract."

"No, you're fine. He's just... powerful."

"Well, there's no magic here so he's not all that powerful, is he? What are you not telling me?"

Beatrice stopped and turned. A woman with dark hair in a black pantsuit was staring at her from down the street.

"That's her, isn't it?," asked Beatrice. "The Evil Queen."

Belle came outside. "Beatrice, I-"

"What did she say?"

Belle was staring at Regina and Regina was staring back. Volumes were happening in looks between the two women.

"Mom?," asked Beatrice.

"It's okay, Belle," said August.

"No, I'm fine," said Belle, taking her daughter by the arm as she looked at Regina. "Sorry, Beatrice, you said this town was frozen in time, didn't you?"

"Yeah."

It was Belle dragging Beatrice back in the sheriff's office. Emma looked up in surprise.

"You said Graham died?," asked Belle.

"Yeah," said Emma.

She walked over to a plaque on the wall with the late sheriff's picture.

"He looks the same," said Belle.

"Okay..." said Emma.

"No, he looks exactly the same. He didn't age at all."

Emma shrugged. "Alright."

"Regina looks exactly the same," said Belle.

"Thank you for joining me at my point," said Beatrice.

"Maybe they just age well?," asked Emma.

Belle shrugged.

"Really? That's what you're going with?," asked Beatrice.

"I need to see my dad," said Belle.

"Is that a good idea?," asked August.

"No, but I can handle him," said Belle. "Thank you for your help, Sheriff."

Belle left, Beatrice followed.

"August," said Emma. "A minute?"

August stopped. "I should go with them."

"August, who are they? Really?"

August smiled. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."


Then

"Sir Gaston!," Reinette exclaimed.

It was her first morning back in her land after the summer escape. This was often a difficult time, leaving the life at the palace and coming back to her own duchy, not because she had disdain for the duties of a noblewoman, it was her husband. They usually had a cursory meeting in the morning as she took breakfast in her room. They went over the day's events and at the end of this meeting, he had decided to drop in that he had made preliminary arrangements to marry off their only child.

"Not right away, of course," said Sir Maurice. "I know she is not of age, but when she is..."

"Why don't you just marry her off to a watering can?," asked Reinette. "They would have as much to talk about."

"What is the matter with Gaston?," asked Sir Maurice.

"He's a dolt and a braggart and he doesn't interest Belle in the least."

"You forget, milady," said Sir Maurice. "You've borne me no sons. I need someone to rule over my lands and no woman can do it on her own."

Reinette scoffed. "You underestimate your own daughter."

"Belle may have a sharp mind for a woman, but it's still a woman's."

"Whereas Gaston has no mind."

"Hold your tongue, woman."

"I have held my tongue for many years over many things, sir, but I am afraid my daughter's husband will not be one of them."

"I have her best interests at heart," said Sir Maurice.

"I have never doubted your love for Belle," said Reinette. "Merely your appraisal of her worth and your judgment."

"She is my daughter and I will do with her as I please," said Sir Maurice. "Now, if you'll excuse me, milady."

Reinette fumed. This would not stand.


Now

Gold didn't look up as he heard the bell ring on the door of the pawn shop. He didn't need to.

"There you are, Mr. Booth," said Mr. Gold. "I was expecting to see you some time ago."

"I was busy."

Gold approached closer, his cane emphasizing every step. "And what might you have been busy with?"

August froze.

"Does it have anything to do with our new visitors?," asked Gold. "You've been holding out on me, Mr. Booth."

"I can explain-"

"Explain how when you were impersonating my son, you were holding back on Belle? Who does the girl belong to?"

August waited too long. "Who do you think?"

"Do you know what happened?"

"Regina sent her away. That's all I've ever known. I swear."

"Well, we all know what an oath from you means," said Gold. He went back behind the case. "Here's what you're going to do. You're going to keep working on Miss Swan. In the meantime, you're going to send Belle my way."

"What?"

"She trusts you and let's face it, she shouldn't, so whatever she's here for, whatever she needs help with, you'll suggest that I can help."

"Why should she trust you?"

"Because she used to and she can again."

"If the Curse was broken, she would."

"Yes, and I will wait with bated breath for you to deliver on that promise. In the meantime, this is what I want and you, Mr. Booth are really in no position to deny me what I want."

"I'll tell her," said August.

"Good boy," said Gold.


Belle and Beatrice stood outside Game of Thorns.

"This is a bad idea," said Belle.

"Um, you suggested it?," asked Beatrice.

Belle nodded. Yes, it had been her idea this humiliation was the best way to prove the truth to her daughter.

"Mom," said Beatrice, "there's nothing some jerk I haven't met yet can say to change my mind about you. I know who you are."

"That jerk is my father."

"We'll see," said Beatrice.

Belle took a deep breath and walked in. Beatrice followed.

Moe French turned around. Beatrice watched his face as he looked at her mother: it was like he was looking at a phantasm.

"Hi, Dad," said Belle.

"What are you doing here?," he demanded harshly.

"I'm visiting Storybrooke," said Belle. She took Beatrice's hand. "This is Beatrice. Your granddaughter."

Moe looked at Beatrice. There was something repelling him.

"What have you brought your bastard around for?"

"Excuse me?," said Beatrice.

"You made your choice, Belle."

"Dad, see, I don't quite remember-"

"Remember? Your disgrace? Your whoring yourself out?!"

"You can't talk to her like that!," shouted Beatrice.

"Beatrice, you should wait outside," said Belle.

"Yes, get that out of my shop."

Beatrice scowled. What had this man done to her mother? What was it he thought of her? She had no idea because this definitely was not in her story book. Whatever it was, he was wrong.

She was angry. So she knocked over the nearest flower arrangement to the ground and its vase smashed into pieces.

"Beatrice!," Belle exclaimed.

"You'll pay for that."

"It was an accident," Beatrice said flatly. She kicked over a stand of flowers. "Like that."

"Get out!," Moe bellowed.

Moe was walking closer. Belle stood between he and Beatrice, then pushed her out of the storefront.

"How long has your dad been an asshole?," asked Beatrice.

"Miss French."

Beatrice and Belle turned to see Regina smiling icily.

"I was surprised to see you here," said Regina. "Given the terms of our agreement."

"I have something to do in town," said Belle.

"Well, having seen that reunion with your father, it's safe to say you're done," said Regina. "I'll tell Granny you're leaving."

"No, I'm not done," said Belle. "And if you want to drive me out of town, you're going to have to work a lot harder at it."

Regina looked startled by what Belle had said.

"We'll see," said Regina.


Then

Reinette waited in the forest in the meeting place that had been arranged. There was someone who was far more powerful than Sir Maurice, who would make any deal. She heard a rustling in the trees and the imp appeared.

"Are you him?," asked Reinette.

"Rumplestiltskin," he said with a bow. "And you are?"

She frowned. "I thought you knew everyone."

"Yes, you see, that is curious," said Rumplestiltskin, approaching her closer. "I don't know anything about you."

"Lady Reinette."

"And what ails you, Lady Reinette?"

"My daughter."

"Let me guess, you don't approve of her lover?"

"She's fourteen."

Rumplestiltskin's face immediately showed distaste at his own faux pas which Reinette thought curious. "Oh, sorry." He paused. "Then what?"

"My husband wishes to marry her off to the most obnoxious man in the village. She should choose her own fate."

Rumplestiltskin eyed her. "And that's what you want?"

"A seer has foretold that she'll find True Love. I want her to be free to do so. What would you ask in return?"

"So strange..."

"What?," asked Reinette.

"I can't see anything about your daughter."

"It's been foretold."

"No, see, I have the power to see the future and I don't see anything..."

"I've made my request. What's your price?"

"Don't hear that often..." He paused. "No price."

"That's not-"

"I'm not interested in the deal."

"What?"

"Because I don't know what you are. I don't make deals without knowing what it's going to cost me. You're dangerous."

Reinette was in disbelief. She had never heard of the Dark One refusing a deal. "What danger?"

"I don't know, but don't worry, dearie, if it's True Love, these things have a way of figuring themselves out."

He vanished as quickly as he had appeared and Reinette was left alone.

This would not stand. She would find someone to help her.


Now

Gold polished a wooden chest. It had belonged to Belle's mother, a keepsake he had obtained for her though he had never met the owner herself. It had been years since he had paid any attention to it, noting in his cursed that it was a curious box with excellent craftsmanship and leaving it on the shelf, never trying to sell it. Now he thought it might suddenly prove useful.

"Mr. Gold?"

He recognized Belle's voice immediately and took off his apron.

"It's me. Belle French? We met at the inn?"

Gold pushed past the curtain of the backroom and smiled.

"I don't know if you remember," Belle said nervously.

"Of course I remember. Miss French. How goes your quest?"

Belle shrugged. "Mixed results. August said I should talk to you and Sheriff Swan says you're the only one she's seen win against Regina."

"Then you're acquainted with our illustrious mayor?"

"Yes, um, Sheriff Swan said you were a lawyer?"

"I have many interests."

Belle nodded. "Yeah, I can see that. Landlord, pawnbroker..."

"Do you need legal advice?"

"I can pay," Belle said quickly.

He shook his head. "There's no need. Consider this consultation pro bono. What seems to be the matter?"

Belle took a breath and began. "Over fifteen years ago, I was taken from the Storybrooke Hospital's mental ward to Boston."

"Ah," said Gold, trying to act blasé.

"See, my life before that's a bit hazy, which I know sounds awful..."

"Not at all. Please continue."

"When I got to Boston, the psychiatrists there said there was nothing wrong with me. One of them had a friend who was a law student and she investigated my case a bit and it turned out Regina had ordered me locked away."

"Had she?," Gold asked, gripping his cane. In the asylum. Where the people from her dungeon had gone. She had been there, but for how long? And what did the Blue Fairy have to do with it? He had never doubted her involvement. The Gold Fairy had never denied it.

Belle continued with her story. "Yes. She had a professor who was a prominent attorney in Boston and he represented me in a lawsuit against the mayor and the city. I settled out of court on the condition that I didn't return here."

"Is that so?," Gold asked, trying to hold back his anger.

"It was quite a bit of money," said Belle. "I've used it to further my education and look after my daughter, but Beatrice has been having problems lately."

Gold looked at her inquisitively.

"Mental problems. She may be having delusions and she's been hurting herself."

"Delusions?" Belle looked anxious and he added, "Anything you say is between us, Miss French."

"She thinks this town is under a curse where it's been frozen in time. Everyone's from some place called the Enchanted Forest and I'm Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Snow White, Prince Charming, they're all here."

Gold was stunned. "Is that so?"

"I know, it's... well, I don't want to say what it is because I don't want to think of her like that. She does seem to have a point. Regina hasn't aged a day, neither has my father."

"You saw your father?," he asked with surprise.

"Yeah, it didn't go well." Belle paused. "Anyway, I had to bring Beatrice here to prove the truth to her so she can get the help she needs, but Regina doesn't seem to like my presence and I'm afraid she'll want everything back. If that's what has to happen, I can live with it. My daughter's more important, but I have been saving a lot of it for Beatrice's college fund."

"And when you left Storybrooke, you were already pregnant?"

"Yes, that's most of why I settled. I would have preferred the truth, but I had a baby coming and no income, no family..."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me, Miss French. I think I understand what it means to do anything for your child."

"You have a child, then?"

"I had a son. Not anymore."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Belle.

"Never mind," said Gold. "If you could get me a copy of your settlement, I'll take a look at it. In the meantime, I think you'll find Mayor Mills won't be a problem."

"She won't?," Belle asked skeptically. "She certainly seemed like one earlier."

"If she approaches you again, you can tell her that I am handling your case and she can come talk to me."

"Really? That does it?"

"Absolutely."

"Well, thank you, Mr. Gold," said Belle.

"It's my pleasure, Miss French. You should be able to stay in Storybrooke as long as you need to."

Chapter Text

 


Then

Belle's mother had been gone for six years. She felt it acutely over the day and had shocked Rumple by being terse and perhaps even unpleasant. She had finally been forced to relent and admit the significance of the day.

"I think I have something that may help," said Rumplestiltskin.

Belle looked up from her book and saw an ornate carved chest at Rumplestiltskin's feet. "My mother's..." She looked up. "How did you...?"

He waved his hand. "Magic?"

"What if my father looks for it?"

"Do you suppose he would?"

Belle didn't answer. "Thank you," she said as she knelt at the chest and opened the latch. She went through the contents as Rumplestiltskin sat next to her. There were various examples of fine embroidery and a leather bound book.

"Did your mother do these?," Rumplestiltskin asked, fingering the woven silks.

"Yes."

"She was good."

"High praise knowing the critic," Belle said with a smile.

"Spinning and weaving are dangerous hobbies for noble ladies."

"Don't worry," said Belle. "She had all the skill. I didn't get any."

"Fret not, dear Belle. I can provide any spinning you might need."

Belle smiled at him and found another smaller box with the same shape and carving as the one it was in. Belle opened it and revealed a sizable amount of jewels.

"Are these all your mother's?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"You didn't look?," asked Belle.

"Why would I? They're yours."

Belle looked back down. "Yes, all hers."

"I didn't think Sir Maurice could afford such things."

"No and he would never buy her jewels anyway." She looked up. "My mother had to marry my father. There was never any love between them. There was a scandal when she was young. Her virtue was called into question and she had to marry quickly to anyone with a good name and a title."

"She told you all this?"

"When she thought I was old enough she let me know they both loved me, but there was no love between them." Belle shrugged. "She didn't want me to make the same mistake."

"Oh, this one is interesting," said Rumplestiltskin, lifting a pendant from the box. The gem inside had constantly moving swirls of color.

"What is it?," asked Belle.

"Magic."

"Magic? How does it work?"

"No idea."

Belle looked at him in disbelief. "You don't know?"

"It's the magic of women."

Belle was amused now. "So that's all it takes for you to not know something about magic?"

"I'm not a woman."

"I had noticed."

"Very observant."

There was a banging on the main door.

"Wait here," Rumplestiltskin instructed.

He got up and left the Great Hall. Belle looked back down at the pendant. She grazed her finger across the stone and it became solid, blinding white for a moment. She looked on in shock.


Now

Beatrice needed to think.

She needed espresso.

Unfortunately, in this cursed town, the closest thing would be sitting at Granny's and having cup after cup of coffee.

The diner was busy with the townsfolk coming in for their morning meal. Apparently, nothing ever happened here because more than one had inquired to Granny or Ruby about who the girl with the glasses was.

A hush came over the diner and Beatrice glanced up to see Mr. Gold coming in. She went back to looking at her iPad and then heard a cane stop accompanied by a chair scraping against the floor.

Mr. Gold was sitting in the table next to her booth.

"Good morning, Miss French."

"Uh, good morning..."

He picked up a laminated menu. "Just coffee?"

"I can't think about food until I'm awake which looks unlikely on this stuff," she said staring at the dreaded mug.

"Have you tried tea?"

"Yes, that would be great if I wanted to fall asleep."

She looked up. He seemed amused. That's when she saw Regina coming in to the diner and walking up to Gold.

"We need to talk."

"Do we, dearie?," asked Gold. He turned to Beatrice. "Miss French, have you met Mayor Mills?"

Regina looked at her in surprise, she hadn't noticed Beatrice sitting there.

"We were never formally introduced," said Beatrice. "I'm good, though."

"Mr. Gold," said Regina, looking slightly annoyed at Beatrice.

"Excuse me," said Gold getting up and following Regina out front.

"You aren't really going to fall for that, are you?," asked Regina.

"Fall for what, dearie?"

"That girl, do you really think she's yours? She could belong to anyone."

"And what makes you so concerned, dearie?"

"The Curse. We can't have outsiders poking around."

"Is that why you had your little chat with her?," asked Gold. He snapped his fingers. "Which reminds me, you're going to leave Belle and her daughter alone. Please."

Regina scowled. "Do you think that will hold?"

"I think it will hold until the Curse breaks at which point you're going to have more problems than them and if you try anything, I'll be one of them."

"Do you want the Curse broken?," Regina asked in disbelief. "Just so she can remember you? We've been in on this together since the beginning, Gold."

"Have we. dearie?" He looked at her. "We're done now. Please."

Regina scowled again as Gold went back inside.


Then

Belle knew the signs as well as anyone.

It was as if Belle's mind had wandered away from her. She had a book open, she had started reading it and now she didn't know what had happened for the past ten pages. She flipped back to try and regroup, but she kept getting distracted.

The tenderness in her breasts. The sudden tightness in her gowns. The absence of her monthly cycle and this morning, she had been ill. That was the most damning of all. Rumplestiltskin had been off at some deal or other, so she hadn't had to face his inquiries, but she knew she couldn't avoid the topic very much longer. She wasn't sure how to broach it, if only she had been able to talk with some friends or even just other women. She wouldn't trade her life in the Dark Castle, but in the area of socialization it did leave something to be desired.

She wished for her own mother. She wished for someone to explain to her the ways in which her life was going to change. That was what she worried about: being a good enough mother.

A bird flew in the open window of the library. That caught Belle's attention. It sat on the table next to her and she realized there was a note. As she took it, the bird flew away.

Her father was dying.


Now

Gold forced his way into Belle's room at the inn. Sliding in, he quickly spotted one bed with her neat fingerprints all over it, a book on the night stand. He noted the title and made a mental note to obtain his own copy and have it at the shop.

Though he was certainly interested in Belle, she was not the reason for this little search. It was the girl, Beatrice. He knew very little about her, just that she knew the truth of the Curse and liked caffeine. Her things were strewn all over her bed. Among them, a stuffed lamb, surely some sort of childhood keepsake. More interesting was the promising red leather messenger bag at the foot of the bed.

He didn't have a lot of experience with teenage girls and Beatrice's things were a mystery to him. There were some random school papers, including a physics essay he couldn't follow, but she appeared to have done well on it. She had a computer that he quickly discovered was protected by a password. That left him to rifle through the rest of the bag. He found five lip glosses and two nail polishes, a Starbucks gift card and a blue box that made noises.

He was about to give up hope of finding anything he understood until he found a book about voodoo. He knew in this land it was seen as a strange religion of some sort, but had seen its corollary back in the Enchanted Forest. He also found a purple sack. He opened it and recognized the contents. There was an empty container and he thought he saw the remnants of a magical powder on it. He also recognized some magical trinkets: some stones and some candles.

"Oh, Beatrice," he said with a smile, "what are you playing with?"

He was about to replace the contents of the bag when something fell out of the book. He reached down to pick it up off the floor and realized it was a tarot card. He had seen them all over the Half Sunk Kingdom though they were trifles to the people of this world. The card had an address written on the back and he turned it over to see which one it was.

The Magician. Oh, he had seen that card before.


Then

"Belle!"

"In here, Rumple!," she called back from her room.

Rumplestiltskin entered. He pointed at her case open on the bed. "What is that?"

Belle turned to him with a red, tear-stained face.

"My darling Belle, what's the matter?"

"My father..." She burst into tears again and Rumplestiltskin moved to hold her.

"What's happened?"

"A bird delivered a letter. His physician says he's had sort of stroke, he's unable to even write..." Belle handed him the letter. "He's asked for me."

"I'm sorry, Belle."

"So you understand."

"Of course I understand."

"I must go to him."

Rumplestiltskin held up one finger. "I don't understand that."

Belle's jaw dropped. "What are you saying?"

Rumple opened his mouth and before he could get a word out, Belle beat him to it.

"Am I supposed to not go to my dying father?"

"Well, you said it-"

"How could you possibly think that? That I could just abandon him? Are you forbidding it? I am not your captive-"

"I wouldn't say I'm forbidding it-"

"What is wrong with you?! How could you be such a-"

"Let's not toss out the 'b' word again."

"Rumple, surely you can see that I have to go to him! I know you, I know your heart. I know you understand."

He looked at her. She was staring at him with those eyes.

Damn those eyes sometimes.

"And what will you tell them of me?," he asked.

"The truth."

"Let's not be rash..." he sneered.

She frowned at him. "My father deserves to know the truth. It's my father and my people, Rumple. They won't hurt me."

"And what if they won't let you return?"

She put her arms around him. "Then I'll call for you and you'll come get me."

"They very moment I'm needed. And let's use the truth sparingly. I can't have it going around that I've gone soft."

"I swear I won't let anyone know you're kind," said Belle.

He stared at her. "Was there anything else?"

She shook her head. "No."


Now

Beatrice had followed her mom around all day. Apparently, she wasn't allowed to be on her own now. The diner was as far as she could go. That led to the adventure of looking for a fax machine in Storybrooke.

"Have you noticed everyone here has flip phones?," asked Beatrice.

"So?," asked Belle as they walked down the street.

"So, who has a flip phone? Nobody has a flip phone anymore." She realized they were almost at Mr. Gold's shop. "What are we doing?"

"I have to show some papers to Mr. Gold," said Belle.

"Really?"

"Yeah, he's working for me. For us, really."

Beatrice was skeptical to say the least. Rumplestiltskin was working for them. "As what?"

"As a lawyer," said Belle. "He's being really nice about it so try to be pleasant."

"Nice?," asked Beatrice.

Belle entered the shop first and Beatrice followed. Gold stood behind a glass case and placed a wooden box on it. "Well, hello, Miss French."

"Hello, Mr. Gold. How are you?," asked Belle. She held up the papers. "Sorry, it took me forever to find a fax machine around here."

"No problem. I see you've brought your daughter."

"I hope that's alright," said Belle.

"It's fine." He looked at Beatrice. "Feel free to have a look around the shop while we talk."

Beatrice nodded. She hoped her mother would listen to her on this, because this really was the weirdest pawn shop ever. Not that she had been to a lot of pawn shops, but she had seen them on Law & Order. Surely there were supposed to be electronics and people's jewelry. Guitars and bicycles and oil paintings just seemed wrong. There was a set of beer steins, a mobile made of crystal unicorns.

"Are you reading this?," asked Belle.

Beatrice glanced back at the counter. Belle had a book in her hands.

This could only be a harbinger of doom.

"One Hundred Years of Solitude?," asked Belle. "I am as well."

"Well, I've only just started it," said Gold.

"I'm embarrassed to say I've just read it myself."

"Why embarrassed?," asked Gold.

"Well, I'm a librarian."

"Are you?" He sounded almost pleased at that.

"Yes, I've been trying to put together a series of lectures on Latin American authors, so I've had to study up."

"Don't you find magical realism fascinating?," asked Beatrice.

"I'm sorry?," asked Gold.

"She means the style of the book," said Belle. "Extraordinary events occur outside the realm of possibility, but the characters react like they're normal. You'll see. I'm sorry, I should be letting you read the settlement."

"No, not at all."

That's when Beatrice saw the most creepy pair of puppets ever.

"Oh, my God," she couldn't help but say.

Belle turned. "Beatrice, what's wrong?"

She pointed at the creepy puppets.

"Well, those are odd," said Belle.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "Did you seriously give someone money for those?"

"It was more of a barter," said Gold.

"They look so real, like they've shrunk..." said Beatrice. She reached out her hand to touch them, but didn't have the nerve.

"If they bother you, you could always come away from them," Gold suggested, not looking up from the settlement papers.

Beatrice decided he was right and walked away. Still, something to have new nightmares about.

"I don't see Beatrice mentioned anywhere in the settlement," said Gold.

"Well, she wasn't born yet," said Belle.

"She's not even referred to."

"What does that mean?," asked Belle.

"It means that at the least, this settlement has no binding authority over her. Has Mayor Mills given you any more grief?"

"No, actually," said Belle. "She crossed the street when she saw me earlier. It was a bit weird."

"I wouldn't worry about it," said Gold. He saw Beatrice looking at another case full of jewels. "Does something capture your attention?"

"Yeah, would you say this is more tiaras than your average pawnbroker's?," asked Beatrice.

Gold shrugged. "I hadn't given it much thought."

Beatrice stared at a pendant, with an oval stone in an ornate setting. She couldn't pick out what sort of stone it was since it was multi-colored.

Suddenly, Gold was standing behind the case. "Did you mean this one?," he asked pulling out the pendant and placing it on the top.

"That's so beautiful," Belle remarked.

"It's a Lloviznando opal," said Gold. "Very rare."

Beatrice looked up. "How rare?"

"Very." Gold looked at Belle again. "Miss French, why don't you talk me through this section of the agreement?"

"Okay," said Belle, walking back over to the other case.

Beatrice looked at the pendant again. She reached down and grazed a finger over the stone as it burst into brilliant white light. She stared at it in shock.

She didn't notice Mr. Gold watching her out of the corner of his eye.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Snow White followed Belle into the Dark Castle. The dwarves followed at the ready.

It was strange to walk into the Great Hall without a request, with seemingly no fear of the occupant.

"Rumple!," she called. "Rumplestiltskin!"

There was no answer. She walked into the next room to find the spinning wheel vacant. She had hoped her homecoming might be more remarkable, like the first time she had left and returned.

She turned to Snow. "He must be out."

Snow nodded. "I'll wait with you."

"Oh, no, don't do that. Your husband will be worried. "

"So much time has passed. Explanations may be needed."

Belle shook her head. "I'll handle the explanations. Trust me, it's best if I handle him alone."

"Are you frightened of him, Belle?"

Belle smiled as if she thought that was a ridiculous question. "No. He would never hurt me. He just... needs reminding sometimes."

"Have you decided what to call your daughter?"

"No, I haven't really had time," said Belle. "Not after her father."

Snow White smiled. "Well, when you decide send word to me. I would like to be her patron."

"Her patron?"

"A sort of non-fairy godmother."

"She's unlikely to have one of those," said Belle. "You would do that? Be the patron to the Dark One's daughter?"

"Of course I would," said Snow White. "I don't think the rest of them are right. No child can be born evil. Besides, I owe Rumplestiltskin."

Belle didn't understand. "He doesn't really leave his debts unpaid."

"I've paid him, but Charming and I wouldn't be together without his help. Besides, you're my friend. Our daughters can play together."

Belle smiled. "I think I'd like that."


Now

Mr. Gold made his way to the shop early. He had a few things to get done before he went to Granny's in hopes of running into Belle. He parked his car and headed down the street when he noticed Whale and one of those dwarves- what was the point in learning their names- standing and looking at something.

Or someone. He soon realized that it was Belle, running down the street in a pair of black workout leggings and a yellow top. Gold couldn't say that he disputed the fact that the view was rather enjoyable, but took issue with anyone else enjoying it. Oh, to be able to turn someone into a snail again.

She stopped in front of him and pulled out her earbuds. "Mr. Gold! Good morning."

"Good morning, Miss French."

"I was just... running," she said apologetically.

"I can see that. Do you run often?"

"Yes, well, not as often as I'd like. Too many things get in my way, but I have time in Storybrooke and I needed it."

"You're worried about Beatrice."

"Yeah," Belle admitted. "I don't know if I'm accomplishing anything here."

"Well, you've only been in town just a few days," said Gold. "Perhaps she needs more time."

Belle nodded. "You're probably right."

"I have some more questions about the settlement."

"Oh," said Belle.

"I have a busy day today. I wonder if you would mind meeting over lunch to discuss it."

"Okay," said Belle. "Not to be picky, but is there any place here besides Granny's? I love hamburgers, but..."

"There's Tony's and Mushu's, depending on what you like. I'm afraid Storybrooke's dining options are not as varied as Manhattan."

Belle nodded. "I'm getting that. Uh, Chinese? Sound alright to you?"

"Shall we make it twelve?"

"Twelve, then," said Belle with a smile.


Beatrice was trying to get her head awake yet again when Henry came and jumped in the booth across from her. He brought out his story book.

"You want in on Operation Cobra, right?"

"What's Operation Cobra?," she asked.

"Breaking the curse," he whispered.

"Seriously, this is what my life has come to?," asked Beatrice. The ten year old believed her.

"Somebody added a chapter to my book. It's about Pinocchio."

Beatrice shrugged. "And why would someone do that?"

"Because there's something we need to know."

Beatrice held her hand out. "Let me see."

Henry looked at her. "You haven't agreed yet."

"I'm not agreeing to anything without a reason," said Beatrice. "Let me see."

Henry handed the book across the table.

"Mind if I order?," he asked.

"Great, I'm buying you breakfast now," she said.

"Thanks?"

Beatrice flipped through the pages. "You have more stories than me."

"What?"

She pointed. "This story about Rumplestiltskin. I don't have it." She flipped through. "I've got nothing about Rumplestiltskin except Cinderella and then he's like a minor character that pops up for a stupid plot point."

"Maybe it's a different book?"

"It is a different book." Beatrice frowned and flipped through the pages. "Somebody made you a different book than mine. What do you know about Rumplestiltskin?"

"Henry."

Beatrice looked up. Savior Girl had walked in.

"What are you doing? What was so urgent?"

"Someone added a new story to my book," said Henry. "Who knows that we hide it at the sheriff's station?"

"No one," said Emma. "We can talk about it later. You're gonna be late for school."

Henry obligingly stood up and took the book from Beatrice.

"Hey!," said Beatrice.

"We can talk later," said Henry, running out.

"Sorry," said Emma. "He's got this thing with the book."

"Oh, you mean where the town is frozen in time because the Evil Queen cast a curse to pull everyone from the Enchanted Forest here and take away their happy endings? That thing with the book?"

"How long were you two talking?," Emma asked in surprise.

"Not long," said Beatrice. "Question, have you noticed how old all the cars are here?"

"What?," asked Emma. "You're not trying to sell me on this, are you?"

"Have you noticed how the answer to any question starting with 'how long' is 'as long as I can remember?'"

"What?," asked Emma.

Beatrice turned to the ginger town psychiatrist she had seen Belle chatting with. "Doctor Hopper."

"Uh, yes?," he asked, sounding surprised.

"How long has Regina been mayor?"

"Uh, wow, uh as long as I can remember, I guess."

"And how long have you been a psychiatrist?"

He shrugged. "As long as I can remember." Hopper quickly caught how odd that sounded. "I mean, uh-"

"Marco," Beatrice said, turning to his breakfast companion, "how long have you and Doctor Hopper been friends?"

"As long as I can remember," said Marco.

"Try this one, how long has your shop been open?," asked Beatrice.

"That doesn't mean anything," said Emma. "Life gets hazy. People forget stuff."

"That's your answer?," asked Beatrice. "Life gets hazy? That is your whole answer?"

"What do you want me to say?," asked Emma. "That Henry's right?"

"Do you know what Occam's Razor is?"

Emma shrugged. "Uh, a guy named Occam and he was shaving?"

Okay, Savior Girl was not big on logic puzzles. "No, it's a principle in problem solving. When you're trying to explain something, you should pick the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions. One theory that explains everything."

"Like this town was cursed in a fairy tale?"

"Yeah, like that," said Beatrice.

"Except what you're saying is completely crazy."

"Except it's not."

"Yeah, I've got to go," said Emma, getting up.

Beatrice watched in misery as Emma left.

Yeah, she had been living in a town full of cursed people and didn't notice? Yet she was the crazy one?

She got up from her coffee and went back into the inn, where Belle was looking at her clothes.

"You could just pick something. Anything," said Beatrice. "Not like it matters here."

"No, I'm going to lunch, that's all."

Beatrice frowned and looked up from her iPad. "What do you mean you're going to lunch?"

"With Mr. Gold."

"Mom!," exclaimed Beatrice.

Belle turned to her. "What?"

"You're going to lunch with Mr. Gold?," she asked, resisting the urge to tack on Rumplestiltskin and some expletives.

"What? He just had some questions about the settlement," said Belle. "It's not like it's a date or anything."

Beatrice shot daggers at her mother.

Realization suddenly dawned on Belle. "You don't think he thinks it's a date, do you? I mean, if he does..."

"Oh, my God, Mom!," Beatrice shrieked pulling a pillow over her face.

"He is very nice," said Belle.

"You're the only one who thinks that," Beatrice said through the pillow.

"And there is something very foxy about him..."

"Oh, my God, Mom! We cannot have this discussion! We can never have this discussion!"

"Sorry," said Belle. "I didn't realize I was traumatizing you."

"Well, you are."

"I'm going to take a shower," Belle said, dismissing herself from the room.


Beatrice was eager to distract herself from some new and disturbing mental images so she thought back to the story book. August had given her that book when she was a baby and she suspected he would know where Henry's had come from and why it was different. Beatrice knocked on August's door. "August? It's me. I have a question."

He didn't answer, but the door was unlocked.

Beatrice walked in. She didn't see him, but instead she saw pages, like the ones in her book, hanging to dry. She picked one up. They were full of a story she had never read before.

The first was Pinocchio. About how he had been given a mission and sent through an Enchanted Tree. She quickly realized it was August.

The second was how the Evil Queen had managed to capture the Beast's Beauty.


Then

Belle was curious at the state of the Dark Castle.

Nothing could be done. She supposed that at least meant Rumple hadn't bothered to get another housekeeper. The library, though, was flawless. Organized as she had left it and without a speck of dust.

Rumplestitlskin never returned, though. Belle busied herself, wondering what she should do. If she should ask Snow White for help? Should she try calling his name?

Then one day there was a banging on the front door of the Dark Castle.

Belle wasn't sure what to do at first. She had never actually answered the door of her home. Rumplestiltskin took care of that, he had visitors coming and going, Belle perceived that they had varying levels of danger. She was never allowed to see Regina, sometimes the occasional intermediary and usually she could see the people that came to make deals with Rumple, but he preferred she didn't because she would inevitably try to get him to take pity on some poor tenant farmer which he insisted was bad for his reputation.

"Uh, I'm sorry, Rumplestiltskin's not in right now..." Belle said sheepishly.

"I've come for Belle, Mistress of the Dark Castle, at the behest of Her Royal Highness, Snow White."

"Snow White?"

The man held up a parchment bearing Snow White's seal. Belle opened the door to see a carriage and Snow White's soldiers.

"Belle? I'm Sir Lancelot. Her Highness would like you to read this."

"I, uh-"

"It's about Rumplestiltskin."

Belle took the parchment and read it fervently.

Belle looked to Lancelot. "She understands I won't betray him?"

"She wouldn't ask that. Only that you see him."

"I just need to pack a few things," said Belle.

Lancelot followed her.

"Is this necessary?," she asked.

"Snow White commanded that I not take my eyes off of you until you arrive at her palace."

Lancelot followed Belle into a bedroom. He hoped the imp's cage could truly contain him as he didn't like the idea of being found in Belle's bedroom. Once was enough for one lifetime.

Belle got a case out. "And he is well?" She turned. "He is not hurt?"

"The princess wondered at his state of mind," said Lancelot. "She says he does not seem himself."

"What do you mean?," asked Belle.

"Forgive me. He seems to have lost his mind."

Belle nodded. Was that what had happened to her poor Rumple? "I'll speak with him. He'll listen to me."

Lancelot nodded. Then he could have sworn he saw a fairy.

Then it all went black.


Lancelot stirred awake. "Guards!," he shouted.

He stood. Belle's open case was on the bed, but the lady was nowhere to be seen. In the distance, he could see a blue speck.

"Fairy dust." Snow White had warned him about the fairies and he had thought it curious, more of a precaution than an actual danger. He felt foolish for being so taken in.

He rushed back down to his men. "Follow that fairy!," he shouted.

They rode hard and fast. The fairy's trail ended at a clearing close to Regina's land.

"Belle!," he shouted, watching the lady being spirited away in a wagon.

A gang of Regina's men turned round to fight Lancelot and his soldiers. Lancelot was cut in the arm by one's broadsword and suddenly pixie dust descended and Regina's men fell to the ground. He ran back to mount his horse again.

"You're too late, Lancelot."

Lancelot looked up at the Blue Fairy. "I have orders from my princess, not you."

"All the realm is in terrible danger. Regina will enact a curse that will rip away everything we hold dear. The only hope is a Savior, the daughter of Snow White and the prince. We need a way to safely transport Snow White and her unborn child to another realm."

"And what does this have to do with Belle?," Lancelot demanded.

"The only hope is an Enchanted Tree, the last such tree we know of. It is on the site of Regina's exile."

"You traded Belle for a tree?," he asked with contempt.

"It is our only hope, Lancelot. The only thing that can save us all from the Curse."

"Is that all?"

"Would you really have us choose the Dark One's lover and child over Snow White when the entire realm is at stake?"

"That's not your decision."

"Perhaps not, but it is made and now if you tell Snow White you will only burden her with this knowledge."

"And the knowledge of what you have done."

"Do you suppose that will matter after the Curse? When the things that we love are torn from us, will this matter? You know what you must do, Lancelot."

Lancelot rode back to the castle, wondering what he was going to say to the princess. When she came out to greet him with hope gleaming in her eyes, he finally realized it.

"We ran into Regina's men."

"Doc should look at you," said Snow White, looking at his arm.

"Snow White, that wasn't all. There were rumblings that King George took Belle."

"King George? Who told him where to find her? And why would he-"

"A gift. For Regina."

Snow gasped in horror. Her shoulders dropped.

Better to break her heart this way. Better to not let her know the trade that had been exacted for her and her daughter's safety.

Lancelot shook his head. "I'm sorry, Your Highness."


Now

Beatrice was stunned at first.

Beyond stunned. The pages fell from her hands to the floor.

She walked back to her room and sat down.

A tree. An Enchanted Tree. The Blue Fairy, the supposedly good one, had traded her and her mom for a tree. A tree for a Savior. A largely useless Savior.

Beatrice had always held out the hope that discovering her real heritage would give her a kind of definition, a purpose. Now she knew. Now she realized her purpose was to be collateral damage. There was no destiny in that book. She was a cast off. She didn't belong. Not in her life back in New York and not here.

Not anywhere. She was a reject from life.

Beatrice tried telling herself that was fine. Fine. Fine. She didn't need to be a princess in a castle. She didn't need to have a family. No. She was Beatrice French and she could do it on her own. All on her own. Just her mom.

She didn't have to be special. In fact, she wasn't. Emma was the special one. What was the point of being special? Lots of people weren't special and they didn't seem to mind.

She could get by being not special.

Then the crying started.

She tried not crying at first. Then she let a tear roll. Then another followed, then another. She was hyper ventilating.

"Beatrice?," asked Ruby.

She hadn't locked the door. Ruby walked right in and looked alarmed. "Beatrice, what's wrong?," she asked, kneeling down to the floor. Beatrice hadn't realized she was on the floor until Ruby was next to her.

She just shook her head. She didn't know what to say. There wasn't anyone who could understand. The only person who understood was August and he had never told her. He had been lying to her for her whole life. He was a liar. He was a freaking wooden puppet whose nose grew because he lied so much. This was who she had been relying on for her information.

"Can you tell me?," she asked.

She just shook her head again.

Ruby seemed disturbed. For all the questionable wardrobe, she had compassion. "I'm going to go get Granny. I'll be right back."

And now she had Little Red Riding Hood/Big Bad Wolf trying to comfort her.


When Mr. Gold was seen in Storybrooke it was usually a cause for concern. He was never seen enjoying the company of others, let alone having others enjoy his company. Yet at Mushu's the townsfolk watched as he did just that with the pretty newcomer.

"I do wonder about Regina, though," said Belle. "It doesn't look like she's had work done. I suppose it's the hatred keeping her youthful."

Gold smiled. "You're more right than you know."

"What is it with you two?," asked Belle. "You two weren't..."

"No," Gold said quickly. "It's more of a business relationship. Our interests used to be aligned and they're not anymore."

"What happened?," asked Belle.

"She took something of mine," said Gold. "I'd like it back."

"Is that all?," asked Belle.

"That's everything," said Gold.

"Belle?"

Belle looked up in surprise at Ruby. "Hi-"

"Granny said to come find you. It's Beatrice."

"Is she hurt?," asked Belle, already standing up. Gold quickly followed suit, getting up and putting money on the table.

"I don't know," said Ruby.

"You don't know?," asked Gold.

Ruby was surprised at how perturbed Gold seemed. "She just won't stop crying," said Ruby. "She won't tell us what happened. Granny is with her."

"Did she say anything?," asked Belle.

Ruby shook her head. "Something about a tree?"

"A tree?," asked Belle. She shook her head. "I need to go. I'm sorry."

Gold nodded. "Of course. Don't worry about it."

Belle rushed out with Ruby leading the way.

He suspected he knew just the tree.

After all, there was only one.

Chapter Text

 


Now

Beatrice's eyes glazed over. It felt like she had entered the point of consciousness right before she fell asleep. She had been vaguely aware of Granny hovering over her for a while.

She heard Belle's high heel first and then her mother knelt down in front of her.

"Beatrice, what is it?," asked Belle. "What's happened?"

"The tree."

"The Enchanted Tree. The one Emma came through..."

Belle furrowed her brow. "The sheriff?"

"She's the Savior. She matters. I don't. I never have."

Belle's jaw dropped. "Beatrice, of course you matter!"

"No, not really," she replied matter-of-factly. "I'm not special."

"Not special?!," Belle exclaimed.

"No, see it's just like everything else."

"You're special," said Belle. "You're smart. You're tenacious-"

"And show me where in life that matters more than being pretty and likeable and I'll agree."

"I like you."

"You're biased," said Beatrice. "Not to mention, you like everyone. And if you could remember who you were, you would see my point."

"What point?"

"If you're pretty and people like you, you can get away with anything. If you're Taylor, nobody cares how shallow you are. If you're Cinderella, nobody cares that you're such a moron you sold your firstborn."

"Cinderella?"

"She didn't read the stupid contract and nobody bothers mentioning it."

"Why are we talking about Cinderella?." Belle asked in confusion.

"You've got to be born special. My fate is not special. Emma gets to be special. I don't."

"If I'm Beauty and your father's the Beast, doesn't that make you special?" Belle was grasping at straws, anything to stop this despair.

"The guy's got one freaking story in that book. And it's not like I'm going to have a ride at Disney World. That chipped cup gets more screen time than me. Basically, the best I can hope for is Elphaba from Wicked."

"The Wicked Witch of the West?"

"The book not the musical. I mean, Idina Menzel can at least sing."

Belle shook her head. "Beatrice, I am trying, but I don't understand."

"It will all make sense to you later."

"Could you at least get off the floor?"


Then

The man threw Belle onto the floor. She had just begun her journey back to the Dark Castle when he had come upon her and hustled her away. Just her luck to be alone when she would have had Mulan and Philip to protect her mere moments before.

"Is this her?," he barked at another man. Both were finely dressed with crests and armor, though Belle didn't know the crests they bore.

The other stepped forward and pulled out some kind of scroll. "Yes."

The other turned back. "What is your name, girl?"

Seeing no alternative, she answered. "I'm Belle of Avonlea."

"Your mother?"

"The Lady Reinette. What's the-"

"And your father?"

"Sir Maurice. What is the meaning of this?"

The first turned back. "She says Sir Maurice."

"Well, she would, wouldn't she? A perfect hiding place."

Belle was just confused. "Who are you? What is the meaning for all of these questions?"

"I am Sir Gawain," said the man who had thrown her down.

"And I am Sir Percival."

"Wait, you're Knights of the Round Table," said Belle. "What do Knights of the Round Table want with me?"

Gawain looked at Percival. "Either she is a very skilled liar or she has no idea what we're talking about."

"And what are you to the Dark One?," asked Percival.

Belle paused. The hesitation was enough for the knights.

"Perhaps it is not too late," said Gawain. "Perhaps Merlin's vision has not come to pass."

"Merlin's vision?," asked Belle.

Percival ignored her. "And do what with her?"

"Well, kill her, preferably..." said Gawain.

"What?!," Belle screamed.

"We're trying to talk here," said Gawain, dismissing her.


Now

Belle sat on the porch at the inn alone. It was getting late and she had managed to put Beatrice to bed. Belle had hoped August would come back, but the consensus seemed to be that he was off with Emma. She had taken a book out to the porch, but hadn't read it. Instead, she had flipped through every photo on her phone.

"Miss French?"

Belle looked up. Mr. Gold was standing next to her.

"Mr. Gold. Hi."

"How are you?"

Belle shrugged. "Did you um-"

"Well, you left lunch in such a rush, I thought I would make sure everything was alright."

"Beatrice is... no, everything's not alright. She's fine physically, but I think the delusions are getting to be too much."

Gold sat in the next chair. "The story with the Enchanted Forest?"

Belle smiled. "Right. The Enchanted Forest. It's all in this book, August gave it to her when she was a baby. It's not the usual fairy tales."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, Rumplestiltskin turns out to be Cinderella's fairy godmother and she's sold him her baby."

"Well, that's different."

"It's not the fairy tales. It's how she thinks she fits into them." Belle looked at Gold. "She doesn't think she's special. She doesn't think she has a place in them."

"She doesn't think she's special?"

"You said you had a son. I mean, is there any other sentence you can think of that's more awful to hear from your child? Give me an 'I hate you' or 'You're suffocating me' any day."

"There might be something worst," Gold commented ruefully. "I think I understand, though."

"I mean, you tell them to be themselves, that it's okay to be different and then they're praying they fit in and you're praying they fit in. It was okay when she was younger. I could make her feel special. She doesn't have parties, she doesn't go to parties. Her last birthday, I was the only one who cared."

"Perhaps she just prefers solitude."

"No, how could anyone? She's right. We are on our own. She says I take pictures and I have no one to show them to and she is right."

Gold noticed she was clutching at her phone. "Are you expecting a call?"

"No, I was just looking at it," said Belle. "Just about every picture I have of her is on here. She loaded it for me. I think she deleted anything with braces or a bad pimple, but all on here. I've been staring at them, trying to figure out where I went wrong."

"I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong."

Belle shook her head. "That's the problem with single motherhood. No one to blame but yourself."

"Did you want to show me?," Gold asked Belle, motioning at the phone.

Belle shook her head. "Oh, God, no, I couldn't bore you like that."

"No, not at all," said Gold. "You need someone to talk to."

Belle stared at him and then smiled. "Maybe just a couple."


Then

"Okay," said Percival, turning to Belle. "How would you prefer to be killed?"

"What?"

"Well, we're going to have to kill you-"

"We definitely are."

"And we just wondered if you had any thoughts on that."

Belle shook her head at them. "You're both crazy."

Suddenly, both men flew back into the wall as if there were a gust of wind from somewhere. They seemed pinned there and Belle turned, thinking it must have been Rumplestiltskin.

It wasn't.

It was an older man, but definitely not feeble. He was long and wiry and his face reminded Belle of a hawk or something. He approached them carefully.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Merlin," Percival gasped.

"Merlin, please, we had orders-"

"Oh, did you now?," asked Merlin. "Whose orders? Was it that bed-hopping trollop?"

"Sorry," said Belle, "what's going on?"

Merlin turned back from his interrogation. "Just a minute."

"Okay..." Belle said skeptically.

Merlin looked back at them. "I'm going to let you go and count to three. If you're not gone when I'm finished counting, I'm going to turn you into a snail. If you ever go near this woman again, I will turn you into a snail, unless I can think of something worse, then I'm going to turn you into that and don't think you can hide from me. Whatever land you're in, I will know what you do."

He released his fist and the knights fell to the floor, then clamored over each other to run out.

Merlin turned back to Belle.

"Who are you?," she asked.

"Merlin. You know, Merlin?"

Belle didn't speak.

"Is it the outfit? I think when people hear wizard, they want a hat and a beard. I'm over the hat and beard thing. Are you just going to sit there on the ground?"

Belle got up and dusted herself off.

"What are you wearing?," he asked.

Belle looked down at herself, she was still wearing the clothes she had been to the expedition. "I was hunting a beast."

"Yes, but I think you're hunting a different beast now. A far more dangerous prey than a prince some middling evil fairy cast a curse on."

Belle's jaw dropped. "How do you know that?"

"I'm Merlin, Belle of Avonlea. Now, we should get a move on before your imp does something stupid. Well, more stupid than usual."

He waved his hand and the door opened. Belle hurried to follow him out.


Now

When August returned, Beatrice was in the hallway having taken her iPad while Belle slept so she could watch Doctor Who in peace.

"Oh, yay," said Beatrice as August limped in. "How's that whole Savior thing going?"

August leaned against the wall. "Not great. She refuses to believe."

"Well, that's just the thing I needed to cap off my day," said Beatrice.

"What do you mean?"

"I saw the pages in your room," said Beatrice. "Traded for a tree."

"Beatrice-"

"I hope it was a good tree. I mean, like really good. Oh, you would know. You got to go through it."

"The Savior had to-"

"Yes, I know. She had to come here and save everyone. I bet that's going to be awesome. I'm really looking forward to it."

"What do you want me to say, Beatrice?"

She shrugged. "Am I anyone in the book? Do I even matter?"

"The book's not everything."

Beatrice stood up. "And with that crappy platitude, I am done."

"Where are you going?"

She walked off and began heading down the stairs. "Why do you want to know? It doesn't matter."


Then

Belle followed Merlin through a forest.

"Where are you taking me?," asked Belle.

"It's a shortcut, my dear."

"A shortcut?"

He looked back. "You know, to the Dark Castle, to reunite you with your True Love, Rumplestiltskin."

"And how do you know that?"

"I'm Merlin."

Belle saw no choice but to keep following. "The knights, they spoke of a vision you had."

"What sort of vision?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, there's having a vision of the future and there's having a vision of the future."

"That's really the same thing," said Belle.

"Fine. There's visualizing and envisioning. I'm done with visualizing and now I'm envisioning."

"Why did you save me?"

Merlin stopped and turned. "What did I just say?"

"You have a vision of the future. I don't see what I have to do with that."

"I have been waiting a very long time for you."

"For me?"

"Yes, I've worked at all the other elements for years, but you, dear Belle, you are the finishing touch."

"I am?"

"You have goodness and courage and intelligence. Mind you, just a dash of stupidity in there."

"Excuse me?"

"You're in love with an imp, my dear. Now I do require that you be in love with an imp or this thing won't work, but still, you must admit, not your most brilliant decision."

"Wait, you want me to be in love with Rumplestiltskin? What for?"

"You heard me."

Belle stopped walking. She wasn't eager to repeat the incident with the Queen. "What for? Is this some trick? Do you want me to betray him?"

Merlin stopped and turned back. "Oh, see there, that's True Love. That's the stuff."

"Who are you? Really, who are you?"

"I told you. I am a man with a vision of the future."

"And what role do I play in it?"

"Is there a point in telling you? Remember, no one decides your fate but you, my dear."

Belle was in shock. "How did you-"

"I told you that. You were very young, barely bigger than my hand."

"I don't know you."

"I know you. I know everything about you. I knew your mother, her mother, her mother and as I said, I have been waiting for you a very long time."

"To do what?"

"What you do." He turned. "And here we are."

Belle looked up. It was the Dark Castle.

"What? We... this isn't possible."

"I told you. It's a shortcut."

"But-"

"Now, what are we going to do about the outfit?"

There was a shimmer as Merlin waved his hand. Belle looked down and realized she was in a gold gown. The wizard seemed pleased with his efforts.

"You know, you just have to go with the classics. Now, you, go make the future happen and I'll see you around."

Belle looked at him in dismay.

"Are you going to just stand here?"

"Thank you," Belle said, unsure of the sentiment.

She hurried back up the path and into the Dark Castle.


Now

Beatrice walked down the street. She wandered aimlessly through the cursed town, knowing there was nothing she could do to make a difference.

That was when she spotted Savior Girl loading a yellow VW bug with a box.

Leaving town.

What the hell.

Then she had an idea. She didn't know where it came from or why, but immediately decided it was a good one.

Beatrice walked into the pharmacy and was greeted with a sneeze.

"Oh, please," she groaned as she identified his alter ego.

Beatrice quickly found the grilling aisle and returned to the register with lighter fluid and a box of matches.

"You have to be eighteen to buy that."

"You can take the money or I can just take it."

The pharmacist frowned. "I'm calling the sheriff."

"No, you know what?," said Beatrice. She put a ten on the counter. "I'm going to."

She picked up the lighter fluid and matches, then walked to the door where there was a fire extinguisher.

"And I'm borrowing this," she said. "Just in case."

Beatrice walked back out. She pulled the box back out and put it on the sidewalk. She was waiting when Emma came back down with a bag.

"Uh, Beatrice, hi."

"What are you doing?," she asked.

"What am I doing?"

"See because it looks like you're leaving town and I know you're not leaving town."

Emma shrugged. "Beatrice, look, this really isn't any of your business.'

"Uh, yeah, it kind of is because you're sort of ruining my life right now."

"I'm ruining your life? I just met you."

"Uh, you're kind of ruining everyone's lives because you suck at being a Savior."

"You, too? Did you and August meet at a support group or something? I don't want to be your savior."

"No, you would not be my first choice, either."

"What?"

"I would pick someone a little smarter, someone more likely to actually believe, someone who actually gives a damn about other people."

"Is this your way of persuading me? Because it sucks."

"Well, you suck."

Emma shook her head. "You're all crazy."

"Besides, I don't have to persuade you to be the Savior. You are the Savior. I just need to find a way to get you to do whatever it is you need to do and to start with, I have to keep you from leaving town."

She struck a match.

"Beatrice, what are you doing?"

"I'm crazy, remember?"

Beatrice tossed the match into the car. Emma's eyes widened as the flames grew.

"Oh, my God!" She looked at Beatrice. "Are you insane?!"

"Yes, we clarified that. Get over it, I took your stuff out," she said motioning at the boxes on the sidewalk.

"Arson! Really?!"

"Arrest me," said Beatrice.

Suddenly, lights around begin to flick on. People came out of their apartments and anything still open.

Mary Margaret came out of the building in her pajamas with a coat thrown over.

"Oh, my God! Emma, your car."

"I torched it. You're welcome," said Beatrice.

Mary Margaret frowned. "Sorry, who are you?"

"Beatrice. I'm the new crazy girl in town," she said as the fire truck arrived. "Emma was just leaving, but, oh, look, she doesn't have a car."

Mary Margaret looked down at Emma's belongings on the sidewalk. "You were leaving? Emma!"

Mary Margaret and Emma proceeded to argue while Beatrice pondered the turn of events.

Well, she had made her stay. That was something.

"Okay," said Emma, grabbing her by the arm, "you're coming to the station."

Chapter Text

Then

Rumplestiltskin entered the Great Hall ready to start his plans for the day. He looked at the long table to see that his morning plans had already begun without his consent. Merlin sat atop the end of the table and popped some grapes into his mouth and Rumplestiltskin cursed the incubus that sired the wizard for what was not the first time.

"Merlin," he grumbled.

"Morning, sunshine," said Merlin. He motioned towards a buffet of food on the table. "I made breakfast."

Rumplestiltskin glared as he walked closer. "What are you doing here?"

Merlin dropped his jaw in feigned shock. "Is that any way to thank me for such a nice breakfast? Not to mention this lovely tea set I'm giving you. I would be careful with that tea cup. It's an heirloom."

"What do you want?"

"Funny thing happened. I was on my way to visit a young lady-"

"A young lady?," Rumplestiltskin questioned.

"Yes, we all must have hobbies," said Merlin. "I heard the most interesting thing. Prince Henry is to marry the daughter of a lowly, drunken miller. It seems the girl- though, frankly, she might be getting on a bit too much to be called that- she can spin straw into gold. I wondered who might have taught her that."

"I made a deal with her."

"Yes, and I fear you might be getting more than you bargained for."

"What do you care?"

"I care deeply. Have you bargained for the firstborn child?"

Rumplestiltskin didn't answer. He hated Merlin, hated how the wizard always seemed to have one up on him.

"That poor child. Saves a little girl from a runaway horse and her whole life is ruined."

"I need her."

"I don't doubt that, but I do question whether you know who you're dealing with."

"I'm the Dark One. I can handle the miller's daughter."

Merlin eyed him, then smiled. "Oh, no you can't. You really can't. See, there are two kinds of people with worthless fathers. The first, well, you know all about that, don't you?" Rumplestiltskin stiffened. "Ever hopeful hearts they have. They might grow scales for the outside world, but they still have hope. The second, well, they have a sliver of ice in their hearts. This miller's daughter, she belongs to the latter group."

"Don't try to divine my motives," Rumplestiltskin warned.

"And don't try to interfere with my plans. I warn you, someone will end up with no heart at all."

"Don't you touch her," he growled.

The wizard looked amused at the suggestion. "I don't have to lay a finger on her or you," said Merlin.


Now

Beatrice sat at a table in the sheriff's station. Emma was in the office fuming.

"You could start arresting me anytime," said Beatrice.

Emma glared.

"All that paperwork. I bet there's fingerprints and mug shots. Oh, also, you're the primary witness so you'll have to stay in town for the trial."

The glare continued.

"Well, at least your mom will be happy if you stay. She seemed pretty mad."

"Mary Margaret is not my mom."

"Oh, come on. You look alike."

"Would you stop?"

"Fine, but seriously, you will have to stay in town. I have a right to face my accuser."

"Yes, she does," said Gold.

Beatrice looked up to see her mother and Mr. Gold. They were standing side by side and it seemed odd. Beatrice found that unsettling, but also unsettling was that her mother had once again run to Rumplestiltskin when there was trouble.

She really hoped she hadn't been sold.

"Seriously..." Beatrice muttered.

"You're her lawyer?," asked Emma.

"Yes and as of now my client's not answering any more questions," said Gold.

"What questions?," asked Emma. "Your client torched my car right in front of me."

"Well, that's your version of events and you're not exactly without bias here."

"What?," Emma exclaimed.

"It was your car. How do we know you didn't burn it yourself for the insurance money?"

"Seriously, Gold?"

"You haven't arrested her. How convinced of her guilt could you be?"

"So when I wanted help, it was too hard, but she comes in with a clear cut arson case and you drop everything?"

"Oh, Sheriff, I do hope your anger at me isn't influencing your judgment and causing you to lash out at my client who was just an innocent bystander."

"She got matches and lighter fluid from the pharmacy."

"Circumstantial," said Gold. "Now, I've already spoken with District Attorney Spencer. Are you going to arrest her?"

Emma looked really uncertain.

"What? Seriously?," asked Beatrice. "What happened to arresting me?"

"Be quiet," Belle warned.

Emma walked over to Gold. "Is this the favor?"

"Sheriff, I don't know what you're suggesting, but it's unseemly," said Gold. "Now, are you going to arrest my client?"

"No," Emma relented. "It doesn't mean I won't change my mind. Besides, I'm not going to lock up a fifteen year old."

"How compassionate. Beatrice, come on."

"What?"

"Come on," Belle repeated.

Beatrice grudgingly obliged her fate as she left with Gold and Belle.


Then

It was never hard for Merlin to get into places. The Court of King Xavier was no different as the footman led him to the throne room.

"Your Majesty," said Merlin.

King Xavier stood and walked over. "My court is always happy to receive you, Merlin. Have you come for my son's wedding?"

"Oh, I'm afraid I can't stay. I do have some business to discuss with Your Majesty, if we could only speak in private."

"Of course, this way."

King Xavier led Merlin up to the treasure room. Merlin looked on in amusement at the rolls of spun gold.

"What brings you here?," asked Xavier.

"It regards your soon to be daughter-in-law, Cora."

"What about her? She's just the miller's daughter."

Merlin motioned at their surroundings. "Except for all this."

"She has a power, yes."

"Xavier, you surprise me. There's only one man in the realm who can spin straw into gold. Well, there was only one, until he got stupid and showed someone else how to do it. Tell me, are you familiar with Rumplestiltskin?"

"The Dark One?," Xavier asked with alarm.

"The very same."

Xavier was flustered. "The menace! I'll send soldiers, I'll have him caught-"

"You'll do no such thing."

"I will not be deceived in this way."

"You most certainly will."

"Then why did you tell me this?"

"You see, the imp thinks he is playing a chess game. That's only half of it. See, he's playing my game, but he can only see about half the board and doesn't know I've been moving all the pieces."

"For what purpose?"

Merlin shook his head. "You wouldn't possibly understand. Now, Cora will come to you and all you must do is remind her of who she is. Who she really is. She's not the kind of woman who could run off for love with an imp. Remind her of all that your son can offer and I see that look, try not to be so damn hard on the poor boy. He's going to have a hard enough life as it is, not to mention a very sad death. Remind Cora, love is weakness."

King Xavier was all surprise. "And what if I refuse?"

Merlin gave it thought. "Well, I suppose I'll just kill her then. A broken heart is a broken heart, really, but I like this way better and hey, you still have someone who can spin straw into gold. Not everyone can say that."

Xavier stood silently.

"I'll show myself out," said Merlin. "After all, big day tomorrow."


Now

Gold had seen Belle and Beatrice back to the inn. Then he had come to the shop. He had plans to make for his trip, but there was much to do before that. He would have to sort out the District Attorney, await the end of the Curse and then the first part of his reunion with his family. He expected he would have to come up with something to earn the girl's trust. He walked over to the jewelry case to remove Belle's pieces as he heard the doorbell ring.

"My tree is dying," said Regina.

Gold smiled. "Maybe it's your fertilizer."

"You think this is funny? Well, I'll tell you what I think. I think it's a sign of the curse weakening because of Emma. But do you care? No. You're content to just sit back and do… Whatever it is you're doing, while all my hard work burns."

"That's not all, is it? Come on. You might as well get everything off your chest."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Henry. Miss Swan wants him."

"She'll have that boy over my dead body."

"The curse was meant to take away Snow White and Prince Charming's happiness. Perhaps, you giving up Henry is just the price to keep the curse unbroken."

"I think I'd rather just get rid of her."

"Well, well. You're going to have to be quite creative. We both know the repercussions in killing Miss Swan. The curse will be…"

"The curse will be broken. That's because you designed it that way. Undo it."

"You know… Even if I wanted to, I couldn't. Magic, well, is in short supply around here and dwindling by the minute."

"I want to strike a new deal. One where I can get rid of Emma without shattering the Curse."

"Unfortunately, a deal requires two interested parties and you no longer have anything I want."

"I can rewrite Belle's memories. You two can be back together."

"Yes, but you can't rewrite the girl's memories."

Regina scoffed. "Are you that desperate to have Belle's bastard?"

"You see, I got to thinking about that, dearie and then I remembered that for many years, the clock above the library was eight-fourteen and it changed one morning. One morning you seemed very angry at me. When Belle hired me as her attorney, I looked at the paperwork and realized you sent her away around the same time that the clock changed."

Regina stared at him.

"True love, dearie," said Gold. "The most powerful magic of all, but then, you knew that, didn't you?"

"Fine," said Regina. "But don't tell me you didn't have that planned."

"Planned? Dearie, if I had it planned, we wouldn't be here. Do you think I would have entrusted the fates of Belle and my child in this land to you? Really?"

Regina continued to glare.

"I will give you a piece of advice, though. I would plan a trip because once people waken up and remember who you are and what you did to them, well, they are going to be looking for blood."

"There's still the matter of your little princess's pending arson charges. Like father, like daughter."

"I'm sure I can figure out something."

Regina stalked out unhappily.


Beatrice sat across from her mother in the diner. It had been a late morning, trying to catch up on the sleep lost by the slight arson Beatrice had committed in the night. Burning something down did clear some of the space around them at the diner. Belle had spoken through most of lunch and Beatrice had never felt the need for an espresso so badly as now.

"I don't even know what to say," said Belle. "I don't know if I'm supposed to be mad or sad or if you can even help yourself-"

"I had a reason," said Beatrice.

"Yes and that's the thing, your reason is that you think the sheriff is going to break some curse and you couldn't let her leave town so you burned her car."

"Yeah," said Beatrice, shrugging plaintively.

"Is that all you can say for yourself?"

"Until you actually want to listen..."

"What?," asked Belle. "Is that attitude? You burned a car and you are giving me attitude?"

"You think I'm insane."

"Beatrice, I-" Belle sighed. "Honestly, I don't know. I do know that it might be a bit short-sighted to let some book of fairy tales choose your destiny. No one decides your fate but you."

"Yeah, that's in the book," said Beatrice.

There was a hush over the diner and Beatrice realized she was to the point that she no longer had to turn to see if Gold had entered.

"May I join you, ladies?," asked Gold.

"Of course," said Belle.

She scooted down the booth to make room for Gold.

"So, what did the District Attorney say?," asked Belle.

"Mr. Spencer is not yet prepared to file charges pending Sheriff Swan's investigation," said Gold. "You can't leave town, though."

Belle frowned. "Mr. Spencer?"

"Yes, he acts as the district attorney and the city attorney."

"Still? He was in charge of my case," said Belle.

"I shouldn't worry about it," said Gold. "He won't file charges unless he's certain he can win and he has suggested a psychiatric evaluation."

"Oh, good," said Beatrice. "More psychiatrists."

"I've put him off for the time being," said Gold.

"I don't want Beatrice locked up, Especially not in that awful place," said Belle. "An institution is still an institution."

"I would only suggest it as a delay tactic," said Gold. "I won't let her be locked up."

Beatrice frowned. "What kind of lawyer are you?"

"Well, luckily for you, I'm the very good kind."

"Beatrice, he's trying to help you," said Belle. "We're trying to help you."

Beatrice groaned and rolled her eyes. When she was done rolling them, she looked upon Belle and Gold sitting together and staring at her.

There was something oddly disconcerting about it.

Really disconcerting.

"So, your plan is to just delay and delay and keep tossing crazy theories at Emma?," asked Beatrice desperate to shake off whatever she was seeing.

"It's not my entire plan." He paused. "Have you always worn glasses?"

"Do you think it affected my ability to tell whether I was throwing a match at a car soaked with lighter fluid?"

Gold smiled. "Idle curiosity."

"I'm pathetically farsighted. Okay?"

"She's worn glasses since she was a baby," said Belle. "I don't know what that has to do with anything."

"Well, it's important to have all the information," said Gold.


Then

"Didn't expect to see you on a horse, dearie," said Rumplestiltskin.

Merlin smiled. Rumplestiltskin had managed to find him on the King's Road. Knowing the future could make one so impatient. "I expected to see you."

"How did you know what would happen with Cora?"

Merlin scoffed. "You really ought to have seen that coming."

"You did it," he accused.

"No, I don't remember ripping out her heart. I am fairly certain that was her."

"You conspired."

"I'll not deny it, but, Rumplestiltskin, how could a woman who would rip out her own heart have any room in it for you? Do you have any idea how much love a woman will need in her heart to love you? I'll tell you now that woman has not yet been born."

"Why did you do it?"

Merlin laughed. "Oh, Rumplestiltskin, if I told you and made a chart with pictures, you would not understand."

"Try me."

"Okay, how about this? I know you."

"No one knows me," he sneered.

"I know you. I know that you are the sort of man who was never meant to become the Dark One. I know you. I knew your wife. I knew that pirate she ran off with. I knew Baelfire. I knew your parents."

"A claim too far, dearie."

Merlin seemed to find this laughable. "You don't think I knew your parents? You don't think I know your father?"

"Not for a second."

"Then you might try asking yourself where the two spinsters who raised you got a magic bean from."

Merlin watched as Rumplestiltskin tried to conceal his shock.

"And before you bother asking me if I have any more," said Merlin, "you should know that I would never give you one even if I did so don't bother humiliating yourself by begging."

"I would never beg. I would do far worse."

"Oh, we both know you would beg. You can't kill me, you have nothing that I want, so all you have is... fealty."

Rumplestiltskin stood speechless.

"Now, won't you excuse me? I'm off to see a young lady."

"On a horse?," Rumplestiltskin questioned.

"As I said, I have my plans," he said as he rode off.

Chapter Text

 


Then

The Duke of Padua finally rode into his home gardens.

"Your Grace!," the footman exclaimed as he bowed, taking the reins of the Duke's horse.

The Duke nodded and got off. "How is the Duchess? Has she delivered?"

"I know not, Your Grace."

The Duke walked into the Great Hall and heard a great howl as he began removing his gloves.

"I would say not," said the Duke.

"The wizard is here," said the footman.

"Merlin?"

The footman nodded.

"See that he is comfortable and tell him I will be with him shortly," said the Duke. "I must see to my wife."

"Yes, Your Grace."

The Duke leapt up the stairs two at a time and ran through the great house to the mistress' rooms. He was a lanky, yet oddly dashing figure and the servants were used to his running around his home. Maids hurried to and fro, looking at him curiously as he knocked at the bedroom door.

"Catherine?," he called.

"WHAT?!"

The Duchess was an acquired taste at the best of times. Fortunately, it was one her husband had long ago acquired. He cautiously cracked the door open.

"I just wanted to let you know that I had arrived-"

"Yes! I got that from when you knocked and said my name!"

"Right... Anyway, if there's any office I could perform for you, my lady, anything you require of me-"

"Yes, actually!"

"Oh?," he asked brightly.

"Go to Merlin, get him to turn the clocks back to nine months ago when you thought it was a good idea to have that third bottle of wine with the Sultan of Agrabah!"

"I thought you quite enjoyed that."

"Not anymore!," she snapped back.

"Right..." He paused. "I shall go to Merlin."


The Duke hurried downstairs to the sitting room. His four sons sat at Merlin's feet as the wizard told some story.

"And that is why you should never ever give someone a magic bean. They ruin lives. Ah, Your Grace."

The youngest turned. "Papa!"

"Hello!," said the Duke with a grin as the boy scampered towards him. The other three piled on for their turns at a hug.

"Do you have stories of the battlefield for us, Papa?," asked his eldest.

"Perhaps later," said the Duke. "Is it not time for your tutor? Go to him and let Merlin and I speak."

The boys left. The Duke turned to Merlin.

"Is it a girl?," asked the Duke with obvious excitement.

Merlin smiled. "What would make you think that?"

"Because my wife had borne me four sons and every time you have come, stayed a short while and left disappointed."

"Most men prefer a son."

"I have no preference but to have my wife and child healthy. That having been said, I do have four sons."

"You have a large land with many responsibilities necessitating many sons."

"I should welcome a daughter, though."

"Oh?"

"I love nothing in the world so well as my wife, why should I not love a daughter after her image?"

Merlin smiled. "True Love."

"I wonder, though, if it was a daughter you were waiting for all this time, why all the false visits?"

"Do you question my knowledge of the future?"

"Well..."

"Sometimes if one is too close to events, one cannot see them properly."

"Curious."

"Oh?"

"I only just had someone tell me-"

He stopped mid-sentence interrupted by a baby's first cry.

Merlin smiled. "Yes, that's her."


The Duke entered his wife's room. The midwife and maids backed away, giving him his space as he approached Catherine. Biting tongue not withstanding, she was quite a lovely woman with porcelain skin and red hair. She held the baby against her, smiling.

"Well, here is Papa..." she cooed.

"My lady," he said, placing a gentle kiss on her lips.

"You took far too long," she said.

"I was delayed. Forgive me."

"Always."

The Duke looked down. "I was really hoping for red hair."

"Oh, hush it, Alec... she's perfect."

"Merlin's here."

"Merlin? Is she the one he's waited for?"

"I think so. Finally, though, we have our little queen to help you rule us all."

"Reinette," Catherine said suddenly.

"Reinette?"

She looked back down at the baby. "Our little queen, Reinette."

The Duke smiled and kissed his wife in agreement. "Reinette."


Now

"Okay," said Belle. She looked seriously at Beatrice as she sat on the bed in the room at the inn. "I'm going for a run."

"Okay. Have fun."

Belle shook her head. "No, for once, listen. I want you to stay in this room. I don't want you to go anywhere. I don't want you to commit any more felonies. I don't want you to hurt yourself-"

"I never hurt myself!"

"Please, Beatrice? Just promise me?"

Beatrice sighed. "I promise."

Belle nodded and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I love you."

"Love you, too," Beatrice said grudgingly.

It was five episodes of Doctor Who later when Beatrice got a knock at the door. She paused her iPad and walked over to answer it.

It was Savior Girl.

"August is wood."

It was an odd opening statement, but this whole thing was odd. "Um, yeah?"

"Henry ate a poison apple turnover."

Beatrice let out a breath of contempt and leaned against the doorway. "Why did Henry have a poison apple turnover?"

"Because Regina gave it to me."

Beatrice crossed her arms. "And Regina would be?"

"The Evil Queen."

"Not so crazy now, am I?"

"You did torch my car."

"For a reason."

"August says you used magic. He said you could help."

"Oh, God," said Beatrice, remembering the fortune teller's prophecy.

"Beatrice, I'm not ready for this. I need all the help I can get. I have to get some sort of magic to save Henry."

"And the Curse?"

"I'll work on it, but right now Regina is waiting. We don't have much time."

"Oh, good," said Beatrice. "Regina is waiting."

She walked over and put on her ankle boots, grabbed her iPhone and the purple sack from the voodoo woman.

"What's that?," Emma asked looking at the sack.

"Well, it mostly looks like some rocks and a couple of candles, but I think it might help," she said closing the door on the room and starting to walk out with Emma.

"How is that going to help?"

"Not a clue. It's really too bad I used all the magic zombie powder."

"The what?!," asked Emma.

"Come on," said Beatrice. "Her Majesty awaits."


Then

The Duke looked across the room at the son-in-law he had been trying to make conversation with for the better part of the day. He had no love lost for Sir Maurice and had thought at one time he could learn to at least tolerate the man his daughter had chosen to marry, but he was now decided that was not to be.

The footman entered. "Sir Maurice. Your Grace. There is a visitor."

"I'm not taking visitors," said Maurice.

"He says he is Merlin."

"Merlin?," asked the Duke. "He's a friend to our family. Send him through."

Maurice nodded his acquiescence. The footman departed and soon returned with the wizard.

"Merlin," said the Duke. "How good to see you."

"Your Grace," he said. "Sir Maurice."

"Merlin, are you unwell?," asked the Duke. "Forgive me, you do not seem yourself."

The wizard paused. "Have you ever gotten to the near end of something, like a journey, and it's not quite gone the way you planned?"

"Yes, but perhaps you are where you're meant to be?"

"Indeed," he said, casting a glare at Sir Maurice.

"Come. Sit. My wife is with Reinette."

"Indeed I am not," said Catherine, entering the room.

"We heard nothing," the Duke remarked in alarm.

"You would not have," said Catherine. "She's an absolute lamb. A true beauty."

"It's a girl?," asked Sir Maurice.

"Yes," said Catherine tersely. "Your wife and daughter are waiting."

Sir Maurice left.

Catherine looked to Merlin. "Are you certain you wouldn't like to turn him into something?"

"That's not really my thing," said Merlin.

The Duke snorted. "Since when?"

"I truly wonder at that man," said Catherine.

"He passed the morning hunting," said the Duke.

Merlin looked out the window. Catherine looked at the Duke in puzzlement then back to the wizard.

"Merlin, I wonder if I might crave an indulgence," said Catherine.

"I suppose it should depend on what manner of indulgence."

"You've been following our families for generations."

"Yes?"

She shrugged in curiousity. "To what end? For how long?"

"Do you swear to the gods to never tell?"

They exchanged glances.

"By the gods," said the Duke.

"And I," said Catherine.

"Your great-granddaughter."

"Is she..." The Duke struggled. "I know she should be special, but to what purpose should you need her?"

"I've tried to build a kingdom before and it's fallen."

The Duke looked at his wife. "Do you mean Camelot? It's only just begun."

"Just wait," said Merlin.

"So, our great-granddaughter is to be a queen?," asked Catherine.

"I shouldn't worry. All your granddaughter must do is follow the path of True Love."


Once Sir Maurice was off and Reinette had fallen asleep, Merlin made his way into the nursery. he approached the cradle and took the baby in his arms.

"Here you are, Belle of Avonlea. I have been waiting a very long time for you. Despite what you may be told, you come from an unbroken line of True Love and that makes you perfect for what you are going to do. You will be a hero. You shall fear no beast and no one, no one decides your fate but you."


Now

Regina walked up to the library with her huge ring of skeleton keys. She pointed at Beatrice. "What is she doing here?"

"I heard you needed help," said Beatrice. "Are you going to stop me?"

Regina froze. She actually couldn't and she silently cursed Gold in this instance. She opened up the library as Emma and Beatrice followed her in.

"Oh, my God, you guys have a card catalog and nobody noticed how out of date you were?," Beatrice remarked.

Regina didn't say anything. She walked over to a mirrored tree on the wall and placed her hand on it. She moved a few more levers and an elevator rose.

"Whoa," said Emma.

Regina motioned at the elevator.

"After you," said Emma.

"It's a two man job, one of us has to operate it."

"Great," Beatrice grumbled.

"And I'm just supposed to trust you?," asked Emma.

"You don't have a choice," said Regina.

"This battle I'm supposed to fight. Who is it? Who's down there?"

"I'm guessing a dragon," said Beatrice.

Regina turned to look at her. "How did you know that?"

"Fortune teller."

Regina stood closer to Beatrice. "If that imp is trying to double cross me-"

"What imp?," asked Beatrice.

"Yeah, what imp?," asked Emma. "Wait, what dragon?"

"Here's what you're going to have to do," said Regina.


The Curse was drawing to a close. Gold had waited for this day for a very long time, he was so close to achieving his goal. All he had to do was wait a bit and then go to the library.

He was very surprised to hear a knock at his shop door. He walked over to see Belle standing out front.

"I'm sorry, I tried to call."

"Yes, sorry, I was busy," said Gold. "Won't you come in?"

Belle walked in. "It's Beatrice. I went for a run, I was probably out too long, I just wanted to clear my head and it was so stupid!"

"Calm down, Belle. What's the matter?"

"She wasn't in our room. I tried asking August and his room had some creepy life-sized wooden doll in it-"

"Really?," asked Gold.

"Then I asked Granny and she said she saw Beatrice leave with the sheriff."

"What?," Gold asked, unable to hide his dismay.

"I went to the station, but nobody was there. I don't know what else to do. Do you have any idea where she might have taken her?"

Gold hurried back behind the counter and got the key he would need out.

"Miss French, I think it would be best if you stayed here for the moment."

"Where are you going?"

"To get Beatrice."

"Then I'll come with you-"

"No, Belle, please, do as I ask."

"No. She's my daughter!"

"Belle..." He paused. "Everything Beatrice has ever told you about the other realm, the Enchanted Forest, is true."

"What?"

"There was nothing wrong with her except she was born into a world she was never meant to be in and that's my fault."

"I really have no idea what you mean," said Belle.

"Which is why you should wait here. I'll call you the moment I find Sheriff Swan."

As Gold left, Belle was lost with a terrible sense of confusion and unable to do anything.


Then

Belle French was an unusual expectant mother for the nurses at Beth Israel Hospital.

For one, the memory thing. She had only a vague notion of who she was and no notion of who the father was. No father, that was the second thing. It wasn't because they hadn't seen single mothers, it was because Belle was quite beautiful and quite lovely when they got to know her. No one showed up to be with her, parents, friends, no one. She passed her labor in her room, quietly, calmly and seemed genuinely grateful when the staff would come in to check on her.

Then it was a shock when seemingly out of nowhere her labor suddenly came on fast and hard like the autumn thunderstorm outside that had appeared out of nowhere.

Belle finally couldn't help it, howling as the nurses and doctor hurried to get into position.

There was a harsh crack of thunder and Belle screamed again, leaving her panting and out of breath.

"Just breathe, Belle," said the nurse. "You're doing fine."

Belle nodded, unable to speak. She felt another contraction come on and screamed again, joining in the thunder. There was a burst of lightning and the power suddenly went out.

"Oh, what the hell?," muttered the doctor. "Someone get me a light."

"What's happening?," asked Belle.

"It's fine. The generator will come on any second," said the nurse.

There was a hum as the emergency lights came on. Belle screamed again.

"This is it, Belle, you're almost done," said the doctor.

There was another final push and cry. The lights flickered back on as the baby let out her first cry.

"It's a girl," said the doctor, wrapping her up.

Belle waited impatiently as they did whatever checks and handed the baby to her.

"Hi," Belle said softly. "Hello."

Belle smiled. The girl with no memories, the girl who didn't know who she was, the girl with no one, she was a woman with a purpose now. She was a mother to this tiny creature born in the midst of this storm. Dark hair, lovely brown eyes, a face she had already fallen for.

"Have you picked out a name yet?," asked the nurse.

"Beatrice," said Belle.

"Really?," asked the doctor.

Belle shot him a glare and turned back to her baby.


Now

The elevator stopped. Emma looked at Beatrice.

"Want out first?"

"Your kid," said Beatrice.

Emma walked out, sword drawn. Beatrice followed.

There was a glass coffin. Emma walked past it as Beatrice ran her fingers over it and sniffed.

"Do you smell ivy?," she asked.

"What?," asked Emma.

Beatrice looked up and realized they had made their first mistake as Maleficent growled.

"Emma..." Beatrice hissed.

They ran. Emma looked at her sword and dropped it. "To hell with this."

She drew her gun and fired at Maleficent. This only made the dragon hiss fire. Beatrice yelped and ran behind a stone pillar as Emma followed.

"Why did you do that?!," Beatrice shouted. "Have you ever heard a fairy tale where the dragon gets killed by a small firearm?!"

"Have you got any great plan?!"

Beatrice sighed. "Uh, Maleficent?," she called. "Maleficent?"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to talk to her."

"She's a dragon!"

"Who was also a person." Beatrice dared to turn and look at the dragon. "Look, sorry about the Curse thing and Regina's really sort of a bitch..."

The dragon hissed fire against the pillar. Beatrice and Emma ran as Maleficent fell into a gorge.

"Do you think she's gone?," asked Emma.

"I think she has wings and you should back away from the edge."

Just then, Maleficent flew up out of the gorge.

"Really?!," asked Emma.

Beatrice turned to run and tripped, cursing her clumsiness as she heard her iPhone crunch in her front pocket. Emma grabbed her to help her up and her glasses fell to the ground.

She was about to turn back for them when she felt Emma yanking her and saw a very blurry flame.

"How bad did you need those?," asked Emma.

"Pretty bad."

"That magic you had. Any idea how to use it?"

"Not really. I can't see and I have a candle and some stones." Beatrice paused. "I can't see and I have a candle."

"Okay..."

Beatrice reached into the sack and pulled out a candle. She let out a sigh and blew on the wick, lighting a small flame.

"Okay, wow," said Emma. "Fire's not something we're really short on."

Beatrice blinked. "I can see."

"Okay, that's something."

Beatrice pulled out the stones. "I am going to throw these at that dragon and then I suggest doing something with the sword quick."

"What do the stones do?"

"Not a clue."

Beatrice turned and threw the stones, one managed to land in the dragon's mouth. It swallowed and lit up the scales. Emma threw her sword at the bright spot and the dragon burst into ashes.

"Oh, God," said Beatrice, suddenly covered in dragon ash, her candle taken out by the ash.

"Yeah."

Emma walked over where a golden egg laid atop a pile of ashes.

"Okay, I've got it."

"Cool," said Beatrice. "Would have liked to see that."

"You really need glasses."

"No kidding?"


Now

Merlin walked into the hospital nursery, surveying down the rows of babies.

"Can I help you?," the nurse asked.

"Doctor Avalon," he said, brandishing his plastic badge. "Here to see Baby Girl French for an Ophthalmology consult."

"She's-"

"Yes, I see her," said Merlin walking over.

Merlin much admired the Land Without Magic. Though he had to say, he found the way children were born into this world somewhat strange. Bringing life into the world, that was the greatest magic of all and here it was charted and managed and supervised. He lifted the girl from her plastic bassinet and looked at her eyes.

"Oh, yes, Beatrice, that mean old witch did do quite a number on your eyes, didn't she? She didn't get you though, do you know why?"

The baby stared blankly.

"You are part of an unbroken line of True Love. On your mother's side. I won't even start on the absolute wreck on your father's side. You're too young. You might think you don't belong, but you are exactly where you need to be. What others might think are weaknesses, they are your greatest strengths. You don't see the world like others. You're afraid of the dark, so you never let the light go out. This, Beatrice, this is what I have waited for."

Merlin put her back down.

"Now, I will see you later."


Now

Emma looked at Beatrice as they rode up the elevator.

"Would you stop shaking your head?," she asked, gripping the egg.

"I have dead dragon in my hair!"

Suddenly, the elevator stopped.

"Oh, come on!"

"Regina!," shouted Emma.

"Miss Swan?," Gold called down. "Miss French, what are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here?," Beatrice asked.

"I was checking on Miss Swan and it's a good thing because it appears Regina's abandoned you."

"I'm coming up," said Emma.

"Miss French, what happened to your glasses?"

"Dragon."

"He's right," said Emma. "You first."

"I can't see two feet in front of me," said Beatrice.

"It's not that far," said Emma, helping her to the wall. "I'll help you on the ledge and then just pull yourself up."

"Yeah, because pull ups are what I'm really good at," said Beatrice.

Emma helped her up on the ledge.

"Here, take my hand," said Gold, closing the distance between Beatrice and the elevator doorway.

Beatrice reached and Gold pulled. He seemed surprisingly strong for an old guy who limped around with a cane.

"Are you alright?," he asked.

"Fine," said Beatrice.

"I'm coming up," said Emma.

"Well, you can't possibly scale the wall and carry that. Toss it up."

"Beatrice! You catch it!"

"Can't see! Can't catch!," Beatrice called back.

"We're wasting time," said Gold. "Toss it up. Your boy's going to be fine."

"You hold onto it. I'll be right up."

If Beatrice had been able to see, she might have noticed Gold as he came behind her and grabbed her by the arm as soon as he had the egg in hand.

"Gold! Gold!," Emma shouted.

"Hey, what?!" Beatrice struggled against Gold's grip. She was finding it very hard to shake off. "What do you think you're doing?!"

"Beatrice! What's going on?!," Emma called.

Before Beatrice could answer, she was rushed out of the library about the time she was far enough away to be able to see Regina tied to a chair and gagged.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Catherine awaited her granddaughter's return to the Dower Summer House.

"Belle," she called upon hearing the door open anc close.

There was a pause as Catherine knew Belle reluctantly came to the sitting room.

"Won't you join me? Reginald's made tea."

Belle sat down. "Grandmother, I'm not really-"

Catherine ignored her and began pouring. "I have reports you were spotted at a dwarf tavern."

Belle froze. "Grandmother, I-"

"Of course, you're an adult. You've survived teh Dark One so I daresay you can handle yourself."

"Thank you, Grandmother-"

"Still, I have to wonder about the sort of woman who chooses to drink at a dwarf tavern. She must not want to be bothered. She must not want anyone to ask questions, particularly when she takes a satchel of books with her. So, I thought, why don't you just tell me what's happened?" Catherine handed her a tea cup.

"Nothing, I worked for Rumple-Rumplestiltskin, then he no longer needed me."

"And he didn't dishonor you in any way?"

"Gods, no!," she said. "He was quite the gentleman."

"Was he now?"

"Yes. He would never do anything so... vile."

"So you met someone else while you were at the Dark Castle?"

"No."

"I've heard descriptions of the Dark One, but of course, I've never seen the actual article. I;ve heard he has claws and green skin-"

"Sort of gold-tinged," Belle said absent-mindedly.

"Frightful hair."

"I wouldn't say frightful..."

"They say he wears dragon skins and usually leather trousers."

Belle gulped her tea.

"Mind you, your grandfather could pull off a pair of leather trousers. Well, he could wear them, I could pull them-"

"Grandmother!," Belle gasped.

"Oh, please, you were blushing long before I mentioned leather trousers." Catherine sat back in her chair smiling with the satisfaction of an old woman who liked to prove her skills. "Now, you said he let you go, but I think there was more to it."

"He let me go and then I met this woman on the road who said True Love's kiss could break any curse. Even his. So I tried it."

"And?"

"It was working."

"It was?"

"Then he stopped me."

"Oh."

"He said he cared more about his power than me and I called him a coward and I left and came here."

"Well, that is quite a tale, Belle."

"Then you understand."

"Of course I do."

"I mean, it's not like you and grandfather-'

"What's not?"

"I mean, your True Love. It was different. He was someone you could fall in love with-"

The Dowager Duchess burst into laughter.

"Grandmother?"

"You- you think I wanted to love your grandfather? You think in a thousand years I would have chosen to fall in love with him?"

Belle was confused. "You two had True Love, though."

"Yes, but I didn't want it to start and by the time I did, it had already been decided. Belle, when I met your grandfather he was an insufferable blabbermouth who was in love with his reflection. Not to mention he was a frog."

"I didn't realize you-"

"No, Belle, he was literally a frog."

"What?"

"He was trying to get me to kiss him to break his curse and finally, I just kissed him to get him out of my life and it worked."

"Then what?"

"He followed me around until I agreed to marry him. Then I did and he followed me around until I married him and he wasn't so bad."

"Wasn't so bad?"

"Leather trousers, Belle."

Belle thought she might die of embarrassment. "So what? So I should go back to him and beg?"

"No, a woman should never beg. That's a man's office. Just act like you forgot your cloak or something."

"He'll never admit anything. He's too much of a coward."

"Of course hs is. Most men are. Besides that, I don't think you get to become the Dark One without a reason."

"I suppose not."

"I'm not saying you have to go back this instant. Just when you're ready."

Belle smiled and kissed her grandmother on the cheek. "Thank you, Grandmother."


Now

Belle sat in Mr. Gold's shop, pondering the strange turn of events and her own shortcomings as a mother when the phone finally rang.

"Hello?"

"Miss French."

"Mr. Gold, have you found her?"

"Yes."

Belle breathed a sigh of relief. "How is she?"

"She's alright. A little worse for wear."

"Where are you? Should I come meet you?"

"No, I'm going to bring her back to you shortly. You should stay put."

"Can I talk to her?"

"The sheriff has some business to conclude. I'm sure you'll speak shortly."

"Well, thank you, Mr. Gold."

Gold walked back to the car and got in. Beatrice was sitting in the passenger seat, looking unhappy.

"What's wrong?"

She turned. "What's wrong? What's wrong?!"

"Yes."

"Okay, well, I've lost my iPhone, my glasses, my hair is full of dead dragon, I've been kidnapped by Rumplestiltskin-"

"You have not been kidnapped."

"Then what would you call it?"

Gold paused. "Claimed."

"What?," Beatrice asked with dismay. "My mom sold me? Did she even read the contract? I didn't think she could be as stupid as Cinderella."

"Do you think your mother would sell her firstborn?"

"Not really..."

"Why haven't you run?"

"I can't see. We're in a moving car. Besides, you still have the egg and Henry is still dying and you have the cure."

"Did Regina tell you I was Rumplestiltskin?"

"No. August did."

"And do you know anything else about me?"

"The Cinderella thing. Straw into gold. You don't exactly have a lot of stories. You should talk to your PR guys."

"My PR guys?"

"Wait, Shrek Forever After. You were in that."

"Shrek Forever After?"

"Yeah, like you're mad at Shrek because he saved Fiona and then you didn't get to be King of Far Far Away, so you trick Shrek into like creating a time line where he was never born."

Gold shook his head. "What would be the point in that?"

"I don't know. It wasn't a very good movie. They should have stopped at three."

"So I have one not very good movie?"

"And this book, it was called 'Rumplestiltskin's Daughter.' My teacher read it in Kindergarten. Instead of marrying the king or prince or whoever, the miller's daughter marries you."

Gold shifted uncomfortably as this story was perhaps striking too close to the truth. "Is that so?"

"Yeah, so then your daughter gets trapped by the same guy and she like convinces the king to grow gold instead of spin it."

"You can't grow gold."

"Well, yeah, it seemed stupid. Not to mention, what sort of a moron is like, 'Hey, I can spin straw into gold.' I mean, if you said it, that's one thing. You can do it."

"You sound like your mother."

"So? Was she a moron?"

"Who?"

"The miller's daughter."

"What makes you think there was a miller's daughter?"

"Because I can't see anything and I can tell you're uncomfortable."

"I'm not uncomfortable."

"Yeah, because denying it is really convincing."


Then

Belle stood at the door to the Dark Castle.

She was deciding whether or not to knock.

She had even formed a fist several times and then unclenched it.

He might not even be home.

If he wasn't home, she could at least say she tried.

This was ridiculous, Belle finally decided. She was a grown woman. She could either be brave and knock on the door or live the rest of her days not knowing. Maybe that would be okay. Maybe she would have adventures, she could even go on and live a reasonably happy life, be happy with someone.

But whoever that someone was, he wouldn't be Rumplestiltskin.

Belle banged on the doors.

Nothing happened. So she banged on them again.

"Alright, alright, dearie! No need to be impatient!"

The doors opened with magic as Rumplestiltskin just entered the entry hall. He stopped in his tracks as Belle came inside the doors.

"Where are the angry villagers?," he asked.

"The what?"

"Angry villagers? To slay the beast?"

Belle shook her head. "I came alone."

"And why did you do that, dearie? I made myself clear."

Belle froze. She wished she had bothered to work out a reason or some sort of speech. So, she could only fall back on her grandmother's advice.

"I forgot my cloak."

Rumplestiltskin tilted his head at her. "You forgot your cloak?"

"Yes, I just came to get it."

Not having a better plan, Belle marched past Rumplestiltskin in the direction of her old room.

"Is that all?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"Yes," she lied as she continued her walk and tried to come up with a reason that would keep her in the castle after she made it there.

"Your father let you return to a castle with a dangerous monster so you could get your cloak?"

"I didn't go to my father," Belle let slip and immediately regretted it.

"You didn't go to your father?"

She stopped and turned. "My grandmother keeps a summer home not too far from here. I went to her."

"Your grandmother?"

"The Dowager Duchess of Padua. Is that all or may I get my cloak?"

"Oh, don't let me stop you, dearie."

"I won't," she said smoothing her skirt as she turned to begin the climb up the staircase.

Belle listened to Rumplestiltskin's footsteps falling behind her own. She walked in her room and then pretended to search and he stood smugly in the doorway.

"Can't find it, dearie?"

"I'm certain it's somewhere around here," she said, trying not to let her infuriation show. "So, how have you been?"

"What?"

"Dealing? How is everything?"

Rumplestiltskin was dumbstruck. Belle felt a little guilty about taking pleasure in that, but it didn't stop her.

"I suppose you must have been very happy since I left," said Belle. "Since you care for your power so much, it must have made you very happy."

"Why have you come, Belle?," he asked with an air of gravity in his voice.

"Have you been happy?"

"What do you think?"

She stopped and gave up all pretense of searching for a cloak. "Then why won't you let me try to make you happy?"

"I can't."

"Why not? What's so important? I know it's not power!"

"It's what power can get me."

"Then what is it that you want?"

She waited as he said nothing.

"If you're going to cast me out again, I think I at least deserve to know the reason why. The real reason not the lies of a coward."

"My son."

"Your son?," Belle repeated incredulously.

"You're right, Belle. I am a coward. I always have been and once it cost me my son."

"I don't understand."

"He's gone to a land without magic."

"A land without magic?," Belle asked.

"I have to find him and let him know..." He didn't finish. Belle could only guess at what depths of feeling were contained in his omission.

"So if I broke your curse, you would lose your power and you wouldn't be able to find him."

"No."

"And True Love's kiss? Is that all that could break it?"

"Is that all?," Rumeplstiltskin scoffed.

"There isn't any other way I could take your powers from you?"

A grave look fell over his face. "Belle, whatever you're thinking-"

"There is no other way I could take your powers from you?," she insisted.

"No, but-"

"Then I won't kiss you."

"Belle-"

"I wouldn't take your son from you."

"Of course you wouldn't-"

"Then what's the alternative? We never see each other again and both stay unhappy? What torture would that be?"


Now

The Cadillac stopped just outside the woods. At least Beatrice was fairly certain it was the woods. Up close it was a brown and green blur. Gold stepped out of the car wordlessly and she scrambled to follow.

"Where are you going?," asked Beatrice.

"There's something I have to do."

"With the potion or whatever?"

"Yes."

"What about Henry? Are you just going to let him die?"

"There's more than one way to get True Love."

"What?"

Gold now noted that the girl had moved to follow him up the path. "I thought you couldn't see."

"I can't."

"You're going to follow me into the woods when you can't see?"

"Yes."

"To try and save a boy you hardly know with a potion you don't know how to use? I don't think so."

Gold walked up the path.

"I'm getting pretty good at using things I don't know how to use."

Gold hadn't realized she had followed and turned. He smiled in amusement at her as she hopelessly groped around. "You have inherited some of your mother's tendencies."

"And what would you know about my mom?"

"I know your mother rather well." He glanced back down the path at her. "You should stop before you hurt yourself."

"I can see some of the far away trees," said Beatrice.

"Yes, but your feet are rather close to you and where you're walking is what I'm concerned about."

"Yeah, I know you want to make sure the goods are in tact."

"No, I want to make sure your skull is in tact."

As if on cue, Beatrice tripped over her own feet and planted her face in the ground. She had been content to lay there and ponder where her life had become some kind of cosmic joke, but she realized Gold was helping her up.

"As I said, too like your mother. Are you alright? Did you hit your head?"

"My nose, maybe..."

"It doesn't look broken. Does it hurt?"

Beatrice realized Gold had one hand holding her chin and the other picking leaves out of her hair. "How did you manage to get so many dragon scales in there?"

"They itch." She yanked her head away, wishing she could see so she could get a read on Gold. "What are you doing?"

Beatrice froze, like she felt something. A wave of something. She turned to look back at the town.

"What was that?," she asked.

"I believe that would be Miss Swan." He took her by the arm. "Come on."

"Now you're dragging me."

"No, there's a ledge coming up and I want to make certain you don't fall over it."

"Okay, well, that hurts. I burned my wrists. It hasn't healed yet."

"Right, sorry," said Gold, moving his hand up. "Come on. Now, what about Beauty and the Beast?"

"The movie? The musical? The TV show?"

"The story. Whatever August told you."

"Well, my mom promised to go with the Beast forever to save her village from the ogres and... I don't know. This story is losing some of its appeal."

"Why?"

"Because my mom's in it."

"Then what happens?"

"They fall in love and have a daughter with really bad eyesight."

"Is that all you have?"

"Well, you try investigating something while everyone is under a curse and your mom thinks you're crazy and see how much better you do."

"And have you decided who the Beast is?"

"Not really." He let go of her and Beatrice could make out the shape of a well. She thought. She didn't really know a lot about wells. "Why did we stop?"

Gold stepped up to the well. "This is a very special place. The waters that run below are said to have the power to return that which one has lost."

Beatrice spotted the purple glowing potion. He dropped it in the well and she tried to scramble up.

"What did you do?," she shouted.

"Beatrice, everything's going to be fine."

"In what way is everything fine?!," she shouted. She then looked back down the well and thought she could make out a plume of purple smoke. She thought her vision was betraying her again, but, no, it really was a giant plume of purple smoke. She motioned at it and looked back at the blur she was fairly certain was still Gold. "In what is everything fine?!"

"Beatrice."

"Yeah?"

"I'm your father."

"What? No..."

Then she started thinking about it.

Her mother had immediately liked him and nobody else liked him.

He had been kind of clingy ever since they'd arrived.

The Magician card.

Since when did the Beast make deals? And how was the Beast going to stop the ogres?

Also, Beatrice was trying to remember for certain that Gold had brown eyes.

"Oh, God, this must be how Luke Skywalker felt..." Beatrice remarked as the purple smoke obscured everything. Gold took her hand. "What's the smoke?"

"Magic."

"Yeah," said Beatrice. "Sure, that makes sense."

Chapter Text

Author's Notes: I do not own Once Upon a Time. Thank you so much for the reads and reviews and follows. I really appreciate them. Some housekeeping: we're now entering a sort of alternate season two. Things will play out differently. Do with that knowledge what you will. Thank you so much, please let me know what you think and happy reading!


The Day The Curse Broke...

Belle had tried the iPhone again and again. The purple haze had dissipated and she was left in Gold's shop to ponder what had happened. She wondered if it would be better to go seek out Gold and Beatrice, but surely whatever was happening he would keep to his promise to bring her back.

Finally, the door opened and the Belle ran to them.

"Watch your step," said Gold.

"Can't," Beatrice muttered.

"Beatrice!" Belle ran towards her and took her into her arms. "I am so sorry, sweetheart. What happened? Are you alright?"

"I lost my iPhone and my glasses."

"And there's dragon skin in your hair." She looked at Gold. "Why is there dragon skin in her hair?"

"It wasn't my idea," said Gold.

"Really? Because it sure seemed like that," Beatrice snapped.

"It was my idea for Miss Swan to go. Not you," Gold replied. "I never would have put you in harm's way."

Belle quickly relented and threw her arms around Gold. "Rumplestiltskin."

"My darling Belle."

"Ugh," said Beatrice, wondering how she could be so disgusted by something she could hardly see. She looked at Belle. "Sorry. So, you're confirming this?"

"Confirming what?," asked Belle.

"Uh, him?"

"She doesn't seem to want to take my word for it," said Gold.

"Beatrice," said Belle, taking her hand. "This is your father."

"Rumplestiltskin? He's the Beast?"

"The Beast, the Dark One..." Gold quipped.

"I'm sorry, the what one?," asked Beatrice.

"Yeah, August didn't really give you a very thorough book," said Belle. "The point is we were never supposed to be separated, Beatrice."

"Yes, about that," said Gold. He looked at Belle. "Tell me what happened."

Belle had been trying to put the pieces of her life back in order since the Curse broke. "I went to see my father and he wasn't dying. The Blue Fairy made him lure me there."

"The Blue Fairy..." Gold said with contempt.

"She already knew about Beatrice somehow." Belle glanced at Beatrice, then back at Gold. "Sorry. Could we talk about this alone?"

"What do we have to talk about alone?," asked Beatrice, suspicious of any new developments. She didn't think she could take it.

"Beatrice-"

"No, I've been seeing a psychiatrist. I've had you think I was crazy. I get to know why."

"I really don't think it's appropriate," said Belle. She took Gold by the hand and looked at Beatrice. "Just wait in here."

Belle dragged Gold out.

He was already seething. "What couldn't you say in front of Beatrice?"

"I didn't want her to hear that her own grandfather sent for clerics and a medicine woman to get rid of her," said Belle.

"Did he now?"

Belle could see the anger growing in Gold's eyes. "Yes, he did, but-"

"You might tell her that's why she needs glasses."

"What?," asked Belle.

"Those same elixirs sometimes they're given to blind an enemy."

Belle nodded. "Then I was under a sleeping spell. Snow White and Grumpy found me and made the Blue Fairy let me go. They helped me return home, but I think you were already gone by then. When you were imprisoned, she sent for me, but..."

"But what?"

"The Blue Fairy spirited me away and-"

Belle could see the anger growing in Gold's eyes. "And she traded you to Regina for a tree."

Belle nodded. "You know the rest. Locked up, sent away."

"They are all going to pay for this. All of them."

"Rumple-" She paused. "What was that cloud?"

"Magic."

"And what do you need magic for? Your revenge?"

"You can see how it might prove useful."

"Rumplestiltskin, no-"

"I can't let this stand. You were taken from me. They tried to murder our child-"

"Listen to me, please," Belle begged. "Beatrice has known you're her father for less than an hour. She doesn't trust you yet. How is she supposed to do that if you go on a killing spree?"

"Against the people who have tried to hurt her-"

"She doesn't understand that and I don't want her to. She needs a father, Rumple. You're all she's ever wanted. Please don't take this from her."

"She doesn't want me."

"Rumple, she doesn't even know you yet and you don't know her. Just... let's hold off on my father and the Blue Fairy and Regina."

"Are you hoping I'll just forget about it?," he asked sarcastically.

"A little," Belle said with a slight smile. "I'm also hoping you'll want to know your daughter more than you want them dead."

Gold relented. "Fine. I won't, but if they so much as look at her in a way that I don't like-"

"We will worry about that if it happens. Right now, she needs us."

Gold nodded. "You're right."

They returned inside.

"Anyone want to tell me anything?," asked Beatrice.

"Give me your wrists," said Gold.

"What?"

"It's okay," said Belle.

Beatrice sighed and held out her wrists. Gold pulled up the sleeves and unwrapped the gauze.

"That looks nasty," he remarked. "The sleeping curse must have been a rather vicious one to still have a hold on you."

"So I hear."

"I didn't realize the puppet knew about such things."

"No, well, there-" Beatrice's sentence was interrupted by a weird tingling in her wrists. "What are you doing?"

"Healing them."

Beatrice yanked her wrists away. "What?!"

"Now, let me see your eyes..."

Beatrice backed away banging into one of the cases.

"Beatrice..." said Belle.

"And what is involved with that?"

"Involved?," asked Gold.

"Before you start messing with my eyes that are connected to my brain I think I'd like to know more."

"I wouldn't hurt you."

"Is there an optometrist? There has to be, right?"

"Or I could just fix them," said Gold.

Beatrice looked at Belle. "I know you keep my prescription around."

They were both staring at Belle now.

"Rumple, maybe it's too much all at once," said Belle.

"But I can fix it-"

Belle closed the distance to Gold. "She's going to need longer than an hour to trust you," she said softly.

"Doctor Morita is down the street," Gold said grudgingly.

"Great," said Beatrice. She headed towards the door and was pleased for herself for successfully remembering where it was when she got outside to see the fuzzy outline of an angry mob running down the street.

"Yeah! Let's get her!"

"Kill the queen!"

Gold pulled Beatrice back in.

"What was that?," asked Beatrice.

"I think they must be looking for Regina," said Gold.


One Month Later...

Beatrice walked with her mother down the main street. There was something to be said about the day without glasses, she didn't know how many stares they got. She couldn't tell if it was because the townspeople still wondered how a beauty could love a beast, if they were curious about the Dark One's family or if they were just waiting for her to go all Carrie and smite everyone.

"I was thinking about the library," said Belle.

"In New York?"

"No," said Belle. "Here."

"You mean the thing with the card catalog and the dragon in the bottom of it?"

"Your father says it's safe. Besides, I can get computers."

"You want to run it?"

"What's wrong with that?"

"Just that you used to be a senior librarian at the most famous library in the world..."

"And now we live here with your father. Our lives have changed and it's not all bad." She paused. "Do you miss your school? Your friends?"

"I don't have friends so really nothing has changed."

"You could try to make friends."

"Yeah, let me just demonstrate that." Beatrice picked out a random mom pushing a stroller. "Hi. How's it going?"

The woman pretended not to hear Beatrice and sped faster away.

"Okay," said Beatrice. "Nice meeting you."

"Beatrice..."

Belle froze and pulled Beatrice closer to her.

"Mom!," she groaned, trying to pull herself away. She looked across the street to see Mother Superior and some of the others. "The nuns again? What is with you and the nuns?"

"You haven't been talking to them, have you?"

"About what?"

"Anything."

"So, I'm supposed to be friendly to people, except the nuns. Yeah, this makes a lot of sense."

"Also, the priests."

"Is there a rabbi I should be scared of somewhere around here? What is going on?"

"Just do as I ask."

Belle walked into the pawn shop and Beatrice followed.

"Well, hello," said Gold. "How did things go at school?"

Belle looked at Beatrice.

Beatrice groaned internally. This was her mother's new thing, forcing the two of them to talk. "I got my class schedule."

"Oh."

Belle shot a look at Gold.

"Anything interesting?," he asked.

"Well, physics. Pre-Calc. Then you know the usual stuff."

"Do you need anything? For school?"

That was the other thing Beatrice had noticed. When in doubt, Gold sought to find something he could fix, preferably by buying something. This had led to the ordering of a new iPhone- apparently, nobody in Storybrooke cared about new phones, it had to be ordered- and any number of items for her room.

"Pencils? Paper?"

"I think I have extra in my New York stuff."

"There's a stationery store across the street," said Gold. "You could just go pick some new things out. Here.'

Gold reached for his wallet. He always had cash on him. Though Beatrice wondered why people were still paying him rent since as she understood it a curse had made him own everything. Maybe it was some part of the "We Are Both" speech she had missed.

He handed her more bills than were necessary.

"Thanks," said Beatrice.

She left. Belle turned to Gold.

"It's as if I'm pulling her teeth to give her anything," said Gold.

"She's not used to having a father offer to give her things," said Belle. "Give her time."

"How were things at the school?"

"Okay. It's different from her old school. She'll have to get used to it."

"My sources say the dwarves found fairy dust."

"Or I could have just asked Mary Margaret."

"Well, there are some things fairies don't tell their princess. Either way, we need to be more careful."

"I don't see how we could possibly be any more careful. She's barely been out of our sight since the Curse broke. She's fifteen, Rumple, she's not a baby."

"We need a plan for school, if you're going to insist upon it."

"You can't just lock her up in a tower."

"That's not my first instinct," said Gold. "My first instinct was to deal with those who would do her harm."

"I still think we don't need a killing spree."

"As you wish," Gold said in a way that clearly indicated he thought they definitely did.


The Day The Curse Broke...

Belle held Beatrice's hand as they walked. The angry mob had died down. She felt like an idiot, but since she couldn't see anything, this was better.

"Your father said the optometrist was just down here."

"Well, that's assuming he didn't join the kill Regina squad."

"Well, then he'll just be easier to find, won't he?," Belle asked cheerfully. "What do you think of your papa so far?"

"I really couldn't say. I just met the guy."

"You must have questions. You've been wondering about everything your whole life and now I can tell you the truth. Don't you want to know anything?"

"No. Beauty. Beast. I'm covered."

"That's not our story. Not really."

Beatrice looked ahead. "Where's everyone headed?"

"Ruby!," Belle called.

"Belle! Beatrice!," said Ruby as she hurried over.

"What's going on?"

"Town meeting. Beatrice, Emma was wondering what happened to you."

"Yeah, there was this thing..." said Beatrice, trailing off.

"What's wrong?," asked Ruby.

"I'm sort of blind without my glasses."

"We're headed to the optometrist," said Belle.

"Oh, I think I saw him back over there." Ruby leaned in. "Belle, you know who he is, right?"

"Doctor Morita?"

"Ayoki."

Belle grimaced. "Not the fountain."

Ruby nodded.

"The fountain?," asked Beatrice.

"There was this fountain of youth and a man asked your father for help in getting to it."

"And everyone lived happily ever after?," Beatrice asked dryly.

"There's not by chance another optometrist?," asked Belle.

"So no happy ending," said Beatrice.

"No, sorry," said Ruby. "It'll be okay. We'll figure something out. Come on."

They went into city hall. The room was overflowing, but Ruby led them through the throng of people.

"Belle!," Mary Margaret exclaimed.

"Snow!"

The two women hugged like the childhood friends they were.

"I am so sorry," said Mary Margaret. "I never meant for Regina to-"

Belle shook her head. "I know you didn't. There are others to blame for that," she said casting a glance at Mother Superior on the other side of the room.

"Is Gold planning something?," asked David.

Mary Margaret turned. "Do we have to do this now?" She caught sight of Beatrice and walked over. "And this is your daughter! She is beautiful, Belle, just like you."

Beatrice was completely thrown off, barely being able to see events. Now Snow White was her mom's best friend?

"Hi, Belle," said Leroy.

"Grumpy!," Belle exclaimed, giving the man a hug.

And now Grumpy was her buddy.

She was starting to feel light-headed.

"Are there snacks at this thing?," asked Beatrice.

"Are you alright?," asked Mary Margaret. "Here, sit down."

"She hasn't eaten," said Belle.

"Henry," said Mary Margaret, "see if Granny has anything for Beatrice."

"You okay?"

Beatrice made out a blonde blur next to her.

"Oh, you know," said Beatrice.

"Yeah," said Emma. "I do know. I was going to come after you, but the hospital called. Then I broke the Curse and there was a big purple haze..."

"So, you heard who the Beast turned out to be?"

"Yeah," said Emma. "How's that going?"

"Weird."

"Here you go, Beatrice," said Henry, turning up with a paper towel of cookies. "This was all they had."

"Thanks," said Beatrice, taking the offering.

"So, your dad's Rumplestiltskin?," asked Henry.

"Oh, just say that so everyone can hear," said Beatrice.

The crowd finally swelled enough so that they felt the meeting could begin. There was a lot of rabble, lots of questions.

"What about the other realm?"

"Will Regina get her powers back?"

"I can't find my mother!"

"Do we still have to pay taxes?"

"Is school cancelled?"

"What about federal?"

"Do I still have to pay those parking tickets?," someone called out.

Emma took that one. "Stop parking in front of fire hydrants!"

"What are we supposed to do without fairy dust?"

"Is the optometrist here?," Beatrice added.

"Who are you?," someone called out.

"Who am I?"

"I'm on this side."

Beatrice threw her hands up. "Well, clearly I'm a girl in need of glasses!"

"We have a lot to figure out, everyone," said Mary Margaret.

"But seriously, is there an optometrist in the house?," added Beatrice.

"Beatrice..." Belle warned.

"Wait, she's with Belle? Who is she?"

"I thought Belle went with the Dark One-"

Beatrice looked down at the blur she thought was Henry. "Is everyone staring at me?"

"Yeah," Henry answered.


One Month Later...

Beatrice walked in the house. The pink Victorian that she now called home. Gold and Belle followed.

"You might want to take a look in the kitchen," said Gold.

"The kitchen?," asked Beatrice.

"Well, go on," said Belle.

Beatrice walked into the kitchen. On one of the huge counters, there now sat an espresso machine.

"That's the one from Starbucks," said Beatrice. She looked back at her parents as they followed her in. "They don't sell these to the general public."

"As a rule," said Gold.

"Is there an instruction manual?," asked Beatrice, looking around the counter. "Never mind, I'll Google it."

Before she had her phone out, Gold was at her side.

"I suppose I can help you out this time," said Gold.

"You can make espressos now?"

"I'll get by."

Beatrice watched as Gold worked his way through the process and finally presented her with a mug.

She took a sip.

"How is it?," he asked.

"Not bad," said Beatrice. That was a lie, it was actually really good and she wondered if he had used magic or enchanted it or... On the other hand, she had been in Storybrooke almost a month and no longer really cared. "If this whole straw into gold thing ever goes south, you can probably get a barista job."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Thank you," said Beatrice. "I'm going to go sort through more of my stuff."

"Do you want help?," asked Gold.

"No, I'm fine." Beatrice walked out with her mug.

Gold turned to Belle.

"That was good," said Belle.

"It's been a month."

"Rumple, does she remind you of anyone?"

"Of course. She reminds me of you."

"She's you. Difficult, stubborn, thick-skinned you," said Belle. "You might want to keep that in mind."


The Day The Curse Broke...

"Oh, come on!," said Beatrice.

"You can't be serious," said Emma.

They had found Morita outside. He had indeed been among the townspeople. One of the less cooperative townspeople.

"Is she the Dark One's daughter?," asked Morita.

"I am standing right here," said Beatrice.

"She's a kid," Emma said sternly. "She's not responsible for whatever her father did."

Belle spoke. "I understand you're upset, but Emma is right, Beatrice didn't do anything and she really needs her glasses."

"Why doesn't Rumplestiltskin just make some?," Morita snapped.

"Optometry isn't his specialty," said Belle.

"Emma, what's going on?," asked Mary Margaret.

Belle motioned at Morita. "He won't make her a pair of glasses."

"Doctor Morita..." said Mary Margaret.

"Why should I? So she can see us all before she kills us?"

"I just met you!," Beatrice protested.

"She lost them trying to help save Henry," said Emma.

"I understand," said Mary Margaret, "but right now, we don't have the luxury of holding on to all our old grudges. We all need to pull together to figure this out. Make the glasses. Leroy!"

Leroy walked over.

"Would you mind walking with Belle and Beatrice to Doctor Morita's shop? Beatrice needs some glasses," said Mary Margaret.

"No problem," said Leroy.


One Month Later...

After weeks in her presence, Gold still had no idea what made his daughter tick. He had more facts. She did like roast despite picking at it her first night in his house. Her favorite meal to eat out was Greek, the only restaurant in Storybrooke had this misfortune of being down the street from Game of Thorns so she resented the quick dash in and out. She loved her electronics like Belle loved her books.

She couldn't sleep in the dark, so her solution was to leave her television on. Gold didn't know this the first night so he had made the mistake of turning it off for her then got to witness the meltdown. That had been heartbreaking. He had no doubt that Belle had been an extraordinary mother, but he couldn't help but wish he had been there to hold his daughter as she cried, to rock her to sleep, to take away all of her fears.

"Rumple..."

Gold turned back as Belle came up behind him and put her arms around him.

"You're watching her again," she whispered.

"How can she sleep like that?"

"I don't know. I just know she does."

Gold continued to stare.

Belle whispered in his ear. "You said it's been a month. If she were a month old, she would keep you up half the night and barely know who you were."

"She would be mine, though."

"She is yours," Belle insisted. "Come back to bed. She has a big day tomorrow and you'll need to be on barista duty."

Gold relented as Belle led him back to bed.


Moe hardly ever had anyone in the flower shop early so he was surprised when Mother Superior of all people arrived first thing.

"Mother Superior," said Moe. "I mean, Blue."

"That's alright," said Mother Superior. "Have you spoken to your daughter?"

Moe shrugged. "She refuses and I think that beast forbids it."

"Perhaps," said Mother Superior. She placed a small bottle on the counter. "I've brought you something."

"What?"

"Something to help you remember who you are."

"But we all remember who we are now."

"Please. Drink it."

Moe shrugged, opened the bottle and knocked back the elixir. Something overcame him and he looked back at Mother Superior with new eyes.

"Blue."

"And you are?"

"Sir Maurice... of the Round Table." He paused. "Is there word of Merlin? Did he survive the Curse?"

Mother Superior shook her head. "No and for that we can be grateful."

"The monster lives."

"Yes," said Blue. "Yes, she does."

Chapter Text

 


Then

The Gold Fairy appeared in the clearing.

"And who has summoned me?," she called.

"I have."

The Gold Fairy looked to see Merlin sitting at a table that had suddenly appeared. He motioned at the tea and cakes.

"Would you care to sit, Goldie?," he asked.

Goldie sat grudgingly.

"What do you want?"

"Don't be so hostile, my dear. We both want the same thing."

"And what is that?"

"To join Reinette with her True Love."

"Will you tell me now why you want that?"

"No."

"Then why should I help you?"

"Because I saved your wings when I brought Catherine and Alec together. Fourteen generations of True Love, that's what I want."

"Nobody's ever had fourteen generations of True Love."

"I know. The most is twelve, when I unite Reinette and her True Love it shall be thirteen. When I unite Belle-"

"Who is Belle?"

"Reinette's daughter, of course."

"And I suppose you have Belle's True Love decided?"

Merlin grinned. "Oh, I can't wait to see the look on your face, Goldie."

"To what end do you need fourteen generations of True Love?"

"Oh, wouldn't you like to know? Point is, you help me unite Reinette with her True Love and you can take all the credit. That ought to keep that blue tart happy, eh?"

"What happened with you two?," asked the Gold Fairy.

"Are you going to help me or not?"

"What is it you want from me?"

"Fairy dust."

"There's a limited supply..."

"What are you saving it for? To make a coach from a pumpkin?"

"I have to spread it out over a year."

"Well, you just think about it," said Merlin. "Get back to me."

"Where are you going?," asked Goldie.

"A ball."


Now

Beatrice stared in the mirror. She was trying to get ready for her very first day at her new school. Storybrooke High didn't have a uniform unlike the elementary and junior high so she was charged with coming up with an outfit that conveyed, "Yes, I'm the Dark One's daughter, but really, I just met the guy a month ago and maybe be my friend?" She had ended with an old fall back: a dark floral skater dress, black leggings, her favorite ankle boots and a blue cardi. That and her usual red leather messenger bag, she was set.

Maybe. There were about five other outfits laid out on the bed.

There was a knock at the door.

"Beatrice?," Gold asked. "I've made breakfast."

"Okay," said Beatrice.

"I want you to have time to eat before we have to go."

"I'm not really much of a breakfast person."

"You have to eat something."

Beatrice screamed silently at her reflection. How could someone she barely knew be smothering her?!

"Beatrice?"

"I'm coming," she said.

Outfit changing would have to wait. She doubted it would make any difference anyway.


Belle and Gold had settled into a routine. He cooked breakfast, she sat. Belle wondered how the switch had happened, but Gold didn't mention it so she thought it was best to leave it alone.

"You don't think I've tried to get her to eat in the morning, Rumple?," asked Belle.

"I don't see how she can function. Besides, you hear about these poor girls in this world with these disorders..."

Belle raised an eyebrow at Gold. "Have you been reading my books on raising teenage girls?"

"Well, you had them laying out."

"Beatrice doesn't have those problems, thank the Gods," said Belle.

"Any other problems she might have?"

Belle smiled. Then she couldn't help it, she giggled and covered her mouth.

"And what is so funny?," asked Gold.

"You got to the sex part of those books, didn't you?"

"Forgive me if I don't quite find the humor in it."

"We've already had the talk," said Belle.

"Oh, Gods..." muttered Gold.

"She's not doing anything! She didn't even have a crush at her old school."

"And you think she'd tell you?"

"Yes, she would."

Gold narrowed his eyes at Belle. "There's something you're not saying."

"Nothing... just that she's on the pill anyway, but it was just because she was having awful menstrual cramps..."

Gold groaned like someone who had been sucker punched with two things he didn't want to know.

"It's your own fault, really," said Belle.

Beatrice entered. She put down her bag and took the seat at the counter next to Belle. She looked from her mother to Gold.

"What did I miss?," she asked.

"Nothing," Belle said quickly.

"Nothing," Gold confirmed, hoping to later find a way to wipe away the memory of the conversation from his mind. "What would you like?"


Then

It was a pleasant day at the Duke's Castle. Reinette awaited her ball and her dear friend Princess Eva had finally arrived to pass the time with her, bringing much needed gossip.

"She made straw from gold?," Reinette asked Eva.

Eva nodded. "I saw it with my own eyes. The miller's daughter."

"So, you're not to marry Prince Henry after all?," teased Reinette.

"He's engaged to her. Gods help him."

"Why do you say that?"

"There was a look in her eyes I didn't like," said Eva.

Reinette rolled her eyes. "What did you do to her before that?"

"Nothing!"

Reinette looked at her again. "Eva."

"I tripped her."

"Why would you do such a thing?"

"I don't know. I didn't like her scowl. This is why I need you as my lady-in-waiting. To keep me in check."

Reinette nodded. "You should make amends with the new princess as soon as possible. It does no good to have powerful enemies."

"Fifth in line to be queen?"

"Yes, well, remember how far back she started from."

A maid appeared. She bowed. "My lady. Your highness."

"Yes, Anna?," asked Reinette.

"His Grace requests your presence in the drawing room. One of the guests has arrived."

"The wizard?," asked Reinette.

"Merlin?," Eva whispered.

"The very same," said Reinette.


"My darling girl," said the Duke. He took Reinette's hand and turned her to Merlin. "You, of course, have met, but I think my girl does not remember it."

"Of course," said Merlin. "You've grown a bit taller."

Reinette smiled. "I should hope so, sir. Might I introduce..."

"Her highness, Princess Eva of the Northern Kingdom," said Merlin. "Of course."

Eva looked in shock as she rose from her curtsy. "That's remarkable."

"Well, not really," said Merlin.

"Merlin wanted a word alone," said the Duke. "If that is all right with you, Reinette?"

"Of course, Papa."

The Duke gave her a kiss on the forehead and escorted Princess Eva out. Reinette turned to Merlin as he sat back down.

"What have your parents told you of me?," asked Merlin.

"That you united them," said Reinette. "That you require me for something."

"Does that not concern you, my lady? That I require something of you?"

"You helped them find True Love and their parents and their parents' parents. I would think what you require of me must be in the same vein and how can love be bad?"

"You're so young..." said Merlin. "When you're as old as I am, you learn that not all love is good. Not all love is true. I just recently had to help a friend... an acquaintance, really, come to grips with the same concept and he was much older than you are."

"Was his heart broken?," asked Reinette.

Merlin smiled ruefully. "Oh, Reinette, his heart has been nothing but broken since he was a boy."

"Can you not help him?"

"I'm helping him now."

Reinette neared the wizard. "Is he the one? Is he my True Love?," she asked with wide eyes.

"I'm afraid not. You're a generation removed."

"Then are you saying my daughter-"

"All in good time, Reinette. All in good time. First, I must help you find your True Love. Now, you must be honest with me, is there anyone I should know about? Prince? Shepherd? Stable boy?"

Reinette shook her head. "I fear not. There is this silly knight, Maurice, but I should never deign to marry him."

"And why not?"

"He's just the usual. All interested in his hunting and his armor and nothing else."

"Should there be something else?"

"My parents dote on each other. I have never heard more than two minutes silence between them when they were not sleeping. They have lived their whole lives together and never run out of conversation."

"He listens to her."

"And she to him. That is what else there should be."

Merlin motioned. "Have a seat."

Reinette smiled and sat in the chair.

"What are you interested in?"

"Is this True Love or are you merely matchmaking?"

"One may well inform the other."

"I weave and spin." She caught the glint of Merlin's smile. "Is something funny about that?"

"You'll see what I mean later. What else?"

"Music. I play the piano, harp and violin. I also sing. I shall be singing at my ball tomorrow."

"Excellent," said Merlin. "We shall let the siren's song lure in your True Love."

"I don't know how I feel about being called siren."

"Tell me, why do noble ladies learn music and sing?"

"Why?"

"Indulge me."

"So others will think we are cultured. So we can get a good husband. To pass the time. Why else?"

Merlin nodded in consideration. "Have your parents told you I can travel between realms?"

"No."

"One of these realms is a Land Without Magic."

"A Land Without Magic?," Reinette asked incredulously.

"In this land, they have music, they have such music, Reinette. Music that could make you weep tears of sadness or joy. Men and women toil for this music. Not just noblewomen and troubadours. People, all people, gather to hear it and they have these things that record the music and make it so that the moment can be replayed again and again."

"You said there was no magic."

"There's not."

"Then how can such a thing be possible?"

"They made it possible. They invent, they create. They don't use magic to solve their problems."

Reinette smiled. "Then what did they want with you there?"

"That's just it. They didn't want anything with me there."

"Is that why you wanted to be there?"

Merlin nodded. "I fear I am keeping you from your dress fittings and music lessons and your girlish gossip. Go on."

Reinette stood. "I shall see you at dinner."


Now

Beatrice walked down the hall.

It was the break between third and fourth period. Storybrooke's educational system had been reworked in the weeks since the Curse broke since everyone had been in the same freaking grade for twenty-eight years. Beatrice didn't know why that hadn't been a hint. Beatrice was the only genuinely new student besides the freshmen. She might have been the new girl, but everyone knew who she was, especially the teacher of her first period English class who had traded her firstborn for some cows or something. Why that was Beatrice's fault, she didn't know. Actually why that was the Dark One's fault, she didn't know. She was fairly certain she would have to ask to change teachers and hoped it didn't involve a visit from Gold.

She walked into her physics classroom. Science. Tricky in terms of seating because it was all shared. By the end of this, she would have to sit in close proximity to someone and there was a chance they would be working on their first assignment together. If she played her cards right, she might be able to get her new lab partner to overlook the fact her father was the Dark One in light of the fact she was great at Physics.

The others were quickly taking their seats. Beatrice had to walk further back. There were whispers- she was getting used to that- and the students were joining forces quickly. Finally, there was the odd girl out, in this case, a petite Asian girl. Beatrice sat on the stool next to her.

"Hi," she said, summoning her best Belle impression as she got out a notebook and a pen. "I'm Beatrice."

"Christine Morimoto," the girl replied tartly. "Of course, in our land I was Ayako. I believe you've met my husband. Ayoki."

"Doctor Morita?," she asked, blocking "ewwww" from escaping her lips.

"We used to be the same age," said Christine. "Then someone showed him the way to a fountain of youth. For a price."

"Then why are you younger?"

"I drank too much. Of course no one warned me. Now I'm cursed in this land, separated from my husband by cruel fate."

Beatrice started to get the impression Christine was not going to care about how good she was at Physics.

"So, do people go off campus for lunch or..."

Christine stood, collected her things and walked over to the next table. Beatrice stared back at her notebook.

Okay. This could work. Someone else would eventually have to sit next to her.

Then the bell rang and the door shut.

She was the odd number.

Oh, God. She would have to join a group with two people and it was unlikely both of them would accept her. Worse, she might have to work with the teacher. Then she would be the dork with the teacher as a partner.

She was screwed.


Beatrice took the opportunity of lunch to retreat to the library. The system had worked at her old school. The other social outcasts stared at her, then looked away quickly so she found a study carrel in the furthermost corner.

She did luckily have a lunch packed thanks to the Dark One. At her old school, it was dorky to bring lunch and she had planned on ditching it, but was now grateful she hadn't. She set up her Macbook with some earbuds and took to her sandwich. It was actually pretty delicious with Italian meats on soft bread. Say what you wanted about Rumplestiltskin, the guy could cook. She looked in the dorky Thermos to find iced coffee and found some grapes.

She felt a poke on her shoulder and looked back to see the librarian.

"You can't eat in here."

"Yeah, sorry, it's my first day and it's not really going well-"

"There are rules. Don't think you're above them."

"I never said I was above them. I just am having a really bad day-"

"Are you talking back to me?"

"No, look, I'm not even getting anything on a book."

"Go to the office."

"The office? I'll put this up."

"You should have put it up when I first came over."

"I-"

"The office! Now!"


Beatrice was in the principal's office.

She had never been in the principal's office.

Of course, she had never burned a car before she came to Storybrooke, so...

The door swung open and Beatrice felt the same hush she had before at the diner. She cringed, realizing what had happened, hearing the tap of a cane and not the clacking of Belle's heels.

"Are you alright?," asked Gold.

"It's the principal's office. Not a dungeon. Where's Mom?"

"Your mother's having lunch with Mary Margaret. I saw no reason to interrupt her." Gold turned to the secretary. "I'm here to speak to Principal Walker. Now."

"He's busy-"

"Now," Gold repeated.

The secretary nodded and got up, hurrying off.

"Can I please know what you did?," asked Gold.

"I ate lunch in the library," Beatrice said in what she thought was the lamest confession in human history.

"You ate lunch in the library?," Gold asked. She could tell he thought it was the lamest confession in human history as well.

"I have been here all day trying to... I just wanted to have lunch without getting stared at. Okay?"

Principal Walker appeared. "Uh, Mr. Gold, won't you come in?"

"No, I believe we can finish this here. Was I called because my daughter was eating lunch in the library?"

"Well, there is no food or drinks in the library-" he stuttered.

"This is a school, not Her Majesty's dungeon," said Gold. "You're her principal and no longer her mother's jailkeeper. Perhaps if you can't remember that simple fact, it seems to me you no longer need to be the principal. Now, is my daughter missing valuable instructional time while you detain her for this joke of an infraction?"

"It won't happen again, Dar- Mr. Gold."

"I'm pleased to hear that." He looked at Beatrice. "Beatrice, is there anything Principal Walker could do for you to make this transition easier?"

Part of her thought she should say no. Then another part of her figured Gold was already here.

"Actually, I need to change English teachers," said Beatrice.

"What's the problem?," asked Gold.

"Someone traded her firstborn for some cows."

Gold looked as if he couldn't remember that. "Well, I'm certain Principal Walker will have that resolved by the end of the day. Won't you?"

"Yes, Mr. Gold."

"Good," said Gold. "I will see you at the shop after school and I look forward to hearing everything about your day."


Then

Merlin stood unhappily at the party. He could mingle with the best of them, it was part of his particular skill set, but he was never truly involved. At least at the home of the Duke and Duchess of Padua, they were never false. They were quite possibly the best people he knew.

The Duchess approached him. "Merlin?"

"Your Grace," said Merlin, kissing the Duchess' hand.

"What nonsense have you been filling my daughter's head with? A land without magic?," she asked.

"I didn't realize my tales would have such an impact," said Merlin.

"We have music here, you know," said Catherine.

"Not like this," said Merlin. "They have music and stories and paintings."

"You speak like a man who is tired of life."

"If you knew how long I have lived, Your Grace, you would understand the reason why though I wiould never wish it upon you."

"Have I missed something?," the Duke asked, joining them.

"Merlin is disenchanted with our land," said Catherine.

"Oh, well, perhaps Reinette can liven your spirits. My lady?"

The Duchess took the Duke's arm and together they walked up the grand staircase where they could look down upon the guests.

"My lords, ladies and gentlemen!," the Duke called out. "My wife and I are delighted to welcome you to our home to celebrate the introduction of our daughter, Reinette, into society. So she wishes to favor us all with a song. Won't you please welcome her?"

They applauded and Merlin half-heartedly joined in. He had heard many a noble lady sing and rarely one with any talent. Reinette stepped forward.

"When you're alone, silence is all you know..."

Merlin looked up and stared, enraptured by the nature of her voice. It was soft and grew and grew...

"When you are here, music is all around. When you are near, music is all around. Open your eyes, don't make a sound..."

Her voice seemed so much deeper than Reinette had seemed, lending new layers and new depths to the young girl.

"Let in the light, let in the shadow, let in the light of your bright shadow. Let in the light, let in the light of your sweet shadow..."

She finished to an appreciative audience. She accepted kisses from her parents and then went to mingle, eventually making her way to the wizard.

"Well, Merlin," said Reinette, "I know it can't rival the music of the Land Without Magic, but will it do?"

"Yes, my lady, I think it will do," said Merlin. "A siren's call indeed."

Reinette smiled. "Then I shall look for my victim. Please excuse me."


Now

Beatrice laid on her bed, watching her third episode of Doctor Who on the new flat screen television on the opposite wall. Belle knocked and walked in.

"So," she said, "I guess I don't need to ask how school went?"

"They've had twenty-eight years to strengthen their cliques," said Beatrice. "It's Mean Girls times a thousand."

Belle sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm sure they're not all like that."

"Does it matter?"

"Yes, it matters. You'll make a friend."

"Oh, right, I almost forgot about my bubbly personality. My charm. My breathtaking natural beauty."

"You do have charm and breathtaking natural beauty," said Belle. "You just don't believe it."

"I know, I know..."

"You don't know and that's always confounded me, but then again, I've seen it before." Belle held out a box. "Here."

"What is it?"

"It looks like a box," said Belle.

Beatrice sat up and took it. She opened it, revealing the necklace she had noticed in Gold's shop only now it the colors in the opal were swirling.

"It belonged to my mother," said Belle. "It was part of her trousseau. Your papa says it's magic."

"What does it do?"

"He has no idea."

Beatrice's face dropped. "Oh, good."

"He says it's women's magic. Perhaps you'll figure it out."

Belle got up and walked towards the door.

"If it's magic," said Beatrice, "why did your mom have it?"

Belle shrugged. "I don't know. She was the product of True Love. I'll have to tell you about her parents sometime. They were quite a story."

"Like Emma," said Beatrice.

"Like Emma and you," Belle said pointedly.

"You never got it to do anything?," Beatrice asked as she touched the gem, causing it to flash a brilliant white light.

"I touched it once when I was carrying you," said Belle. "You need magic to make it work and you are the only magic I have ever had."

"And she never said what it did?," asked Beatrice.

"I remember she wore it when she was happiest," said Belle. "Your papa says dinner will be done in twenty minutes."


Moe looked behind him as he opened the door for Percy into the backroom of Game of Thorns.

"My brother knights," he said.

"Good to have you with us again," said Percy.

"Will Mother Superior be joining us?," asked a knight turned garbage man.

"Any moment," said Moe.

"Then we can discuss what is to be done about Merlin's Vision," said Percy.

"Indeed," Moe agreed.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Lady Reinette awoke late the morning after her failed meeting with the Dark One. So late in fact that she missed her daily visit with her husband which was no great hardship. She wondered if it might be worth it to sleep late everyday.

She sent for her maid and took her morning tea. The woman then helped her with her corset, skirts and the soft yellow day dress. Alone, she perused her jewelry. She didn't think much of it, she had many pieces, inherited from her mother and given by other relatives, yet the only pieces Sir Maurice had ever given her were the wedding band and a simple solitaire that always seemed out of place next to the rest of her jewels.

Then there was the pendant. The white gem with ever swirling colors in it. On mornings when she felt as down as she did today, her attention always went to this jewel in particular. She could never quite remember where it came from.

Until she put it on.

Then she did remember and her true life always came flooding back to her. She smiled, remembering countless kisses and embraces that were never enough, the words of lovers exchanged like sweet offerings.

She always remembered what was important.


Reinette found Belle in the rose garden, sitting in a hammock, biting her lower lip as she was engrossed with a book.

"May I join you?," Reinette asked, struggling to settle her skirts on the hammock. "Oh, this is most unladylike."

"Where were you last night?," asked Belle.

"I had something I had to do," said Reinette. "I wish to speak with you about something important."

"Yes, Mama?"

"Has your father told you of his plan?"

Belle scowled. "You mean Sir Gaston?"

"Yes, that plan," said Reinette. "I just wanted to let you know you're not marrying him."

Belle looked at her mother brightly. "Papa has changed his mind?"

"No. He hasn't, but you're not marrying him."

"I don't understand."

"Belle, as long as you are alive, you have a choice. You don't have to marry Sir Gaston simply because your father wishes it. You can say no. You can run away. You can do whatever you would like."

"Is this about the soothsayer?," asked Belle. "I told Papa and he said it was just superstition."

"That's one of the areas where your father is mistaken. I fear he may be mistaken in everything but his love for you," said Reinette. "You see, I also have another source who gave me the same information long before you were born."

"Really?," asked Belle.

"He also said that no one decides your fate but you." Reinette paused. "Belle, there are two species of marriage. One is born of True Love. My parents had that. The other is everyone else. That's the kind I had. Make no mistake, Belle, we love you deeply, but there is no love between us."

"Then why marry?," asked Belle.

Reinette shook her head. "A scandal among other things, but that will not be your fate, Belle."


Now

Beatrice walked into the attic. She was hoping to find her winter boots as they were expecting some sort of cold storm seeing as how this was freaking Maine.

She looked upon it in shock. The place was a mess, with everything strewn all over which was odd. Belle had placed these boxes up here meticulously and Gold may have been a hoarder, but he was an incredibly organized hoarder.

She walked down to the den to see what was going on with it. That's when she walked in on them again. Well, not exactly walking in. Emma had shared with her that had happened to her in their occasional informal "Turns out my parents are fairy tale characters" support chats they had at Granny's. The very thought of that happening had scarred Beatrice, but they did make out like freaking teenagers.

As they were this evening in front of a roaring fireplace as Belle still held onto her book with one hand. Gold was completely engaged in bringing Belle closer against him and...

Beatrice thought they could really use another TV in this room.

Gold looked up, breaking off the kiss. Beatrice stood in the doorway, face half-covered. He never said anything, never acted as if he was displeased she interrupted, he just looked curious.

"Sorry, to, uh..." She cleared her throat. "Anyway, I was just looking for my winter boots."

"They're up in the attic with the rest of the winter clothes in the Rubbermaid," said Belle.

"Yeah, well, I was just up there and everything looks like it's been ransacked or something."

"Ransacked?," asked Gold.

"Yeah, all my stuff is on the floor."

Gold looked at Belle. Beatrice watched as they shared a look of grave concern and then flew off the couch.

"It's just messy, guys," said Beatrice as she followed them up the tiny staircase to the attic. "I'm not saying you have to fix it now."

She arrived to find them frantically searching through the mess.

"It was a pink box," said Belle.

"My baby stuff?," asked Beatrice. "Seriously? I'm looking more for boots. The wellies? Either the red ones or that pair with the Union Jack?"

Gold happened upon an overturned pink plastic box. "This one?"

"Yes!" Belle headed over and Beatrice watched as she rifled through baby blankets, clothes and old toys and stopped at her baby book. She flipped through it and sighed in relief. "It's still here."

Beatrice walked over. The book was opened to the page "Baby's First Haircut" and a lock of hair was still taped to the page.

"Yes, because thieves would naturally go after my hair..." Beatrice rolled her eyes. She stopped and narrowed her gaze at her parents as she remembered who she was talking to and where she lived and recent events. "Wait, would thieves go after my hair?"

Gold didn't answer, not moving his gaze from Belle. "Was there anything else?"

Belle was deep in thought. "A silver box engraved with her name and a bear holding a toothbrush."

Gold shook his head as he guessed what might be in such a box. "Please tell me you didn't..."

Belle and Gold searched frantically through the mayhem.

"Why would you keep something like that laying around?," Gold asked.

"I was cursed!"

"And now you're not."

"I haven't even thought about it in years!"

Beatrice searched her memory and vaguely recalled a box of that description. "My first tooth box?"

"It's not here," said Belle.

"Are there others?," asked Gold.

"I threw them out. If she wants to go look through a New York City landfill for them, she can try," said Belle.

"I'm going down there."

"Rumple, don't-"

"I promised not to exact revenge, this is not revenge, it's prevention."

"Um, what are we talking about?," asked Beatrice.

"The Tooth Fairy," Gold said sharply.

Beatrice thought that must be a quip of some sort, then it wasn't. "I'm sorry, are you being serious right now?"

"Let me call the sheriff," said Belle.

"I'm sorry, are we still being serious right now?," asked Beatrice. "You're going to call the sheriff because someone stole my baby tooth?"

Gold ignored her. "And what would be the point in that?"

"If you go over there and start on some kind of rampage, nobody will know why and everyone will think it's just you being the Dark One-"

Beatrice shook her head again. "I'm sorry, rampage?"

"I'm not really concerned with the public perception of it, Belle."

"Well, I am! We still have to live here, Beatrice still has to go to school and I, for one, am tired of that... that evil winged bitch passing herself off as good! I would like everyone to know what she is."

Gold looked on. "What do you suggest?"

"Do you have something that can keep her safe until we get the tooth back?"

Gold turned to look at Beatrice.

"Okay, seriously," said Beatrice, "does anyone want to tell me anything?"


Emma Swan was beginning to get used to weird, though, it was hard when weird kept constantly adapting to a new level of weird. Like when she had come home with Henry this evening to have her parents Snow White and Prince Charming tell her she had to leave again because Rumplestiltskin and Belle's kid's baby tooth was possibly stolen by the Tooth Fairy. Now she was watching as her parents tried to help Belle pick through the things tossed on the floor.

"Are you sure it's not there?," asked Emma.

"I have looked a hundred times," said Belle. "I'm sure."

"What would someone want with a baby tooth?," asked Emma.

"Blood magic," said Gold, standing in the corner. "To hurt her or control her."

"Why would anyone do that?," asked Emma.

"To get to me obviously," said Gold.

"Then why don't they take something of yours?," asked Emma.

"Because that's not how you control me, dearie," said Gold.

"This is my fault," said Belle. "I should have thought of it."

Mary Margaret shook her head. "No, of course it isn't."

"Do you really think Mother Superior put Sister Violet up to this?," asked David.

Mary Margaret shook her head. "You don't understand what she's capable of when she wants to be."

"I thought fairies were supposed to be good," said Emma.

"Don't you have a lot to learn, dearie?," asked Gold.

"Okay, no offense, but in the book-"

Gold cut Emma off. "And who do you think writes the stories in a book of fairy tales?"

Emma shook her head. This was all getting a little too weird. "I'm going to go check your windows."

Emma left before Gold told her again she was wasting her time. She went back down the attic staircase and found Beatrice in her room.

"Oh, hey, Beatrice," said Emma.

Beatrice stood in her doorway. "Hello."

"You doing something?"

"I can't leave my room until you get my baby tooth back from the Tooth Fairy."

"What?," asked Emma.

Beatrice poked at the doorway, revealing a magical force field.

"What is that?," Emma asked incredulously.

"A protection spell," said Gold, sneaking up on them. "A very specific protection spell."

"He means he is the only one who can get in. Or out."

"You locked your kid up?," Emma asked Gold.

"I'm protecting her," he corrected.

"This has got to be the sort of thing that enchanted social services checks up on," said Beatrice. "Of course, they must suck because, well, every fairy tale ever."

"What's so special about this tooth?," asked Emma.

"Good luck getting an answer on that," said Beatrice.

"Do you need anything before I go?," asked Gold.

Mary Margaret appeared. "Ruby's here. She'll sniff out the tooth."

Beatrice looked at Gold. "How about a ticket out of crazy town?," she asked.

"Alas, no passage available," said Gold. "Try to sleep."

They walked away as Emma shrugged sympathetically and waved goodbye.

"Yeah, I'll sleep," said Beatrice. "Right after I google Tooth Fairy and evil."


Then

Reinette was ill.

Dying to be precise.

Sir Maurice had hoped to formally announce the engagement of his daughter and Sir Gaston to the duchy with a party, but his wife was ill. The formalities would have to be delayed until after a suitable mourning period.

Belle was tireless at her mother's bedside. She was sixteen now and fully capable of taking on the responsibilities of nurse. She took instructions from the doctor who seemed unable to help. Reinette's parents and brothers had descended on the small duchy, further aggravating Sir Maurice.

Belle read to her mother, she wasn't certain her mother could hear her anymore. Reinette hardly opened her eyes. She hardly answered. They said that hearing was the last thing to go.

So Belle read. She read though her throat was sore, she would have read until it bled. She had sent everyone else to try and rest, promising she would send for them if there was a change.

"Belle..." Reinette whispered hoarsely.

Belle stopped reading. "Yes, Mama?"

"My necklace."

"Your necklace?"

"Yes."

Belle put the book down and walked to the jewelry box. Reinette had so many beautiful pieces, Belle spent many happy hours playing dress up with them when she was little. Which necklace did she mean?

Then somehow it came to Belle.

The one she always smiled as she wore. The white stone with the swirls of color. Belle took it to her mother.

"This one, Mama?," she asked softly.

Reinette nodded weakly. "Help me."

Belle bent down to try to get it on. She fixed the clasp.

Reinette's eyes changed in such a way it surprised Belle in a way she would later conclude was a mystery of death.

"Do not marry Gaston," said Reinette.

"Oh, Mama, please don't worry about that now."

Reinette weakly grasped her daughter's hand. "You are all I have ever worried about. Someday, when you have your daughter, you'll understand."

Belle shook her head. The future was an impossible thing to fathom at the moment. A future without her mother. "You don't know that, Mama."

"Yes, I do," said Reinette. "You'll see then."

"Mama..."

It happened in a moment. There was nothing dramatic, not like in her books. The line between life and death was a shockingly quick one.

Reinette was alive.

Then she was dead. The life left her eyes and face in a fraction of a second. She looked hollow.

Belle felt tears running down her face. "Mama? Mama!"

Then she watched as the colors in the pendant stopped swirling. The house roused. Her father and her mother's family joined her in a rush after death was long decided.

Belle's mother was gone.


Then

Beatrice did eventually fall asleep and then awoke, shocked to see the sun hanging high in the sky.

"Guys!," she called as she tried to get her clothes together. "Guys!"

She walked over to the doorway. "Guys! I'm late for school! I've got an essay to turn in for French and she doesn't take late assignments!"

There was no answer.

"Mom!," Beatrice shouted.

She suspected there might be someone else in the house. This also led to the problem of how to call this someone. Mr. Gold was too formal. He had a cursed first name that he didn't like and didn't share. Of course, Beatrice had trouble imagining something worse than his actual first name. There was always "Rumplestiltskin" but that just sounded ridiculous.

Dad was not a word that came easily off her tongue. She and her mother had a long, quiet, private talk about it. Her mom had encouraged her, saying that what had transpired was in no way her papa's fault, but not to do anything she wasn't comfortable with. She had made a few attempts at it, but the word died on her tongue. She had never had to use it. She had never thought she would have to use it.

Well, now was as good a time as any, she supposed.

"Dad!"

Gold appeared quickly, looking stricken and possibly out of breath.

"What's wrong?"

She motioned around. "I'm trapped in my room by magic and I'm late for school."

"You're not going to school."

"What?"

"The trail went cold and the Tooth Fairy denies everything. Mother Superior isn't talking."

"The nuns? What do the nuns have to do with anything?"

"The nuns are fairies."

"Okay and what do the fairies want my tooth for?"

"Your mother will be home soon. Would you like something to eat?"

"What are you not telling me?"

"I'm not-"

"My hairbrush is clean."

"Excuse me?," asked Gold.

"I've never had a clean hairbrush in my life, but since I've been here my hairbrush has been clean. I didn't think about it until you started talking about my baby book. What's been happening to my hair?"

"I've burned it."

"So, you've been walking in here, cleaning off my hairbrush, taking the hair, building a fire and-"

"No building a fire."

"The stove?"

Gold held out his hand and Beatrice watched as a ball of flame appeared.

"Okay then," said Beatrice.

He closed his hand and the fire disappeared.

"So why do you need to burn my hair?"

"So it can't be used against you, to cause you pain or control you."

"Why would someone want to do that?"

"Because they're frightened and stupid and it's a dangerous combination."

"Frightened of you?," asked Beatrice.

He didn't answer right away. Something was turning in his head and she noticed as his eyes went to the necklace Belle had given her. She had been wearing it ever since in an attempt to figure it out.

"Most people are," said Gold. "You should go back to bed."

"What?"

Gold walked away.

"So, I'm just trapped home alone?," asked Beatrice. "Yeah, this is safe."


It was the next morning. Emma had been on the crazy tooth train for the better part of a day now and she was still struggling. Ruby had tracked the tooth down to the convent, they did confront the Tooth Fairy, Sister Violet and she said nothing, while Mother Superior looked on.

Which they told her meant she was orchestrating the whole thing. Marco had told them he had seen Mother Superior going to Game of Thorns most nights, joined by others.

Which was about when Belle had pulled Gold aside and strongly suggested he go check on Beatrice.

"I don't understand why Mother Superior-"

"The Blue Fairy," Belle said bitterly.

Emma shook her head. "Right, yeah, of course, why is the Blue Fairy against Beatrice? She's just a kid. She hasn't hurt anyone. I mean, she did torch my car..."

"She was trying to make a point," said Belle.

"And I get that now," said Emma.

"The fairies and Rumplestiltskin have always had a... complicated relationship," said Mary Margaret.

"Like they're total opposites?," asked Emma.

"Like one tried to murder my unborn child and put me under a sleeping curse," said Belle.

"The point is we need to resolve this and let Mother Superior know we aren't going to tolerate this," said Mary Margaret.

That's when the three women noticed Gold standing in front of Game of Thorns.

With a fireball.

"Rumple!," Belle shouted.

The fireball went through the windows and door. Gold went inside as Belle ran down the street.

Emma looked at Mary Margaret. "How are we supposed to stop him exactly?!"

"Yeah, that's mostly Belle's department," said Mary Margaret.

"Ah, gentlemen," said Gold, looking upon the group in the shop. Who do we have here? Knights of the Round Table? Mother Superior, how delightful that you could be here."

"What do you want, beast?," Moe asked gruffly.

"Oh, I think you know what I want," said Gold. "See, I just realized that we haven't had a chance to talk since the Dark Curse broke. I thought perhaps you all might need a refresher course in how things work. See, I think you might be frightened of my sweet little Beatrice. Why else would you go to so much trouble to get a weapon to use against her?"

Percy was the one to speak. "She's not sweet, she's a monster, she-"

Gold raised a hand and closed his fist, choking the knight without laying a finger on him.

"See, that's precisely what I'm talking about. I just wanted to remind you that the only monster you should be frightened of around here is me."

He waved his hand, causing Percy to fly back into the wall and drop to the floor gasping for breath.

"And the best way to make a monster angry is to try to hurt the things he loves," said Gold. He looked at Mother Superior. "Isn't that right, Blue?"

"You'll make your daughter into a monster," said Mother Superior. "As surely as you drove your son away."

Gold raised a hand, ready to choke the life out of the annoying gnat once and for all.

"You're wrong," said Belle.

For the first time, Gold realized Belle was there along with Emma and Mary Margaret.

"You're so wrong," said Belle. "You never once tried to hear my side of it. You never even gave Beatrice a chance."

"Belle, I'm handling this."

Belle stepped forward. "I just want the tooth back," she said.

"Belle-" Gold began.

"He's still my father," said Belle.

"And the rest of them?," Gold asked pointedly.

"They aren't worth it," said Belle. "Unless I don't get the tooth back in which case..."

"Belle!," exclaimed Maurice.

"No, Papa, the next time you think about who's right in this, try and remember who tried to kill their only grandchild!"

"The tooth," said Gold.

The knights looked among themselves and Gary, formerly known as Gawain, produced the silver box with Beatrice's name and a teddy bear holding a toothbrush on it. Gold took it and opened it to see the tiny white front tooth in it. He looked at Belle and she nodded.

Gold took the tooth from the box and with a flick of his hand, it disappeared into flame. He handed the empty box to Belle.

He looked at Emma.

"Are you going to arrest me, Sheriff?"

"Well, you did set fire to the building," said Emma. "It seems to be a pattern in your family."

"I do own the building."

Emma shrugged. That was as good a conclusion to the string of crazy she was going to get. "Okay, never mind then."

"We're not done here," said Mary Margaret. She turned to Mother Superior. "I want your wand."

"What?," she gasped.

"Mary Margaret..." said Emma.

"Regina's not been using her magic. I don't see why we should force her to not use hers and ignore what Mother Superior's done."

Mother Superior looked appalled. "And what about what he's done?," she asked pointedly looking at Gold.

"He came to protect his child," said Mary Margaret. "What you did to Belle was in my kingdom, making it my responsibility and now I think you should pay for it."

"I could always suggest something more colorful, your highness," said Gold.

Mary Margaret looked pointedly at Mother Superior. "Now, please."

Mother Superior reluctantly pulled her wand from under her cloak and handed it over to Mary Margaret.


They parted ways as the fire department finally arrived to take care of the burning embers of the front window of Game of Thorns. Belle walked off with Gold, hooked into his arm.

"I'm sorry if that's not the moral victory you had in mind," said Gold.

Belle shrugged. "You were right. It's about protecting Beatrice."

"Though I must admit, seeing the fairy held to account was a tempting prospect. Did you see the look on her face when Mary Margaret asked for her wand?"

Belle smiled. "Can she get another one?"

"I should think so, but still, the royals will be watching. She'll have to be careful."

"Did something happen between you and the Knights of the Round Table?," asked Belle.

"No. Why?"

"Before I returned to you at the Dark Castle, two of those men, they were called Gawain and Percival then, they abducted me."

"Abducted you?," asked Gold. "How did you escape?"

"This man saved me."

"What man?"

Belle searched for the name. "Merlin?"

"Merlin?" Gold stopped walking. "Merlin?"

"Did you know him?"

"Yes, I did. What did he say?"

Belle shrugged. "I don't know. It was all sort of rambling. He seemed to know about us. About some vision?"

"A vision? Did he say anything else?"

"I don't know. It was so long ago. Rumple, should we be worried?"

"I don't know."

"Is this Merlin in Storybrooke? Could we ask him?"

"He was at one time," said Gold. "I haven't seen him in years."

Belle frowned. "I thought no one left here."

"You would have to know him," Gold said with a grimace.


Then

Belle walked towards her mother's grave carrying the roses. It was alone, at the far end of the churchyard. She took the hood off her cloak and whispered a quiet prayer to the gods.

Belle laid the flowers to rest and knelt down.

"Hello, Mama," she said. She fingered her mother's pendant. "It's my birthday, but I'm sure you know that."

Her eyes watered. She never found this easy. Her grandmother insisted that one had to give thanks to the woman who gave one life on her birthday. So every year, Belle made the trek out here. Her mother's grave was far off from the rest of Sir Maurice's family, she supposed it must have been a testimony to how little love there was between them.

"I'm eighteen," said Belle. She shook her head. "I know. You knew that. Grandmother thought I should have a ball, she even offered to pay, but Papa wouldn't hear of it. He said it was a waste of time since I'm already engaged. I don't really care about balls, but if I'm to spend my whole life with Gaston, it might have been nice to dance just one night."

Belle smiled ruefully as the tombstone gave her no feedback.

"I had this foolish flight of fancy," said Belle. "I was really hoping I would meet my True Love at the ball. Maybe we'd run away together, have adventures. Maybe one little girl? Stupid, I know. Gaston already speaks of sons to carry on his line, but I only want a daughter."

A gravelly voice came out of the darkness. "Why should you not?"

Belle turned to see a tall, wiry figure, obscured by a cloak.

"Did I frighten you?," he asked.

"No, sir. I'm-"

"Belle of Avonlea. I know who you are. Forgive me for overhearing you."

"Then you must think me very foolish."

"Well, strange, no question," said the man. "Never foolish."

"I doubt that."

"You are engaged to Sir Gaston?"

"Yes."

"And unhappy?"

Belle didn't know why, but she told the mysterious figure the truth. "Very."

"You don't love him?"

Belle shook her head. "No, I never could."

"Well, that doesn't surprise me. That man's quite a dull blade."

"I don't know what to do," said Belle. "My mother told me long ago to only settle for my True Love and that is not Gaston. My father forbids me to see almost anyone else, no balls, no house parties, no travel. It's not as if my True Love is just going to appear out of thin air in my father's castle, is it?"

"No one decides your fate but you," said the man.

"Yes, I know." Belle froze and looked up. "Wait, my mother said that. How did you-"

"You ought to return home, Belle. Your father will send a search party and you wouldn't want Sir Gaston to have the credit for rescuing you."

Belle stood and began edging away from the shadowed figure.

"For what it's worth, I think you're right about sons," said the man. "I had a young man, not really a son, that I entrusted with something and he has failed me terribly. If you want something done right, get a girl."

"I'm afraid I didn't get your name," said Belle.

"That's because I didn't say it. Now, don't forget to take your chance. Do the brave thing and bravery will follow."

"Right," said Belle, totally confused and totally sure she wanted to get out of there. She hurried off.

Now alone, Merlin turned to stare out at the horizon.

"No ogres," he said to no one. "She's eighteen. How can there be no ogres?"

As he stared out at the peaceful landscape, he had a revelation.

"Oh, right," he said. "Me again. Of course it would be. Well, in for a penny..."

Merlin waved his hand and the ogres screams could be heard in the distance.

"That ought to do it."


Now

Beatrice had been trapped in her room so long she was considering watching a show other than Doctor Who when the magical force field dissipated from the doorway and windows.

She edged out into the hall. "Hello?"

She didn't get an answer.

"Uh, Dad?," she asked uneasily.

Gold finished ascending the staircase. "I was just about to tell you. The danger has been averted. You can leave your room."

"So the Tooth Fairy isn't going to come kill me in my sleep?"

"No."

"Well, thanks."

"There's something to eat downstairs from Granny's," said Gold. "I can drive you to school for afternoon classes if you'd like."

"Well, let's not go crazy," said Beatrice.

Gold smiled. "Very well. I'm going to help your mother in the attic."

"Okay."

Beatrice went down to the kitchen and quickly found the bag from Granny's. She found two hamburgers and a grilled cheese, quickly wondering which belonged to who. She went back up to the attic and froze in the doorway at what she found.

Her mother was clutching the pieces of what Beatrice remembered as a nursery school art project for Mother's Day. A handprint in clay with sparkle paint. She was crying over it as Gold held her.

"They ruined this," Belle said tearfully. "She was so proud when she gave this to me. You should have seen her little face."

"Yes, I wish I had," said Gold, brushing aside a lock of Belle's hair and kissing her on the cheek.

"I didn't mean it like that," Belle said apologetically.

"I know you didn't, sweetheart."

"She was all I had for so long," said Belle.

"I understand," said Gold. "I also know that's not the case anymore."

Belle nodded.

"Hold out the pieces in your hand."

Belle did as he asked and he moved his hand, making the pieces move and rejoin.

As Beatrice watched, she felt like a bit of an intruder. She slowly went backwards down the stairs to the attic.

She paused and took a moment to go loudly back up the stairs.

"Uh, Mom, Dad..." said Beatrice, still tripping over that last word, pretending she didn't see Belle hiding her sniffles.

"Uh, yes, what is it, darling?," asked Belle.

"I was just wondering who had the grilled cheese and who had the hamburgers."

Gold grimaced. "It was supposed to be three hamburgers. Granny had Ashley Boyd working the counter today. She can't read a contract or apparently write an order correctly."

"That's okay," said Beatrice. "I'll just have the grilled cheese."

"No, you love hamburgers, I can have the grilled cheese," said Belle.

"No, I'm fine," said Beatrice. "You like them more than me.

Gold spoke. "I'll split the hamburger and the grilled cheese with you."

"Okay," said Beatrice with a nod.

"Okay," said Gold.

Chapter Text

 


Now

"What do you think this does?"

Gold looked up from the books at Beatrice as she held the necklace in front of him. She had been spending some of the afternoons in the shop with him. She had started out in her own corner of the workroom in the back, but was slowly exploring the front of the shop and spending more time conversing with him.

"You decided to wear it," he remarked.

"I thought maybe if I wore it I could figure out what it does."

"What made you think of that?"

"There was a Doctor Who."

"The show with the magical blue box?"

"It's a time machine."

Gold looked at her as if he didn't understand or care about the distinction.

"We'll get to that later," said Beatrice. "I am still asking about this necklace."

"It's women's magic."

"Is that supposed to be misogynistic or what?"

"It's simply a fact. I can't make that necklace do anything."

Beatrice held up the stone. "All it does is this," she said, putting her finger on it and the swirling colors disappeared and became bright white light. "See? That's it. What does that do?"

"I suppose it looks pretty."

"Okay, that's misogynistic."

"Some spells are meant for women, my girl. That's all."

"But Reinette, she wasn't a sorceress or something, right?"

Gold scoffed. "I don't think she would have married Sir Maurice if she was."

"Point taken," said Beatrice. "I barely know the guy and would want to turn him into a snail."

Gold stopped what he was doing and looked up at her. "I mean, not really," said Beatrice, quickly afraid she had made a request.

"What makes you say that?"

"The one time I met the guy he called Mom...names," she finished, unwilling to repeat them. "It's not like when the Curse broke he ran over here to say he was sorry so..."

Gold nodded. "You think he must stand by them."

"Yeah."

"Well, as usual, your instincts do you credit," said Gold.

The door to the shop opened and the bell rang. A man wearing a coat carrying a cooler came in.

"Beatrice, have you met Doctor Whale?"

Whale didn't respond and put the cooler down on the counter. Gold opened it and Beatrice peered inside.

"When they say I charge an arm and a leg, it's meant as a figure of speech," said Gold.

"That's an arm," said Beatrice. "Why do you have an arm in a cooler?!"

"Put it back," said Whale.

"You want me to reattach your arm?"

"Can you do it?"

"Of course, but why?"

"Do people bring you limbs in coolers a lot? I'm the only one who seems to be bothered by this," said Beatrice.

"I want to use it again," said Whale.

"No, I meant why bring the stable boy back now," said Gold.

"I thought… I thought that if I helped her, she would return me to my world. I want to see my brother – to try to bring him back again."

"Are you crazy?," asked Beatrice. She looked at Gold. "Is he crazy?"

Gold shrugged. "Debatable."

"I need to try again," said Whale. "The last time ended badly."

"Yeah, so let's do it again," said Beatrice. "Because it's worked out so well with Regina's dead boyfriend running around town like Frankenstein's monster."

Gold laughed.

"What?," asked Beatrice.

"You told her," Whale accused.

"No, no, she's a bright girl."

"Sorry, what did I figure out?"

Whale chose to ignore her. "My arm, you said you can do it."

"There's a difference between can and will."

"Name your price."

"Say it."

"Say what?"

"You came here, not the hospital so say it."

Whale grimaced, like he was chewing on glass. "I need magic."

"That's all I needed to hear." Gold waved his hand and the arm appeared back on Whale. "Always a pleasure doing business with you, Victor."

Beatrice's jaw dropped as Whale walked out. "He's Frankenstein?!," she asked. "That's Frankenstein?"

"Yes."

"So, Frankenstein's from the Enchanted Forest?"

"No. He came from another realm. The Land Without Color."

"How do you have a whole land without color?"

"How?"

"Yeah, how?"

"You're very big on these words 'how' and 'why'."

"Colors happen because different substances react differently to the electromagnetic radiation that we would call light. I have to assume there was light in the Land Without Color or whatever, because light is a necessity for life and clearly he came from somewhere so that land must have substances that only react without color when they absorb and reflect light."

Gold always found himself with mixed emotions when she spoke like this. On the one hand, he was impressed with her reasoning ability and her intellect. On the other, her use of incessant logic got tiresome along with her insistence that "Magic" was not an actual answer. "I have no idea," said Gold.

"Did you go there?"

"Yes, I did."

"Were you in color or were you black and white?"

"I was in color."

"So there. We can conclude that the Land Without Color had matter that reacts without color when it absorbs and reflects light."

"And what does that tell you?"

She shrugged. "It tells me matter is different there."

"And does that matter?"

"Do the building blocks of the universe matter? Yeah."

Gold just stared at her blankly.

"You think I'm a nerd, don't you?," asked Beatrice. He saw the tiniest flicker of disappointment in her eyes, which she quickly tried to hide.

"No." Gold waited too long to answer and he knew it.

"No, I mean, I am a nerd about a lot of things..." she said with a shrug.

"You simply ask bigger questions than I'm capable of answering," said Gold. "Don't hold back so the rest of us don't feel stupid."


Then

Merlin's vision led him to the Frontlands. The war with the ogres had raged there for generations.

The conscription age had just been lowered.

It was time. It was a critical moment. He had checked in on Rumplestiltskin before. That wreck of a mother. That poor excuse for a father. The spinsters who raised him had at least been kind and loving, but they had died, leaving him to marry that wife. When he first looked upon her, Merlin hadn't thought much of her, but over time, she had become callous and was mercurial in her way.

Then Rumplestiltskin had crippled himself. To be a father to his boy. That meant he was the kind of man who would stop at nothing to protect his child. That he didn't care what it made him. That he didn't care if he hobbled around the rest of his days or his wife ran off with a pirate.

"Zoso."

The Dark One turned to him. "Merlin. What are you doing here?"

"I was just wondering if you knew how to recognize a desperate soul."


Now

Belle had begun the long process of reopening the town library. She started with cleaning and some help from Leroy for minor repairs. The next step was to organize the books and for that she had enlisted Beatrice's help and sometimes Gold's.

They were an easily distracted pair of helpers, though. Belle had ordered a new shipment of children's books. It seemed that Regina's initial idea of what a library should have in it had been lacking any fairy tales. Belle sought to rectify that and had taken the liberty of ordering anything she remembered Beatrice reading.

Which is why Gold had begun reading "Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter" and now debated it.

"This book is ridiculous," he concluded.

"I always thought it was a clever story," said Belle. "It shows your softer side."

"You know what?," said Beatrice, closing the book. "I'm going to have to object as well."

Belle sighed. "Now you as well?"

"I'm the title character, I get to object," said Beatrice.

"Speaking of the title, my name's not even spelled correctly," said Gold.

"Why do I have spiral curls?," asked Beatrice.

"You're complaining about that? Have you seen me? Why do I end up farming?," asked Gold. "Because farming is so much fun?"

"And sorry, if I get trapped in a tower and told to spin straw into gold or die, I'm calling him to come get me," said Beatrice motioning at Gold.

"Yes, someone would definitely die," said Gold.

"Who was the miller's daughter?," asked Beatrice.

"Someone I wouldn't marry and go farm with," said Gold.

"Do I get a hint?"

Gold looked at Beatrice. "A hint? She was Regina's mother."

That explained everything for Beatrice. "Well, she must have been messed up."

Suddenly, the door swung open and Regina herself entered.

"Speak of the devil..." said Gold. "Ah, Regina, it's been a while since you stormed in somewhere I was in a huff."

"Where is it, Gold?," she asked.

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, dearie."

"You know damn well what I mean."

"No, I really don't."

Belle looked at Gold. "Should we leave?"

"No, you're fine where you are. Regina knows what will happen if she tries anything and worse what if Henry finds out she broke her promise not to use magic?"

"I just want it back."

"Still no idea what you're on about, dearie."

"The hat."

"The hat?" Gold smiled. "You mean Jefferson's hat? You think I have it?"

"Jefferson's hat?," asked Belle.

"Why would I even want it?," asked Gold.

Regina scoffed. "I don't pretend to know what goes on in that twisted imp's brain of yours."

"Well, seeing as how I'm feeling generous today, I'll make you a bargain. I'll help you find it if you help me find someone."

"Who?"

"Merlin."

Regina laughed. "Do you think I'm stupid enough to bring him over? He's dead."

"No, he's really not and if you think you can kill him, well, you're more short-sighted than I thought."

"And how do you know?"

"Because I saw him in my shop. He sold me a necklace."

"Then why don't you go put a poster up on the board in the town square?," asked Regina. "Now, where's the hat?"

"As I said, I don't have it and if you can't help me, I have no interest in helping you," said Gold.

Regina stalked off.

"Why are we talking about Merlin?," asked Beatrice. "He's real, too?"

Gold turned. "Merlin was a wizard in our land."

"Why do you need to see him now?"

"I have something to discuss with him. It's nothing for you to worry about," said Gold.

"Is anyone else real that I need to know about? So far we seem to have all the fairy tales, some Greek myths, oh, yeah, Frankenstein and that whole freak show and now, Arthurian legend, which is odd as I thought there was something of a historical basis for that..."

"Merlin was a world hopper," said Gold. "He could summon the power to transport himself between realms. No portal."

"So he came here?"

"Among other places," said Gold.


Mary Margaret and David had asked Belle to meet them at Granny's. She was grateful for the distraction from the library. Gold and Beatrice's help could be not as helpful as she envisioned. After the iced tea, they revealed their ulterior benevolent motives: Moe wanted to talk to her.

Belle shook her head. "No, I can't."

"Moe seems sincere," said David.

"If he's sincere at all, it's because he's frightened of Rumple," said Belle. "I can't forgive him for what he did to me."

Belle looked at Mary Margaret. She had that look. A look that said she didn't approve and a look that said she knew Belle was not being entirely honest. She was furious at Moe, but he was her father. If she truly didn't care, she would have just let Rumple end him, but she still held onto the same hope that all wronged children had, that he would come to her and say he was sorry and they could be a family again.

"Let me guess," said Belle. "You think I should."

She shrugged. "I don't know. He is your father. Maybe what you said at the shop affected him. You could at the least hear what he has to say."

"Rumple would be furious and I can't blame him," said Belle. "I couldn't meet him alone."

"I'll go with you," said David. "The dwarves if you want. And Granny and a crossbow."

Belle looked at Mary Margaret. "When?"

She smiled. "Tomorrow at three."

"I'll meet him in the park. I'll need someone to look out for Beatrice until Rumple gets her from school."

"Emma and I will," said Mary Margaret. "This will work out. You'll see."


Then

Merlin watched from the horizon as the new Dark One walked onto the field of battle. A truce with the ogres. Leading the children home.

"You've done this." He would recognize that accusatory self-righteous voice anywhere.

Merlin grimaced. "How are you, you insufferable blue trollop?" He turned to see the Blue fairy floating behind him.

"He's the one. He's part of your vision."

"He is."

"What do you think you're going to do with him? The Dark Curse will eat at his soul. His life will become a burden. He will lose everything."

"Oh, well, maybe you ought to go stop him from creating this truce in the Ogre War and you, Blue, can lead all the little children out to get slaughtered."

Blue glared. "One good act changes nothing. He killed."

"He killed for his son. He's laid down his soul for the boy. Whatever happens, whatever he becomes, you can be certain it was because of love."

"What help is this monster to your vision?," Blue demanded.

Merlin smiled knowingly. "Do you know the best guard for something precious?"

Blue remained silent.

"A monster who loves it. Game. Set. Match."


Now

There was a park near the inn that they had agreed to meet at. Belle watched Moe for a spell from Leroy's truck.

"I'm getting out," said Belle.

"I've got your back, sister," said Leroy.

Belle smiled. As she got out, David got out of his truck and the other dwarves joined them. Granny was the last on the scene holding her crossbow.

"Belle..." Moe said, sounding stricken. "Is this all really necessary? Don't you trust me?"

"Why? Because you haven't tried to hurt me before?," asked Belle.

"I never wanted to hurt you, Belle. I just wanted to rid you of that demon."

"That demon," said Belle, "is my daughter. She is me. You were hurting me."

"Does he know you came?," asked Moe.

"I wouldn't be here if he did."

"Does he really control you that much?"

"He wants to protect me. Can you blame him? After everything that's happened?"

Moe checked his watch.

"Papa, what is it you wanted to say to me?"

"Sorry?," Moe asked, seeming distracted.

Belle cast a worried glance back at David. This wasn't right. Did he have an apology? If he didn't have an apology, what was this for?

"Papa, please," she said, "did you have something you wanted to say to me?"

"It has to be done, Belle."

Belle turned back and ran. "David! Leroy! We have to go!"

"Belle, don't!," Moe called after her futilely.


The clock until the final bell was the slowest clock of all.

Her last class of the day was art. Incidentally, it was her least favorite class. Other students chatted happily while they worked on their projects. Beatrice wasn't very good at art and as usual, she sat alone and struggled with whatever the stupid assignment of the day was. She waited for the clock to move and ignored it when she knew people were talking about her. There were two chatty girls in particular who she could hear on the other side of the room.

"Why does she wear those stupid glasses? Can't he just magic her eyes right?"

"Her parents drive her. I'd sooner shoot myself."

"How do you think her mom ever..."

"Ever what?"

"You know. With him."

Beatrice wanted to vomit. Or walk across the room and smack the both of their skulls together. It was hard to tell.

The bell finally, mercifully rang. Beatrice breathed a sigh of relief. All she had to do was go to her locker, get her books and walk out to where Gold was waiting, which she admitted was pathetic, but there was no arguing with the guy.

She walked to her locker and opened it. She rested her messenger bag on the inside and went about getting her things ready. She was looking for an errant study guide for her English class when she overheard the next comments.

"Do you think she has magic?"

Another girl laughed. "Do you think if she had magic she would walk around so pathetic all the time? It's not like she has any friends."

"Well, who's going to be her friend? I don't want to get turned into a snail."

"If I were her, I'd just kill myself."

Beatrice buried her head further in the locker and tried not to feel anything. She tried not to think because if she thought... Well, she didn't need anyone to tell her that her life was pathetic. So she just tried not to think and stood frozen until the hall cleared and she took a deep breath. She stepped back to pick up her bag and go when someone grabbed her and put his hand over her mouth. She struggled to fight him off and someone else blindfolded her.

Not the blindfold.

One fear. One stupid fear that everybody else got over.

Beatrice found herself tossed in somewhere and heard the distinct slamming of a trunk. She pulled the blindfold off as the engine started.

It was still dark, but the thing she had going for her at the moment was that her kidnappers were stupid.

Her iPhone was in her pocket.


When Gold pulled up outside the high school, he found that most of the cars had left the parking lot. Although he wouldn't need the lot to be empty to notice Miss Swan's newly refurbished vintage yellow VW Bug as he had paid for it.

He walked up to the window.

"I don't understand, Mary Margaret," said Emma. "What was it that Moe was so scared of that-"

Gold tapped his cane on the roof of the Bug. "Miss Swan. Your Highness."

"Uh, hi," said Mary Margaret. "We were just-"

"You were just what?," asked Gold.

"Belle's talking to Moe," said Emma.

"She's completely safe," said Mary Margaret. "She just wanted someone to look out for Beatrice and since school only just let out-"

Gold's phone rang.

He picked it up. "Beatrice? I'm outside-"

She interrupted him. "Yeah, remember we were talking about the book and I said if I was being held hostage, go ahead and come rescue me?"

"Yes?"

"Go ahead and come rescue me."

"Gold, what is it?." asked Emma.

"Where are you?," Gold asked urgently.

"I would say it's pretty much a car trunk."

"Gold," Emma repeated.

"Is that Emma? Put her on. She's going to need my Apple ID."


Then

Merlin hadn't seen it coming and that surprised him. He was confronted by the boy and his innocent wide eyes as he passed down the Duke's- well, the late Duke's- Road.

"You're Merlin, aren't you?"

Merlin turned to look upon Baelfire. The boy was shaking.

He smiled. "There's no need to be frightened. Yes, I am Merlin."

"I heard you were a wizard. The most powerful wizard in the land."

"Well, if I said it, it would be bragging."

"Are you more powerful than the Dark One?"

That was an odd question. "I have no intention of hurting your papa."

He looked astonished. "How did you-"

"I'm Merlin, remember?"

Baelfire nodded. "That's not why I asked."

"Why did you ask?"

"I miss my papa."

Merlin nodded in understanding. Rumplestiltskin the spinner had been a weak man. Just because Rumplestiltskin the Dark One had power, it didn't make him strong. That would take time and help from a very particular source. "The magic is overwhelming him."

"I need a way to rid him of his powers. He promised if I found one, he would do it."

Merlin looked down. That would be disastrous. "Baelfire, leave this alone."

"What?"

"You need to leave this alone."

"Why?"

"There are reasons for everything. This must come to pass. Any attempt at ridding your father of his powers will end badly."

"I want my father back!"

"Baelfire-"

The boy stormed off.

"Leave it alone, Baelfire!," Merlin called after him.


Now

Beatrice stayed on the phone as long as she could, but the car was stopped. Emma had logged in to the iCloud and was using the "Find My iPhone" app. They promised they were on their way. She grabbed the blindfold back and tied it on loosely since her captors seemed to think she was stupid. They opened the trunk and grabbed her again.

"I'm sorry, can I just mention my dad is going to show up and kill you all? Like seriously."

"Shut up."

She was shoved in somewhere and she heard a door slam. The blindfold came off.

"So, it's just you two?," she asked Gary and Percy.

She looked next to her to see a top hat.

She had the sneaking suspicion that this was the hat Regina had been talking about.

The men were standing next to her.

"Spin the hat."

"Spin the hat?," she asked incredulously.

"Spin it," Gary insisted.

From what she understood, that hat went to another realm. She really didn't want to go to another realm. They all sounded horrible. Wonderland, acid trip. Neverland, what the hell kind of Lord of the Flies nightmare was that? Oz? Outside of Wicked, she had no use for it.

"What if I don't?," she asked.

Percy took out a gun.

"If you're going to shoot me, why should I spin the hat?"

"Because Sir Maurice is with your mother," said Gary. "All I have to do is call him."

"He's her father," Beatrice said incredulously.

They didn't answer.

"Tell me why," said Beatrice. "Do I at least get to know why?"

Her iPhone started ringing.

"Don't answer it," Percy said pointedly.

"Spin the hat."

Beatrice turned towards it, hoping whatever magic she had wouldn't work on the hat.

Of course, she hadn't been that lucky in the past.

She halfheartedly tried to spin to hat, hoping to God it wouldn't and was let down when the object took on a life of its own. The air in the room seemed to swirl around and she looked down the hat at something that seemed to look like the Time Vortex from Doctor Who.

"Jump."

The Time Vortex in a hat was not something she really wanted to jump in.

"No."

"Jump or your mother dies."

Beatrice looked back from the hat to the men.

"Beatrice!," she heard Emma shouting.

The door opened. The men turned back and Percy shot at the door as Gary tried to shove her in the portal. She grabbed onto the edge.

"Beatrice, hang on!," Mary Margaret shouted.

"Well, that's easier said than done!," she screeched back.

Emma shot at the men and they fell. She clamored towards Beatrice as she fell and grabbed her hand.

"Beatrice!"

Beatrice tried to hang on. She really did, but she only seemed to be dragging Emma in with her.

They fell. It felt like falling forever.

Then Beatrice didn't remember anything for a while.

Gold finally made it to the room- damn his leg- just in time to see Mary Margaret jumping in a portal. A quick glance to the knights bleeding on the floor told him what had happened.

Of course it would be that. It could only be that.

"Where are you sending her?," Gold demanded.

"Somewhere she can't hurt anyone."

Gold saw the portal begin to flicker.

He knew what that meant.


Then

The Dark One was shattered. Merlin hadn't expected to care for his machinations so much, but he did. He cared for the line of True Love he was building on the other side of his vision and he found that he cared for the monster he needed on the other side.

Even if he was a difficult man to like.

The loss of his boy had him going between mania and depression. Merlin had to admit, he hadn't thought the Blue Fairy capable of this level of callousness, but then he had made that mistake once before.

"Reul Ghorm, oh, Reul Ghorm."

The Blue Fairy appeared above Merlin's head. "What?"

Merlin put on mock dismay. "Is that any way to talk to me? After all we've shared, you devious little tart?"

"What?," she repeated.

"You do know you have doomed this entire realm. Well done."

"I've done nothing."

"No, you see, Rumplestiltskin, he'll find the Curse to take him to the Land Without Magic."

She looked at him as if he were bluffing. "His powers will never be that great."

"You're counting on a lot."

"I gave him a choice. I gave him a path."

"You gave a fourteen year old boy a magic bean because you thought if you could get Rumplestiltskin out of this realm, you could put a stop to my plans. If it wasn't for that reason, it was at the least very negligent of you."

The Blue Fairy hovered closer. "In this plan, you need him to love, don't you? You just saw he can't."

"I just saw a man confronted by the nightmare of his boyhood. I just saw a man who is heartbroken and full of regret."

"You know what he needs to cast the curse. The heart of the thing he loves the most."

Merlin smiled. "And do you think he has to cast it himself?"

The Blue Fairy's face dropped.

"Oh, didn't think of that, did you? Some original power you are." Merlin paused. "You know what else I saw? I saw a man who won't make the same mistake again which actually works out well for me. So, game. Set. Match."


Now

Belle and David ran in the room to see Jefferson's hat set alight.

"No!," Belle shouted.

David ran for the fire extinguisher and put out the flames. Belle turned to Gary and Percy.

"Where did you send her?!," Belle shouted.

"Somewhere she can't hurt anyone."

"And Emma and Mary Margaret?," asked David.

"I'm sorry," said Gary.

"Maybe Gold can do something when he gets here. Get them back," said David.

Belle looked down. Next to the remains of the hat, she noticed a gold-topped cane. As she picked it up, she couldn't help but smile.

"He followed her," said Belle. She turned to Gary and Percy. "Do you know what that means?"

"That we're rid of the Dark One?," asked Percy.

Belle shook her head. "That wherever she is, whatever you think you've done to her, her papa is with her and she's going to be fine. And she is coming back."

Chapter Text

 


Then

It was a fine day on the estate of the young Duke of Padua.

A fine day for lovers.

That was what had Lady Amelia worried.

"Lady Amelia."

She smiled and looked up to see Merlin standing in her sitting room.

"You've not aged a day," said Amelia.

"Trying to keep up with you, milady." Merlin noted her mourning dress which the Dowager Duchess somehow made lovely. "I was sorry to hear about Bernard."

"His time had come," she said with a rueful smile. "Then again, you knew that."

"What is the reason for your summoning, milady?"

"My son. I must say he's borne his responsibilities well for one so young. He's fought well, he's seen to it that our people are prosperous. I have no complaints on that score."

"And on other scores?"

"You said to contact you if I felt Alec was not going down the path of True Love."

"And you fear that is the case?"

"Come have a look."

Merlin joined Amelia at the window. He saw the young Duke walking the garden with a petite young blonde, almost comically small next to his tall, lanky frame. She wore a busy patterned dress and feathers in her hair.

"Who is that?," Merlin asked in a dark voice.

"So she is not who you envisaged?"

"No. How did they meet?"

"She claims her Fairy Godmother helped her to come to the ceremony for my son's ascendance."

"Which fairy?"

Amelia shrugged. "The Blue Fairy, I believe."

"Oh, that winged trollop."

"I'm sorry?"

Merlin smiled and turned back to Amelia. "What is she called?"

"Lady Marion. Her family's title is newly minted, somehow her father came into a large fortune and bought it."

"You sound like a bit of a snob."

"I sound like someone who is trying to protect her son from a social climber."

"Oh, if only she was a social climber."

"Do you think there's something more sinister at work?," asked Amelia. "Is Alec in danger?"

"Only a meddling fairy who thinks she can halt the path of True Love. True Love will get back on track, if I have to drag them together..."

Amelia's face dropped. "What is he doing on bended knee?!"

She turned to Merlin to see the wizard had disappeared. Looking back out onto the garden, she realized Merlin now stood next to Alec.


Alec had just finished tying his boot when Marion shrieked.

"Oh, Your Grace! This is so exciting!"

"What?"

"Of course I will?"

"What?"

"I can't wait!" She was jumping up and down now. "What about June? I've always wanted a summer wedding!"

"What?"

"Okay, on your feet, sunshine."

Alec realized they had been joined by a man. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

"Merlin, now on your feet, sunshine."

Alec stood. He knew his parents' stories and those of his family.

"Well, we are in the middle of something!," Marion snapped. "The Duke was just proposing to me."

"Proposing?!"

"Yes! Because of our undying love!"

Merlin looked at Alec. "Is that true?"

"Well..." he said dragging out the word. He shook his head and turned to the girl. "Lady Marion, you keep speaking to me of this undying love we share and I have not yet noticed it. That is not to say you are unworthy of such a love or that I could not feel such a love, but it does strike me as odd that I am meant to be so in love and yet I have not noticed it."

"But, Your Grace, we do love each other!"

"Well, I do admit, you are nice to look upon and sometimes your voice is not shrill and your conversation is somewhat tolerable..."

Merlin looked at Marion. "Quite a declaration of love here. I'm surprised you can stand for want of weeping tears of joy."

Marion scowled. "I refuse to believe this nonsense!"

"Well, believe it, sweetheart," said Merlin. "At any rate, His Grace is going to come with me. We have business in the Far North."

"The Far North?," asked Alec. "What business?"

"Courting the Ice Princess."

"The Ice Princess?," asked Alec. He leaned in to Merlin. "Not the Summer Princess?"

"Well, you're going to find out soon, aren't you, sunshine?" He took Alec's wrist and looked across to see Lady Amelia walking down the garden path. "Fret not, Lady Amelia. I shall return your son."

"Mama, what is happening?!," Alec demanded.

"What is happening?," asked Amelia.

"I'm saving him from her," said Merlin.

Amelia looked Marion back to the wizard, then to her boy. "Have a good journey, darling."

"What?!," Alec shouted just as he and Merlin disappeared.

Marion looked at Lady Amelia in dismay.

"I shall call your carriage," said Lady Amelia. She snapped her fingers and the carriage appeared with two befuddled footmen. "Oh, look how quickly it came. Have a lovely journey home."

"You have magic!," Marion said in disbelief.

"Whatever made you think that, my dear?"


Now

Beatrice awoke on the ground. Gold was hovering over her.

"Gently now," said Gold, helping her sit up. "This sort of transportation always takes a minute to catch your breath."

"What?" Beatrice looked around. She was in a field. Emma and Mary Margaret were passed out nearby. She heard Emma groan.

"Just sit for a moment," said Gold.

"What happened?," asked Beatrice.

"You're fine."

"I was kidnapped, then they made me spin the hat to the time vortex or something..."

"It was a portal."

"A portal?" Beatrice looked around. It was nothing she recognized. "Where are we?"

"I want you to take a deep breath."

That was not helping. "Dad, where are we?"

"The Enchanted Forest."

"We are where?!"

"Don't worry."

"Don't worry?!"

Emma and Mary Margaret stirred.

"See, that was why I wanted you to take a deep breath, sweetheart."

Mary Margaret walked over in dismay. "It was a set up. Moe did it to distract Belle."

"Yes," Gold grimaced. "Perhaps next time I say not to trust someone, you'll take this into account."

"I don't get it," said Emma. "Why throw Beatrice through a portal back here?"

"Never mind that," said Mary Margaret. "We need a plan."

Gold looked up. "Are you asking me or commanding me, Your Highness?"

"Do you have a plan?," asked Beatrice.

"I'm working on it," said Gold. He helped Beatrice up.

"I thought this land was gone," said Mary Margaret.

"Well, that would just be another of Regina's oversights," said Gold.

"You never said-"

"Well, you never asked me, did you, dearie?" He looked around. "Fate seems to have smiled upon us."

"It did?," Emma asked skeptically.

"We're not far from the palace where we might find a portal..."

"The wardrobe..." Mary Margaret gasped.

"The wardrobe?," asked Emma. "The wardrobe? The one that baby me went into?"

"I don't know how you were confused," said Gold.

"Could it have survived the Curse?," asked Mary Margaret.

"It's a place to start," said Gold.

"But there was only enough power to transport one and Emma went through..."

"That reminds me, there was actually enough power to transport two," said Gold.

"What?," asked Mary Margaret. "The Blue Fairy..."

"And again, maybe you'll want to take that into account the next time. Shall we begin?"

Mary Margaret looked out at the horizon. "We'll need to find camp by nightfall."

"Camp?," asked Beatrice. She looked at Gold. "Camp?"

"We'll be fine," said Mary Margaret. "I know this forest."

"And you have me," said Gold.

"Can't you just blink and get us where we need to go or something?"

"All magic comes with a price and we don't know how much magic there may be left in this land," said Gold. "I don't want to use it, only to find out the price when we truly need it."

"It's not far," Mary Margaret promised.

Mary Margaret started walking. Emma followed.

"So, this is like Lord of the Rings," mused Beatrice. "I hate Lord of the Rings. Do you know why?"

Gold stopped and turned to her. "Beatrice, everything is going to be fine. I'm not going to let anything happen to you."

She shook her head. "It's my fault. I spun the hat. They said Mom was going to-"

"It's not your fault, sweetheart. It's theirs and I promise you, they will be made to pay." He took her hand. "Just stay by my side and we'll be fine."


Regina looked with disdain at the charred remains of the hat.

"Thank you for returning my hat," said Regina, casting a glare at Belle and David. She picked up a piece of it. "What's left of it."

"You mean Jefferson's hat," said Belle.

Regina sighed. "He told you."

"Where is Jefferson?," Belle pressed.

Regina shook her head. "Are you hoping for a retrieval? With this?"

"Well, I'm sure you can think of something to repair this," said Belle.

"I've made a promise to Henry," said Regina. "Even if I hadn't, you have all the answers, why don't you fix it? Oh, right, you're just the imp's mistress."

"That's enough," said David. "Fighting won't get them back. Who's Jefferson?"

"The Mad Hatter," said Belle. "He's a realm jumper. Rumple used to hire him for odd jobs."

"And you think he knows how to get to the Enchanted Forest?"

Regina motioned at the hat. "Well, you're not doing it with this thing. Face it. They're on their own."

"And you would like that, wouldn't you?," asked Belle. "Being the only mother in your son's life?"

"I am his mother," said Regina. "And let's face it, I'm not that sorry to see Gold gone, but I've really got nothing against Beatrice. I sort of wish I'd taken the girl in and trained her. I'm sure we could have accomplished a lot."

"That would have never happened," said Belle. "If it had, you would be dead."

"We'll never know, will we?"

"Where's Jefferson?," asked Belle.

"I don't know."

"Then where did you get the apple you poisoned your son with?"

Regina was quiet. "Well, doesn't your imp know everything?"

"Regina..." David pressed.

"I have his address," said Regina. "That's it. I haven't seen him since the Curse broke."


Then

Alec suddenly found it was cold.

Very cold.

Far North cold.

He looked to Merlin.

"The Ice Princess?!," he demanded, teeth chattering.

"Catherine, yes," said Merlin.

"Everyone knows who she is, what her tale is, she has cast an eternal winter to keep her sister the Summer Princess from ruling."

"Yes, but do you know why?"

"Perhaps she's mad?"

A telescope materialized in Merlin's hand. He passed it to Alec. "Look beyond those glaciers," he instructed.

Alec took it and did as he was told.

"Ogres," he said.

"The Ogres of the Far North are some of the most vicious in all the realm," said Merlin. "They do not attack in winter. Every summer the people of this kingdom must go to war with the ogres as they come over the melted ice pass. They do not bathe in the sunshine, they bathe in blood."

"Surely the Summer Princess and her generals-"

"The Summer Princess and her generals do not give a damn about the people they send to fight and die. They're not the first nobles to do so, you might recall the Duke of the Frontlands."

"Oh, I know the story of the Duke of the Frontlands," said Alec. "My father made certain I heard it as a warning against such against such neglect of feudal responsibility."

"So, if you knew that every summer when you gave up your rule your people would die..."

"I would make sure winter never ended," said Alec, suddenly appreciating the Ice Princess.

They heard a rabble and turned to see a group of knights bearing the Seal of the Summer Princess as they ran.

That's when Alec first laid eyes upon Catherine the Ice Princess. She was shorter than him, but not comically mismatched. He found she had the most pleasing curves and endless blue eyes and he suddenly found the color red to be the most pleasing one he had ever seen for hair.

She stalked towards the knights, her white dress and cloak grazing the snow-covered ground.

"Are you all idiots?!," she shouted. "You tried to burn down my ice palace! I'm the Ice Princess! I will just make more ice!"

To demonstrate this point, she conjured an ice ball and tossed it at them as they ran.

"Do you get it now?!," she shouted. She did it again. "How about now?!"

"This is not over!," one of the knights shouted.

She moved her hand again and the knight was suddenly encased in a tube of ice.

"You may return that swine to my sister," said Catherine. "And let him tell her how close I am to surrender."

The knights hastened their retreat, grabbing their friend.

"Right..." said Alec. "Just a thought, but I am not certain courting her is going to be easy."

"Yes, I've thought of that," said Merlin.

"Oh, any ideas?"

That's when Alec found himself on the ground.

He also found he was a frog.

"Merlin?," he asked.

"I know, you're cold, that's to be expected." Merlin draw a fur lined blanket from nowhere and placed the now frog Alec inside. He walked towards the Ice Princess.

"Merlin," said Catherine. "What are you doing here?"

"I wanted you to meet someone."

"Oh?"

He passed her the blanket.

"Uh, hello," said Alec.

"You might properly introduce yourself," said Merlin.

"Right. Forgive me, Your Highness. I am Alec, Duke of Padua."

"You're a frog."

"In all fairness, I wasn't a minute ago," said Alec.

Catherine looked at Merlin. "He's a frog."

"Catherine, don't be so narrow-minded. He's not just a frog."

"He's not?"

"I'm not?," Alec parroted.

"No, he's your True Love," said Merlin. "Oh, and this frog curse I just did, only True Love's kiss will break it."

"You can't be serious," said Catherine.

"Indeed I am," said Merlin. "You know how to conjure flies, do you not, Your Highness?"

Merlin disappeared.


Now

The enchanted sun lowered in the enchanted horizon and Beatrice wondered what the hell actually made this place enchanted.

Maybe it was her shoes. She had to remember to be more functional the next time she got kidnapped.

"You see, I hate Lord of the Rings because they just wander around. If the whole point is to get the ring to Mordor, why do they keep doing all that other crap? I mean, could they use the magic of the ring for like five seconds to get to Mordor and just keep an eye on Frodo so he didn't go mad with power?"

"Have you seen every nerdy thing ever?," asked Emma.

"Yes," said Beatrice.

"Maybe you could just enjoy the story?," Emma asked.

"Yeah, this is how I started the argument where I lost my last friend," said Beatrice.

"Your last friend?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Mellie. She liked nerdy things, but I dared to question the plot of Lord of the Rings and we had to end a sleepover at two in the morning. Also, she never spoke to me again. Like I'd give the ring a try before I walked through New Zealand for three movies."

"That's not how magic works," said Gold.

"Yeah, but the guy who wrote the book didn't know that," said Beatrice. She paused. "Middle Earth's not real, right?"

"What?," asked Gold.

"Stuff just keeps turning out to be real. Middle Earth isn't real, right? Dad?"

"I don't think so."

Mary Margaret stopped. "This is good. We can camp here. Emma, come on. We need firewood."

The women went off. Beatrice turned to Gold.

"Are we sure a hotel didn't survive the Curse?," asked Beatrice.

"You'll be fine," said Gold. "Come on. Lie down."

Beatrice sat down. She looked around. "I can't lie on the ground."

Gold took his suit jacket off and folded it up. He sat down on the ground and placed the folded jacket next to him. "Put your head down and take your glasses off."

Beatrice took them off and laid on her side facing Gold, the glasses clutched in her hand.

"Do I sound like a brat?," asked Beatrice.

"You sound like someone who doesn't want to be here and I can't say I blame you for that."

"You don't like it here?"

"I have many unpleasant memories of this realm, your mother excepted. It can be a very harsh place."

"Yeah, but you're the... you know."

Gold smiled. "I wasn't always."

"Then what were you?"

"Very long ago, I was a poor spinner. I got sent off to the Ogre Wars."

"Oh, right, ogres. Almost forgot about them."

"Close your eyes, nothing's going to hurt you."

Beatrice did as she was told. "Is that how you hurt your leg? In the war?"

"More or less."

"Is that how you became the..."

"The you know? Not exactly."

"Then what happened?"

He hadn't told her. He had practically begged Belle to hold off a while longer about Bae. He had been trying to win her trust and prove his love to her, he hadn't wanted the first thing she found out to be that he had abandoned her brother. Beatrice was a cautious creature, she needed evidence before she bestowed affection. He could tell her when they got home, when he was closer to finding a way to cross the town line.

"It's a long story," said Gold, running his fingers through her hair. "You need sleep."

"I can't sleep in the dark..." she said, dozing off.

"Is that so?," Gold asked, smiling at her as she fell asleep.

He caught sight of Mary Margaret staring at them.

"Yes, Your Highness?," he asked.

"I didn't say anything," Mary Margaret said with a slight smile.


Then

Catherine lived alone.

She quite liked living alone. She could do what she wanted, eat what she wanted without anyone looking and could pass the whole evening reading if the mood struck her.

And now she had a roommate.

Who was a frog.

A chatty frog.

"And that was how I won the games," said Alec. He looked to her with his amphibious eyes. "Were you not listening, Your Highness?"

"Should I listen if you're going to tell me the same story again and again?"

"My mother says I have never been able to cope with a moment's silence," said Alec.

"Wise woman," said Catherine, looking at her book.

"She has magic as well," Alec commented.

Catherine eyed him, finally looking away from her book. "Does she? Perhaps if you've inherited some of it, we can find some way for you to transform yourself back."

"I'm sorry, Your Highness. My mother's magic is passed among the women of her line."

Catherine sighed. "Great."

"Merlin did say True Love's Kiss would break the curse."

"I have no True Love," said Catherine.

"He seemed to think you did."

"Well, he's wrong," said Catherine.

"You must have a True Love and Merlin has never been wrong in my family about these matters."

"Merlin knows your family?," asked Catherine.

"Yes, for generations."

"Mine as well," mused Catherine.

"Do you mean he's planning something?"

"Do you think he's not? Why else bother? Whatever he's after must be very special to have gone on such a long while." She paused. "Was your line all True Love?"

"Yes, in fact. Why?"

"Because children born of True Love always have some magic."

"Well, I do not."

"Oh, I bet you have a few tricks you don't even realize," said Catherine.

"Why do you think you don't have True Love?," asked Alec.

"Because I can't," said Catherine.


Now

"Well," said Jefferson with a deadpan expression, "thanks for bringing my hat back."

He looked at the charred remains as Belle and David sat across from him in the living room of the great hollow house.

"Is there any way we can put it back together?," asked Belle. "Some sort of magic?"

"It's done for," said Jefferson.

"Rumplestiltskin has books, maybe there's a restoration spell," said Belle.

"Books of dark magic?," asked David.

"Do you have another option?," Belle retorted.

"Fairy dust."

"Oh, right, fairy dust," said Belle. "From the woman who's responsible for this in the first place."

"You don't know that," said David.

"She has been trying to get rid of my daughter since she knew Beatrice existed," said Belle. "Do you really think she had nothing to do with this?"

Jefferson cleared his throat. "Even if I could get it to work, Belle, you know the rules."

"What rules?," asked David.

"The same number that go in have to come back," said Belle. "I can think of a few candidates."

"You can't just pick people to send back. That's not how we do things," said David.

Belle fumed. She looked at Jefferson. "Have you seen your daughter? Rumple said the Curse separated her from you."

"No," said Jefferson.

Belle nodded. "Well, you should and tell her you love her and never let go."


Then

It had been weeks.

Weeks of that frog roommate who chatted and chatted and tried to get her to kiss him.

He was on one such tear today.

And she had enough.

Catherine groaned, stopped and turned to see the frog. "Alright, if I kiss you, will you leave me alone?"

"If you're my True Love-"

"I very much doubt that I am your True Love, but I fear I will never be rid of you if I don't kiss you."

"Then kiss me, Your Highness."

Catherine took a deep breath. She was kissing a frog after all. Oh, wouldn't her sister love this? She closed her eyes, leaned forward and kissed...

The frog.

Which wasn't so bad.

The next thing she was vaguely aware of was being pushed on her back.

The frog was a man.

A very foxy man.

A man who could certainly wear a pair of leather trousers.

"Oh, no," said Catherine.

"What? Sorry, I just, I've been a frog for a couple of weeks and though I did look upon you with some favor, I had no idea how much favor until just now," he said not looking up from a swath of creamy cleavage.

"Eyes," she said harshly.

"Yeah, just one second..."

She slapped him across the cheek and he brought his hand against it.

"What was that? True Love's Slap?!," he squeaked.

"I'm not your True Love," she said.

"Well, I think the fact that I was a frog just a moment ago would beg to differ."

"I can't be!"

"I believe you are and I am so glad of it," said Alec. He knelt down. "Your Highness-"

She shook her head. "Please, don't."

"No, I must."

"No, you mustn't."

"I am but a humble Duke- wait, no, that's not right, I mean I am a Duke, but I'm certainly not humble-"

"No kidding?," Catherine asked.

"I meant humble in the way that one might be a humble shepherd, which wasn't right, I have land and treasure enough to last generations. My land is near as lovely as you are and-"

"Alec, stop."

"I mean, it's pretty nice, but what I think we're running into two different standards for beauty-"

"Do you ever shut up?!," she screamed.

"Your Highness?"

"I cannot marry you, Your Grace. I cannot even be..."

"You cannot be what?"

"Your lover," Catherine said, looking down.

"Why not?"

"There's been a 'blessing' cast on me," she said with distaste. "Though I don't see how it can be but a curse. If I share... that with my True Love, I'll lose my power and you've seen my kingdom and my sister. I need my power to serve my people.

"Catherine, there must be another way."

"You don't think I've looked?"

"We'll look together."

"Alec, there's nowhere else to look."

"Then simply be with me. Let us live as friends-"

Catherine shook her head. "I couldn't do that to you. Deny you your... needs. Deny you children. This is my burden to bear, I won't make it yours."

Alec shook his head. "Any burden you bear is mine."

"No, see, you can still have a good life, Alec. You can still be happy-"

"If it's not with you, I don't want it."

Her eyes watered now. "I'm sorry."

With a wave of her hand, Alec found himself back in his front hall.

"Alec?," asked Lady Amelia. "Alec, what's happened? Where were you?"

He tried to collect himself. "Merlin! Merlin, where are you? I demand an audience!"

The wizard appeared.

"Why? Why has that been done to her? Did you know?"

He nodded. "I had hoped you could change her mind."

"How could I hope to change her mind? She cares for the welfare of her people! True Love's Kiss can't break her curse?"

"A very devious mind has rewritten her fate. Catherine's powers have been cast as her curse."

"Then what am I to do?"

"How should I know? You're her True Love, aren't you?"

Alec stood and steamed. "Prepare my bags and my horse!"

"Alec, where are you going?"

"To slay the Summer Princess."

"Alec!," Amelia gasped.

Alec grabbed his sword from its place in the hallway and looked at his mother.

"If the only way she can be free of her powers is to protect her people, then I shall protect her people. I will never stop fighting for her."

He marched out.

Lady Amelia looked at Merlin.

"'I will never stop fighting.' That's a good line."

Alec marched back in. "There isn't by any chance, any bread and meat ready to go? I'm a bit peckish."

Merlin sighed. "Then he ruined it."


Now

Belle went to the pawn shop. She almost had enough with David for the day. Rumple kept most of his books on magic at the shop and if any of them had something about repairing a portal, she would find it, dark magic or not. She went to get her key to the shop and found it wasn't necessary as the door was open.

The cabinets were open. Contents were overturned.

And one very dazed wandless fairy laid on the floor next to the cupboard Rumple had cast a special protection spell on.

Belle resisted the urge to kick Mother Superior to death. She settled for walking over and stepping on her hand with the heel of her stiletto.

Mother Superior stirred and looked at Belle in a mix of shock and fear.

"I know what you're looking for," said Belle. "And it's not here."

"He told you where he keeps it," said Mother Superior.

"You're not going to get it," said Belle. "If you try to come after it, that is going to end very badly for you."

"He's finally turned you, hasn't he?"

"You need to understand something," said Belle as Mother Superior got up. "The only reason you and my father and the others are still alive is because I asked Rumple not to kill you and that's not because I care about you all that much. I care about him. I want him to be better."

"Are you threatening me, Belle?"

"I wouldn't call it a threat."


Beatrice awoke, feeling a sharpness at her chin. She opened her eyes, finding the usual blur, but definitely no Gold by her.

"Dad!," called Beatrice.

"What are you doing?," the woman attached to the end of the pointy thing asked. "The ogres will hear you."

That wasn't inspiring.

"What are these?," asked a man.

Beatrice groped beside her. "Do you have my glasses?"

"Strange things."

"Could I have them back?"

"Whatever for?"

"So I can see. Dad!"

The man's footsteps approached and he knelt down beside her. "There's something familiar about you, isn't there?"

He put his hands on either side of Beatrice's face.

"Lancelot, what are you doing?," asked the woman.

"So powerful..."

"This is kind of creepy, dude..." said Beatrice.

Suddenly, a rush came from the woods.

"Lancelot!," exclaimed Mary Margaret.

"Your Highness," said Lancelot as he stood. "We thought the Dark Curse had taken you away."

"Step away from her," Gold growled. "You too, dearie."

"This is Lancelot. He's my friend-" said Mary Margaret, trying to intercede.

"Beatrice, come here," said Gold, yanking her up off the ground as he shoved her behind him. She was terrified, she felt about five, grabbing the back of Gold's vest.

"We can trust him."

"No, you can't," said Gold.

"What are you talking about?"

"Yeah, I wish I knew what we were talking about," said Beatrice.

"Hello, Cora," said Gold.

Lancelot put up his arms. "I'm afraid not."

"You're not fooling me, dearie."

"No..." Mary Margaret gasped, stepping in front of Emma.

"Who's Cora?," Emma hissed.

"You think I know?!," Beatrice hissed back at her.

"You don't really think I can be tricked by a shape shifting spell that I taught you, do you, dearie?"

"Well, from the look of you, I don't think there's that much of the Dark One left."

"Looks can be deceiving," said Gold as he held out his hand to form a fireball.

"Oh, they can," said Lancelot.

Who suddenly became a woman.

"What?," Emma hissed.

"What am I missing?," hissed Beatrice.

"Uh, he's a she, I guess..." said Emma.

Cora spoke. "Strange, Rumple, to have a girl so powerful with such a big weakness."

The other woman held her sword at Cora's throat. "What have you done with Lancelot?"

"Oh, Mulan, you tiresome girl..." Cora raised her hand and the woman flew backwards into a tree.

"What do you want, Cora?," asked Gold.

"To be reunited with my daughter, of course."

Gold chuckled. "Well, I don't think she wants to see you. She told me you were dead. Yet another oversight."

"You should have trained her better."

"Well, it was difficult to get any instruction through after the damage you did."

Cora looked at Beatrice. "Where's her mother?"

"Sweetheart, don't say anything," said Gold.

Cora vanished. Mary Margaret and Emma rushed to the woman coming to at the bottom of the tree. Gold turned to Beatrice.

"Are you alright?"

"Where were you?!," Beatrice shouted.

"Sweetheart, quiet. The ogres."

"Where did you go?!"

"Mary Margaret heard something. We had to check. I'm sorry. Don't cry." He hugged her and kissed the top of her head. "I won't do it again. I'm sorry."

Mary Margaret walked back. "What do we do now?"

"Well, now, we have a bit of a problem," said Gold.

"Who was that?," asked Emma.

"Cora."

"And who is Cora?," asked Emma.

"Regina's mother," said Mary Margaret.

"The miller's daughter?," asked Beatrice. "The crazy one?"

"Crazier than Regina?," Emma asked in disbelief.

"As bad as you think Regina is, this woman is worse," said Mary Margaret.

"Great," said Emma. She looked at Gold. "And if you taught her, what does that make you?"

"Your best chance, dearie," said Gold.

"Does anyone see my glasses?," asked Beatrice.

"No..." said Emma.

"That is not good," said Gold.

Mulan roused and stood. "Where's Lancelot?"

"You know I don't really have time for this, dearie," said Gold.

"Dad, what's not good?"

"She has one of your possessions and she'll want to use it," said Gold.

"What does that mean?," asked Emma.

"It means we're going on a bit of a detour."

Gold waved his hand and they were suddenly standing inside somewhere. He walked over to a torch and blew on it, lighting up the room.

"What is this place?," asked Emma.

"The Dark Castle," said Mary Margaret. "His place."

"You said we couldn't use magic to transport us," said Emma.

"It had a price. The stakes just escalated. I have magic here that can protect Beatrice." Gold walked over to Beatrice and put his hands on either side of her face. "You trust me, don't you?"

"Yeah, except people usually say that before they're about to do something to make you not trust them..."

"It's just you didn't trust me to do this when we were first introduced," said Gold.

Something tingled and suddenly Beatrice could see the whole torch lit hall clearly.

"Oh, my God," said Beatrice. "I can see."

"Well, sunshine," a man's voice boomed, "what sort of time do you call this?"

Gold spun around to look at the grand staircase as the man came out of the shadows.

"Merlin," said Gold.

"Hope you don't mind. I let myself in."

"I've been looking for you."

Merlin smiled. "I thought you might be."

Chapter Text

 


Now

"Merlin?," asked Emma. She looked at Beatrice. "Did you see this coming?"

Beatrice shook her head. "Not really..."

"Merlin..." said Mary Margaret.

"It's very nice to meet you, Your Highness. You as well, Savior." Merlin walked over and looked at Beatrice. "Beatrice. How are you?"

"I've been better."

"You're here," said Gold. "I saw you in Storybrooke."

Merlin threw up his hands. "I'm here. I'm there. I'm everywhere."

"Can you help get us home?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Well, here's the thing, no." Merlin looked at Gold. "We've got the slight problem of his former apprentice who seems hellbent on a family reunion."

"Are you blaming me?," asked Gold.

"I told you that you couldn't handle that girl."

"Is he like your teacher?," asked Emma.

Gold chuckled. "No."

Merlin shook his head. "I'm afraid not. If I had been his teacher, he damned well would have learned something like how to make certain someone is dead, especially an ex-girlfriend."

"Whoa, back up," said Beatrice. "Ex-girlfriend?"

"It's nothing to trouble you with, Beatrice," Gold said quickly. "We had made camp for the night. I suggest we get started again in the morning."

"Of course you've brought us further from the palace," said Mary Margaret.

"Did you want to go back?," asked Gold. "Where Cora and the ogres can find you?"

Mary Margaret sighed and crossed her arms.

"That's what I thought. Beatrice, come along."


Then

Merlin had been in the Land Without Magic before and thus found it quaint that Regina thought she could be fooling anyone from the outside. He didn't want to confront the mayor about her inaccuracies, though, he was here to find Belle.

He finally spotted a familiar face.

"Snow!"

Mary Margaret Blanchard stopped and turned. "Excuse me?"

"Sorry, nothing, it just seemed as if it might snow..." said Merlin, pretending to look at the spring sky. "I don't think we've met before. Mr. Avalon."

"Mary Margaret Blanchard."

"Mary Margaret," he said with amusement, "I wonder if you could help me. I'm looking for a woman called Belle."

"Belle?"

"You might have seen her with..." Merlin paused. "This really is hopeless. Let's try something else, of all the men you know in this town, who scares you the most?"

"What?"

"I know it seems strange, but I promise, it would help me. Who scares you the most?"

"Honestly?," she asked quietly. "Mr. Gold."

Merlin smiled at Regina's choice in name. He wondered if everyone else would be as easy to find. "Yes, Mr. Gold. That is who I am looking for. Mr. Gold."

"Well, it's rent day, so he may be out, but I think you could find him at his shop."

"Thank you so much," said Merlin. He waved his hand so she wouldn't remember the incident. "You've been a tremendous help."

Merlin walked off leaving the schoolteacher terribly confused and found his way to Mr. Gold's shop.


Now

Beatrice followed Gold up the stairs and down the hall.

"You said he was a wizard," said Beatrice. "Well, duh, he is a wizard. Everyone knows that."

"Come on. It's time you got some sleep."

"How am I supposed to sleep when an evil witch wants to do something to me?"

"This castle only uses my magic now. I made certain of that once and this is the most protected room of all."

Gold opened the door. Beatrice walked in to see an opulent bedroom with a blue tapestries, furniture and bedding with hints of gold. Gold waved his hand and a fire began to roar.

"What room is it?," asked Beatrice.

"It's your mother's room."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. Come on. Get in the bed."

Beatrice sighed and got in the bed as Gold tucked her in. He was dangerously close to smothering her again, but at the moment it was one of her lesser concerns.

"So, this Cora, I'm guessing you two didn't part on good terms?"

"You could say that."

"And why would she want to use my glasses against me?"

"She won't be able to do anything to you." He smiled as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Sleep well."


Then

Merlin entered the shop. Looking at the contents, he wondered what exactly Rumplestiltskin had left in the Enchanted Forest. He spotted the man himself, looking quite put together in his three-piece suit. He looked like the spinner again, but Merlin knew there was still a bit of the Dark One in there.

"Well, sunshine, look at you..." he said.

Gold stopped and turned from his task. "Can I help you?"

That's when Merlin was struck with a terrible notion.

"Tell me you weren't that stupid, sunshine..."

"I don't know what you mean. Who are you exactly?"

Merlin waved his hand, freezing the now mortal.

"Were you stupid enough to let yourself get caught up in your own curse? You moron!"

Merlin waved his hand again, wiping the slate clean and returning Gold to life.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, my name is Mr. Avalon. I'm looking for someone you may know."

"And who might that be?"

"Your wife?"

Gold grimaced. "I haven't had a wife in a very long time."

"Girlfriend?"

He gripped his cane. "Afraid not."

Merlin rolled his eyes. Had he not even thought to properly take care of Belle under the Curse? "Prostitute?"

"What are you insinuating?"

"I'm looking to buy a chipped teacup. Would you happen to have one for sale?"

Gold narrowed his eyes. "I don't think so."

"Were you ever in love with anyone and where might I find her?"

"She's dead. Is there a reason you're-"

Merlin waved his hand and began to walk out.

"Can I help you?"

"Apparently not, sunshine!" He turned back. "Apparently, you are the biggest moron to ever get your hands on the Dark One's dagger! You come up with a Dark Curse to get everyone here and think you're so clever by giving it to a psychopath you helped create and you forgot to take care of the only good thing to happen to you in about three hundred years!"

"I'm phoning the sheriff."

Merlin waved his hand and Gold resumed his blank stare.

"Can I help you?," he asked.

"Not at all," Merlin muttered as he stormed out of the shop.


Now

When Gold walked into the Great Hall, Merlin was sitting at the large spinning wheel.

"I was surprised you didn't take this."

"It didn't fit in my luggage."

"Those additional baggage charges will get you every time. Shame. You took the cup, though."

"You know I did."

"Told you it was an heirloom."

"I want to know what you're playing at," said Gold. "I want to know what Beatrice has to do with it and why the Blue Fairy and the Knights of the Round Table are so against her. It's not just me."

"No, it's not," said Merlin, idly spinning the wheel.

"Then what is it?"

"True Love, Rumplestiltskin. True Love."

"What about it?"

"Well, I thought you knew. It's the most powerful magic of all."

Gold glared.

"When you first saw Beatrice, did you realize she was your daughter?"

"I suspected."

"Was it that she has your eyes or perhaps some other intangible quality she possessed? The same intangible quality I suspect Cora saw in Beatrice right away."

"How much magic are we talking about?"

"Fourteen generations of True Love."

Gold scoffed. "You're lying."

"Not lying, sunshine."

Gold stopped the wheel with his hand. Merlin looked up at him.

"Even if that was possible, which it isn't, Belle's father was not her mother's True Love."

"You've met Sir Maurice of Avonlea," said Merlin. "Is there anything about him that you can see in his supposed daughter?"

"Belle doesn't have magic."

"Does she not possess some intangible quality that drew you to her right away? Something that made you want her as payment?"

Gold didn't answer.

"Strange of you not to give it any thought, but then again, love makes fools of us all. Still, it was probably best for Belle that the sum of her magic was hidden away. You see, sometimes you have to let the other team think they're winning."


Then

Merlin looked up at Granny. "You haven't got anything espresso based, have you?"

"Espresso based?"

"It's nineteen ninety-six. Haven't you heard of that yet?"

"We just have coffee," said Granny. "Anything else?"

"I'll let you know," said Merlin.

Granny walked away. Merlin had begun lingering here out of a lack of ideas. A visit to Maurice revealed that he was just as big an arse cursed as not. He thought to try the library and found it closed. He tried the town's three bookstores and didn't find her or anyone of her description. He then took to the hospital where he found Prince Charming in a coma, but not Belle. He cursed the imp for his short sightedness. If that blue tart hadn't incapacitated him, he would have dealt with this himself. That Blue had felt the need to incapacitate him suggested Belle was alive somewhere, the question was where.

"She's as friendly as ever," said someone.

Merlin turned to realize he had been joined by Jefferson. The hatter and realm jumper.

"I wouldn't know. I'm new in town."

"Obviously. Nobody's moved here in about thirteen years?"

Merlin turned to Jefferson. "Is that so?"

"I remember you," said Jefferson.

"That's a start," said Merlin. "Now, why is that?"

"Regina's idea of a joke."

"Then you can help me."

"What do I get out of it?"

"What do you want?"

"My daughter. Regina put her with another family. I want her back."

"I would have to be able to rewrite this Curse to do that."

"So, you're not as powerful as they say..."

"No, I am as powerful as they say, but the imp who wrote this Curse is overly fond of technicalities so I'm afraid the strings are a bit too tight."

"Then I don't see what's in it for me."

Merlin leaned in to Jefferson. "You do not want to get brave with me, boy. You think Regina's trouble? Regina is but a breath of air against the hurricane of my rage." He took a bite of his pancakes. "Besides, I bet you would love to see her upset."

"What do you need help with?"

"I'm looking for someone."

"Who?"

"Belle."

"Belle? Rumplestiltskin's Belle?"

"That's the one."

"What do you want with her?"

He ignored the inquiry. "Do you know where she is?"

"The asylum."

"Take me there."

Jefferson nodded. "I'll need to make some tea."


Now

Beatrice awoke.

Right. It was still difficult enough to wake up in her room in Storybrooke after years of waking up in the same bed in Manhattan. Waking up in a bed in the Dark Castle in the Enchanted Forest was much harder.

She collected herself and popped her head into the hallway where she saw Emma wandering.

"Oh, hey," said Emma.

"Hey," said Beatrice, stepping out.

"Is there a map of this place or something?," asked Emma.

"I don't know, I didn't really pay enough attention on the way in," said Beatrice.

"I think I went upstairs, so we would need to go down," said Emma.

"I guess if we get to the dungeon we've gone too far," mused Beatrice.

"There's a dungeon?"

"It's called the Dark Castle, you didn't think there was going to be a dungeon?"

"Sorry, it's my first castle."

"To be fair, it's your second castle."

"Yeah, I didn't exactly get time to memorize the floor plan on my first one," Emma fired back as they found the staircase.

"Oh, I think we're getting close," said Beatrice, peeking out the stairs at the entry hall. "Dad?"

A pair of huge doors on the opposite end magically opened. Beatrice looked at Emma.

"Want to go first?"

"Your castle," said Emma.

"Beatrice!," called Gold.

Mary Margaret poked her head out of the doors. "Emma. Beatrice. Come on."

They walked into the Great Hall. Beatrice was confused at what she was looking at.

Merlin motioned at a table of fruit and pastries. "I made breakfast."

"Thanks," said Emma, picking up a danish.

Beatrice started looking through the offerings.

"Sweetheart, I believe this is what you're looking for," said Merlin.

Beatrice looked to see a mug topped with steaming foam.

"That's a latte."

"Is it?"

Beatrice took the mug. "How did you know?"

"Aren't you from the Enchanted Forest?," asked Emma. "Where did you learn to make a latte?"

"You're making a lot of assumptions, Savior," said Merlin. "You know what they say about assumptions..."

Mary Margaret turned to Emma. "Merlin's a realm jumper. He can even travel to the Land Without Magic."

"You know my reputation then, Your Highness," said Merlin.

"Lady Reinette told us all your stories," said Mary Margaret. "Every year at the Summer Palace, I used to beg to hear them."

"Well," Merlin said, "it's nice to be remembered."

"Wait, if you're a realm jumper, does that mean you can help us get back home?," asked Emma.

"Alas, no, Savior," said Merlin, looking over at Gold. "That magic is specific and tied to an individual: me."

"Well, that's convenient," Emma snorted.

"Rather inconvenient," said Gold.

"Well, luckily, I can manage to help you all turn an enchanted wardrobe into a portal," said Merlin.

"Which I could have managed easily," said Gold.

"The Blue Fairy told us that there was only enough magic for one," said Mary Margaret.

"When she should have said two," Gold muttered.

"Yes, she is a devious little trollop," said Merlin. "I wouldn't believe her if she told me the sky was blue."

"How do you know her?," asked Beatrice.

"How do you think I know her, sweetheart?"

Beatrice shrugged. "Ex-girlfriend?"

Gold and Mary Margaret stopped and looked at Merlin.

"Perhaps," Merlin suggested, "you ought to go see your prisoner the warrior princess."

Mary Margaret turned to Gold. "What did you do with Mulan?"

"She's in the dungeon," said Gold. "Would you rather I left her?"

"She did seem pretty quick with the sword," said Beatrice.

Mary Margaret started downstairs, with Emma in pursuit and Gold after them. Beatrice got up to follow.

"Beatrice," said Merlin.

She stopped and turned.

"Why don't you stay and talk to me?"


Then

Once the nurse was passed out at her station, Jefferson led Merlin down the hall to room twelve. A room with no name. A woman that had been forgotten.

Almost forgotten.

Jefferson used the nurse's keys to unlock the door and Belle turned, startled. She looked at Merlin and Jefferson in terror.

"It's alright, Belle," Merlin said softly. He sat down next to her. "Oh, Belle, I'm so sorry."

"Who are you?," asked Belle.

"More importantly, who are you?"

Merlin took Belle's hand in his. He placed the other across her belly and she practically jumped out of her skin as he smiled.

"There she is..."

"There who is?"

"Can't you feel that, Belle?"

"Feel what?"

Merlin placed Belle's hand against the slight bump of her belly.

Belle looked up at him in terror. "What's that?"

"Who is that, you mean?"

Belle shook her head. "What's going on? I'm not- It's impossible. I've never even-"

"Let's not worry ourselves with memories, Belle, because I know you don't remember anything but this room, but you are a hero."

"I'm not a-"

"Yes, you are, Belle. No matter what, that's your baby."

Belle smiled. "That's my baby."

"You'll be her hero and you are already mine."

Belle frowned. "Do we know each other?"

"Not as well as I would have liked," said Merlin. "Now, to reiterate, who are you?"

Belle smiled again. "I'm her mother."

"That's right," said Merlin. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead. He caught her as she fell forward and put her back in bed as she slept.

"What the hell's going on?," asked Jefferson. "Who is she?"

"I thought you knew."

"You know what I mean. Who is she to you?"

Merlin stood and walked towards the door.

"You don't think I know True Love's kiss when I see it?," asked Jefferson.

"What do you care, hatter?"

"I helped you. What did you just do? Did you restore her memories? Did you-"

Merlin held up his hand to stop the hatter's prattling. "I began time for her again."

"Why would you do that? So she can have her baby in a cell? So she can count the days of her imprisonment?"

"No, because she carries within her powerful magic and it won't take long for the Evil Queen to realize she's a threat to the Curse so she'll send her out of town."

"Bad things happen to anyone who tries to leave Storybrooke."

"As a rule, yes, but rules are made to be broken."

"What makes you think I won't tell Regina now?"

"Yes, I had given some thought to that..."

Merlin shut the door and waved his hand.

Jefferson found himself back at his large, empty house wondering what had happened after he left that morning.


Now

"So," said Merlin, "what do you think of this land so far?"

"You mean the weird wiped out half forest with magic and no Starbucks," Beatrice asked as she picked at her eggs.

"Not a fan?"

Beatrice shook her head.

"What about magic? What can you do?"

"What can I do?"

"Come on. Don't hold back."

"I haven't really done a lot."

"Tell me what you have done then."

"Well, I got this zombie powder and I froze a guy with it."

"And that was in the Land Without Magic?"

Beatrice nodded. "I can control the fire in the Netherworld. I lit a magic candle and threw some rocks at a dragon. Also, spun a magic hat."

"I trust you defeated the dragon."

"Well, Emma threw a sword at it. Her. Maleficent."

"How did you light the flame of the magic candle?"

Beatrice shrugged. "I don't know. I just blew on it."

Merlin picked up the candelabra and placed it in front of Beatrice.

"You want me to light Lumiere?"

"Go on."

Beatrice stared at it. "See, I don't actually know what I'm doing."

"That's best." Merlin sat back and crossed his arms. "It will come easier in a land with magic."

Beatrice sighed and closed her eyes, then blew on the candle.

"Open your eyes."

Beatrice looked and saw a lit candle.

"Great, maybe next I can get Cogsworth ticking."

"You are magic."

"Right, the True Love thing."

"You're the descendant of fourteen generations of True Love. On your mother's side. As you might imagine, things weren't quite as smooth on your father's side."

"Someone loved Maurice?"

"Who says Maurice was anyone's True Love?"

"He's my grandfather."

"And what made you think that?"

"When my mom called him dad?"

"He's not your grandfather." Merlin leaned in. "Are you sure you can't do anything else?"

"Well, sorry to be a letdown."

"When was the first time you hailed a taxi?"

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "Come on. The taxi hailing thing?"

Gold entered. "What's this?," he asked looking pointedly at Merlin.

"Nothing," said Beatrice. "I'm just good at it. Or lucky, I don't know."

"What are you not telling me?," asked Gold.

Beatrice looked up at Gold. "What? I didn't-"

"Not you, sweetheart," said Gold. He looked to Merlin. "The hall. Now."

Gold waved his hand to open the doors and Merlin sighed as he stood.

"Your father has such a lovely disposition. That's why I call him sunshine, you know."

Merlin and Gold disappeared into the hallway, leaving Beatrice to look around the room.

Spinning wheel. No surprise there. Tapestries. Golden fleece. What story did the golden fleece come from? She almost reached for her iPhone to Google it, but remembered her iPhone wasn't charged and also, there was probably no WiFi in the Dark Castle.

There were some empty pedestals around the room. She found a walking stick on the floor with notches along the side. She held it absentmindedly and watched in astonishment as a large cabinet opened.

"Okay..." she said to no one.


Then

Merlin waited in the town square.

The clock said eight-fifteen.

The townspeople slowly trickled out to begin their days. He watched as Snow White, the ex-cricket and the ex-craftsman stopped and chatted about the clock.

Then he saw what he was really waiting for.

The Evil Queen strode in as if she owned the place. Of course, creating a town with a Dark Curse probably gave someone that notion. She seemed particularly irked as she looked at the clock and talked with her arch nemesis.

Then she did exactly what Merlin had hoped.

She stalked towards Rumplestiltskin's shop.

As an added bonus, Merlin spotted the Blue Fairy walking towards him: human sized and dressed as a nun.

He laughed. "Oh, this is priceless."

She stopped and glared at him. "Excuse me?"

Merlin shook his head. "Oh, just the thought of you as a... it's just so bloody rich."

"Do we know each other?"

"You bet your habit we do, sister."

"Mother Superior," she corrected.

"Oh, well, I beg your pardon, your royal pain in the arse..."

Blue dropped her jaw at him. Merlin spotted Regina angrily stalking out of the pawn shop.

"Are you inebriated?," asked Blue.

"Sadly not," said Merlin. "Oh, one more thing."

"What?"

He smiled as he sauntered off. "Game. Set. Match."


Now

"Why are you interrogating her?," demanded Gold.

Merlin smiled in amusement. "I would hardly call that interrogating. I was asking her what she knew."

"And why do you care?"

"Her magic is critical and yet, you seem to have taught her absolutely nothing. I don't think you realize what a tactical mistake that is, sunshine-"

"A tactical mistake?"

"Yes. If Beatrice doesn't learn to control her magic, she'll just keep wandering into things with no idea of the consequences. Was this Belle's idea? I thought she would have more sense."

Gold didn't answer.

Realization dawned on Merlin. "It was your idea. You're frightened."

"Don't be absurd."

"No, no, you're afraid. You've seen your pupils, Cora and Regina and you can't bear the idea of turning her, turning Belle's daughter, into one of them."

"And I suppose you like that idea?"

"No, I think that idea is the harbinger of the apocalypse, but I think there's probably a way to teach her magic without turning her into a bitch hag from hell. First suggestion, skip the heart ripping out lesson." He paused. "Do you remember the night I visited you?"

Gold didn't answer.

"Do you remember the storm?," asked Merlin.


Then

Gold was just coming from behind the counter when Merlin entered the pawn shop.

"I was just about to close," said Gold.

"Well, you're not closed yet, are you?" Merlin looked outside. "Quite a storm brewing out there."

"I suppose so," said Gold.

"Thunder, lightning, all up the eastern seaboard," Merlin said casually. "Even stretching down to New York City."

"Did you have a specific purchase in mind?," asked Gold.

"No, actually, I was wondering if you would be interested in an item I have," said Merlin. "A piece of jewelry."

"May I see it?," asked Gold.

"Of course," said Merlin, following Gold back to the jewelry case. He pulled a velvet sack out of his pocket and took out a pendant. Reinette's pendant.

Gold picked it up with interest. "This is quite beautiful."

"It's not what it was, I'm afraid," said Merlin.

"I see nothing wrong with it," said Gold.

"Well, a beautiful necklace is nothing without a beautiful woman to wear it," said Merlin. "Wouldn't you agree?"

Gold ignored him. He was still staring at the necklace. "This is an unusual stone."

Merlin nodded. The lack of magic in this place had frozen the swirls of color. "A Lloviznando opal," he called it.

"It's very unusual," said Gold. "What would you take for it?"

Merlin shrugged. "I don't suppose I'd thought of that."

"Rare indeed for someone to walk in here without a deal in mind."

Merlin nearly smiled at Rumplestiltskin nearly sounding like his true self. "It saddens me to think of the thing forgotten on some bedside table. I would be happier if someone were to have use of it. To make it beautiful again."

Gold nodded. "That will take an unusual customer."

"One I think you can find."

Gold smiled. "I think I can."

He looked up. The storm was becoming more and more apparent outside the window.

"It's not a storm," said Merlin. "It's a tempest."


Now

Beatrice had pulled a chair up next to the cabinet to better inspect the upper shelves. The upper shelves were just at her fingertips and that's when she spotted a rose.

The rose.

The Enchanted Rose. It was glittering under a glass dome, just like in the movie.

"Dad!," she called, wondering if whatever argument with Merlin had finished. "Dad!"

Getting no answer, she decided to take the object down for a closer look.

When she forgot what a klutz she was.

Beatrice dropped it and it fell to the floor. The glass case shattered.

What was supposed to happen with the rose? The Beast would be a Beast forever? He wasn't a beast now...

"Dad!," she called. "You're still alive, right?!"

"I'll be there in a moment!," Gold called back.

Beatrice supposed that was good enough and started picking up the glass. She lifted the rose from the shards and then something weird happened.

She found herself face to face with a knight and for the second time in under twelve hours, she had a sword pointed at her neck.

"Where is the Beast?"

"Uh, Dad!," she called.

"Who are you? Where's Belle?!"

"Storybrooke..."

"What does that mean? What has the Beast done to her?"

Beatrice was starting to get the feeling that whatever answer she gave the guy, he wasn't going to be happy with it.

"I'm sorry, who are you?," asked Beatrice.

"I am Sir Gaston-"

"Oh, my God, you're real, too," said Beatrice. She then noticed that while one leg had a foot, the other leg was more of a stub. "What happened to your foot?!"

He looked down. It seemed to be a surprise to him as well.

"What have you done, witch?"

"I didn't do anything!" Beatrice screamed, "Is anyone actually going to come in here?!"

Both sets of doors finally and mercifully opened. Gold and Merlin through one door. Emma and Mary Margaret through the other.

"Gaston," Mary Margaret said in amazement.

"Is he still alive?," groaned Merlin. He looked at Gold. "I thought I knew you better."

"Back away, dearie," said Gold.

Merlin waved his hand and Gaston flew back into the wall.

"Now, stay!," Merlin instructed. He turned to Emma and Mary Margaret as Gold helped Beatrice up. "What did the warrior princess say?"

"Um, what about him?," Emma asked, motioning at Gaston.

"Yes, everyone thought he was dead," said Mary Margaret.

"He was a flower," said Gold. "He's fine."

"He's missing a foot!," said Mary Margaret.

"Believe it or not, I actually didn't do that," said Gold. "Now, what about our friend?"

Mary Margaret shook her head. "She says everyone was frozen for twenty-eight years. A small part of the Enchanted Forest remained untouched and no one knows why. There's a settlement of them. She has to get back or they will come looking."

"I demand to know where the Beast that rules this castle is!," yelled Gaston.

Gold turned. "I'm standing right here."

"Where is my fiancee?!"

Emma snorted. "Yeah, I think that ship has sailed."

"Would someone cut out his tongue?," asked Merlin.

Gold rolled his eyes and waved a hand, sending Gaston into the dungeon through a puff of purple smoke.

"So how do you expect us to get to the wardrobe?," asked Mary Margaret.

"For one, Cora doesn't know where you're going," said Gold. "You'll be harder to detect without magic."

"Great," said Emma.

"And how do we get it back here?," asked Mary Margaret.

"I'm certain you'll think of something, Your Highness," said Gold.

"Here," said Merlin, tossing something to Emma. "Use this if you have trouble."

Emma held it out. "This is an orange."

"It's a satsuma," said Merlin.

"And what do I do with it?"

"You're the Savior. You'll figure out something," said Merlin. "Just don't eat it."

"Do you have weapons?," asked Mary Margaret.

"In the front hall," said Gold.

Emma and Mary Margaret left.

Merlin turned to Gold and motioned towards Beatrice.

"I wonder if perhaps we want to revisit the notion of teaching her to use her powers before she does something she doesn't understand? Again."

Chapter Text

 


Two Days After The Curse Broke...

Neal had just gotten a new phone after his shattered on the sidewalk the day the pigeon delivered the postcard. He had just finished loading it up with music and it was still charging when it rang.

He saw it was Beatrice. He thought about not answering, not wanting any part of magic and all that crap now that it was back, but he also knew Beatrice. If she was calling, she would never stop.

Never ever stop.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," said Beatrice.

"What's up?"

"You haven't heard from August, have you?"

"I got a postcard. So, the Curse is broken?"

"Oh, yeah, totally broken and now I am living in crazy town."

He cracked a smile. "That bad, huh?"

"You know the town in Gilmore Girls?"

"Beatrice, I'm a guy. I've never seen Gilmore Girls."

"Okay, then the comparison I was about to make is completely pointless."

"So, your mom knows she's..."

"Belle from Beauty and the Beast, not just Belle the strangely kind librarian? Yeah, she knows."

"Did you find your dad yet?"

"Oh, yeah. Found him."

He was curious at the tone of her voice. "What? Is he really hairy or something?"

"No, but you probably know him."

"I doubt that. I left that world a long time ago."

"No, apparently everyone knows him. Do you want to guess?"

Neal smiled. "Okay, I'll play. Give me a hint."

"Straw into gold."

Neal's stomach sank below his knees. "What?"

"Is that not enough? Likes to trade in first born children, though he keeps telling me it was just sort of a baby broker thing so I guess that's a moral gray area..."

Neal had to sit. "So, uh, your dad is Rumplestiltskin?"

"I suppose you want to keep your first born now? Though he claims that's not how that went, but won't say anything else."

"Beatrice, did you tell him about me?"

"Uh, yeah, because when I first met my dad, I immediately thought to mention this guy I know in New York-"

"Beatrice!," he shouted.

"What? Do you owe him money or something?"

That was when Neal heard a voice he hadn't heard in hundreds of years.

"Beatrice."

He thought the once familiar lilt was going to give him a heart attack.

"Beatrice, dinner is ready."

"Okay..." she said.

"Are you talking to someone?"

"Yeah..."

"Who?"

"A friend. Is that okay?," she asked sarcastically.

"It's eggplant parmigiana," Neal heard his father offer. "Your mother said you enjoy it."

"Yeah, I'll be a minute."

There was a pause while Neal assumed his father- their father- left.

"Okay, what's your deal?," asked Beatrice.

Neal couldn't ponder an answer. "Beatrice, don't call me again."

"What?"

Not answering, he hung up the phone.


A Long Time Ago In The Enchanted Forest

The sun was just rising in the sky when Catherine felt her husband curling up against her.

"You know," she began, "come couples keep separates chambers and some husbands have the good sense not to bother their wives in such a ghastly manner as this after near thirty years of marriage."

The Duke kissed her neck. "That is for the husbands of lesser women."

"Was last night not enough for you?"

"It will never be enough," he promised.

There was a knock at the door. "Your Grace! Sir Maurice of Avonlea is here!," called the footman.

Catherine groaned. "What land is Avonlea that is acceptable to arrive before a house has risen for the day?"

"I dare say Sir Maurice has no regard for such things," said the Duke. He looked back to the door. "See to it that he is comfortable and he may wait in the breakfast room!"

"Yes, Your Grace!"

"What does he want?," asked Catherine.

"I assume to ask permission to propose to Reinette again merely so he can be rejected again."

"Will you grant it?"

"I would never grant it if I thought she would accept," said the Duke.

"Oh, to have my powers back just a moment," said Catherine.

"Now, my lady, what would making him into a block of ice solve?"

She turned to shoot him a glare.

"Oh, you are right," said the Duke in astonishment. "That would solve everything."

"I just don't understand," said Catherine. "Time was no mere Knight of Avonlea would dare to court the daughter of the Duke of Padua, Heiress to the Far North Kingdom."

"Now you sound like my mother," said the Duke.

"I know. I frighten myself sometimes," said Catherine. "Perhaps you should not grant it this time."

"Do you truly think Reinette would accept him?"

"I think she might get drunk or a witch might cast a spell..."

"Fear not, we will not be tied to that man," said the Duke. He curled back against her. "Now, to revisit the other issue..."

"So not in the mood."

"Well..." said the Duke, "that's that then."


Now

Belle had never been much for being alone.

She could be alone. It wasn't that. Reading her beloved books was a solitary activity but one she always tried to take into the garden or the sunshine of a window. In the Dark Castle she would often take her books into wherever Rumple was. In Manhattan, she had tried Beatrice's patience by dragging her daughter into the living room just to read in the same room.

Since Beatrice and Rumple went through the portal, she was mostly alone. She spent some of the days with David, working on a way to get them home, but they were spinning their wheels right now and the Prince's charms were somewhat lost on her. Belle thought Rumple must have been rubbing off on her. She worked at the library some of the time, then had done some work at the pawn shop while she looked through Rumple's books for help for the rest. It wasn't as if there had been much business. Some of the townspeople had dropped off their rent, some had come in to try to reclaim some piece of their former lives. Belle tried not to be a pushover, but a well-timed reminiscence about a beloved grandmother and she was through. She tried to dissuade buying under what an item was worth by making a note for Rumple about the sale in front of the customer. That had helped more than once, but the dwarves had gotten a very good bargain on their drinking steins. Surely he couldn't fault her for that?

Well, he most likely would fault her, but do nothing.

Night was the worst. It reminded her of her various cells. She went back and forth between her own bed and Beatrice's. She had cuddled with the stuffed lamb that had been her daughter's constant companion as a small child and still sat atop the pillows. She had even watched Doctor Who.

Then one night she had an idea.

"Henry."

The boy was at the counter of Granny's drinking hot chocolate. Ruby was behind the counter.

"Morning, Belle."

She smiled. "Morning, Ruby," she said, sitting on the stool next to Henry. She put Beatrice's Macbook down.

"What's that?," asked Henry.

"It's Beatrice's computer," said Belle. "I need your help."

"What are we doing?," asked Ruby, leaning in conspiratorially. "Reading her diary?"

"I would never do that," said Belle. "I don't know a lot about these things, but as I understand it, everything is on something called the Cloud?"

"Yeah?," asked Henry, clearly unimpressed by Belle's technical knowledge.

"Back in New York, Beatrice had a friend. He was from our land," said Belle.

"Our land?," asked Ruby.

"He didn't come here with the Curse," Belle explained. "I was thinking he must have gotten here somehow and if we knew how..."

"Maybe we could use it to get back my mom and Mary Margaret!," Henry said excitedly. He then realized his error. "And Beatrice and Mr. Gold," he quickly amended.

Belle nodded, not offended by the oversight. At least he had an excuse, unlike most of the people in Storybrooke who seemed unmoved by the events where Rumple and Beatrice were concerned.

"Maybe it was a magic bean," said Ruby.

Belle shook her head. "No, I know who got the last one. It's not him."

"So, what do you want me to do?," asked Henry.

"I just need you to get into Beatrice's contacts," said Belle.

He opened the Macbook. "Do you know her password?"

"It's 'Come along, Pond.' All one word."

Henry typed.

"You know her password," said Ruby with a smile. "You are a sneaky mom."

"I am not," said Belle. "It was my condition for buying it. Oh, don't tell Rumple."

"She can always change it," said Henry.

"Or yeah, she could change it," said Belle.

In no time, Henry was in a page with Beatrice's list of contacts. "So, who are we looking for?"

"His name is Neal Cassidy," said Belle.


Then

Reinette returned to her room. It had been a long day at the palace. She had agreed after her début to come serve as Princess Eva's lady-in-waiting for a while. It was no real burden. She enjoyed the travel and she had finally gotten her friend to lose some of her less desireable behavior. In fact, they had even visited the kingdom of Prince Henry and Princess Cora and Eva tried her best to make friends. Cora pretended to accept, but Reinette had the distinct feeling that Cora was not the sort of woman to have a lot of friends.

Now they had resumed their search for a husband for Eva and it had taken them to King Leopold. Things seemed to be going well as Leopold kept conjuring new amusements to keep them in the kingdom. She just had to get the king to be alone with her friend. Reinette was certain a wedding would follow. Then perhaps her True Love would finally show himself.

She looked up to see Merlin waiting in a chair.

"My lady."

"Merlin," said Reinette, she said smiling. "What are you doing here? Do you have business with King Leopold?"

Merlin chuckled. "You really don't want to know what happens to King Leopold."

Reinette frowned. "I don't?"

"Trust me on it," said Merlin. "No, my business is with you. How goes the search for True Love?"

She sat. "Uneventful."

"No marriage proposals?"

"No, I've had about six. All from Sir Maurice."

"Well, that won't do," said Merlin.

"I much agree."

"I think perhaps it is time to enlist the help of your Fairy Godmother."


Now

Belle tried Neal's phone off and on for a while. He never picked up. Then one day in the shop, she had enough of combing through Rumple's books of magic and dialed the number again.

A woman answered. "Hello? Neal's phone."

"Uh, hello," said Belle, shocked at actually getting an answer. "Is Neal there?"

"Yeah. Who is this?"

"Belle French."

There was a pause as Belle heard some sort of mild argument between Neal and the woman.

Neal finally came on. "Hello?"

"Neal, it's Belle. Do you remember me?"

He took a very long time to answer. "Yes, I remember you."

"I don't want to bother you, but it is sort of an emergency."

"What kind of emergency?"

"Beatrice was sent through a portal to the Enchanted Forest. I'm looking for ways to get her back."

"I'm sorry to hear that, but I can't help you. Maybe you should ask her dad," he added, the last bit sounding oddly bitter. "The Dark One."

"Well, I can't," said Belle. "He's gone with her."

There was a long pause. "He went with her?"

"Yeah," said Belle. "It's a bit of a long story."

"I bet it is," Neal mused.

"Look, I know you don't think you can help, but if you told me what you know, it might help."

"I don't..."

Belle decided to try something else. She wasn't too proud for it, not where Beatrice and Rumple were concerned. "Look, it's not just me. I know a lot of people don't really give a damn about the Dark One and his daughter getting back-"

"No, Belle, I didn't mean it like that-"

Belle continued. "Emma and Snow White are gone as well. Emma has a son and the prince is basically pointless without Snow."

"Emma has a kid?," asked Neal.

"Yes," said Belle. "He's almost eleven. Sorry, do you know Emma?"

Neal hung up.


Then

A few nights after their last meeting, Merlin led Reinette to a clearing where the Gold Fairy was waiting.

"Reinette, have you met your fairy godmother?"

Goldie glared at him. "That's not how it works."

"Yeah, yeah, tell it to Cinderella."

"Who?"

"Future, remember? So, Reinette, no progress as of late?," he asked.

"With my True Love?" Reinette shook her head. "Whoever he is, remains a mystery."

"Not any more. Goldie's going to speed things along."

"Speed things along?," Reinette asked incredulously.

"See, we're on a bit of a timetable. If you want to get to know your True Love, you need to meet him about now so you can get married and have a very lovely daughter who is of age and well past her awkward phase just about the time that the ogres invade."

"The ogres?," asked Reinette.

"Ogres?," emphasized Goldie.

"It's not as if I'm the one coming up with this," said Merlin. "Not all of it anyway. What are we standing here for? Goldie, do your thing."

The Gold Fairy sighed and waved her wand. Gold fairy dust flew into the air and plopped down.

"Goldie," Merlin said with irritation.

"I take it that was not supposed to happen?," asked Reinette.

"No," said Merlin.

"I don't know what happened. Fairy dust never fails," said the Gold Fairy.

"Maybe the dwarves who mined it were drunk," said Merlin. "Try again."

"I only have so much."

"Look, the next time you need a mouse to turn into a footman, I'll do it. It will take me all of two seconds and I won't have to spout any magic words," said Merlin. "Do it."

They watched again as the Gold Fairy waved her wand and the dust fell to the ground before Merlin's feet.

"Is this a trick by that blue nightmare?," asked Merlin.

"Do you think I would be here if she had any idea?," asked Goldie. "There has to be an explanation."

"Explanation? The explanation is that your wand must be warped from making too many ball gowns!," Merlin shouted.

"Shouting at me won't help," said Goldie.

"Twelve generations. Twelve generations of True Love!," said Merlin. "Only to be stopped now when I am so close!"

The Gold Fairy scowled and transformed back into her winged form.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?!," shouted Merlin.

The fairy didn't answer and just flew on.

Reinette looked at Merlin in confusion. "What does this mean?"

"I wish I bloody knew."

"What do you need twelve generations of True Love for?"

"I need fourteen."

"What do you need fourteen for?"

"I have a vision."

"A prophecy?," asked Reinette.

"It's both," said Merlin.

"I don't understand."

"I can see the future. I saw it centuries back, plain as day, unfolding in front of me and I set about making it a reality. The closer I've gotten to it, the more difficult it's become. This step eludes me. I just need to figure out this step. The next bit is easy. A beauty. A beast. A library. A tea cup. The thing writes itself. This can't end like this! I already gave him the tea set!"

Merlin looked back at Reinette who was staring at him.

"I'm sorry?," Reinette said uncertainly.

"I don't understand. You're her mother. She's the product of True Love, how else could it happen? Where's your True Love?!"

"I don't know and if this is what your help is going to be like, no thank you."

Reinette turned in a huff, smoothed her skirt and began walking back towards the castle.

Merlin rolled her eyes. "Every idiot princess in this bloody land can find her True Love and I get the one girl who can't."

Merlin stomped and began to follow her when he noticed the fairy dust on his boots.

He stopped and turned back to see the trail of gold dust from where he had begun to where he now stood.

"Oh, come on."


Now

After another sleepless night, Belle walked to the pawn shop. She stopped seeing an unfamiliar car with New York plates in front. She turned to the door to see Neal, sitting on the sidewalk.

"Neal!," she said in amazement. "What- what are you doing here?"

"Yeah," Neal stood, stretching. "I came to help."

"You did?," she asked in shock. "Have you seen your family yet?"

"I can't," said Neal. "They're sort of in the Enchanted Forest."

Belle frowned. "I don't understand."

"Belle, I'm Baelfire."

Belle was silent as she opened the shop and walked in. Neal followed her.

"Are you going to say anything?"

Belle turned around and crossed her arms. "Prove it."

"Prove I'm Baelfire?"

"Yes. August already tried this."

"He did?," asked Neal. "Asshole."

"I'm waiting," Belle said tersely.

"I can describe the dagger to you. The Dark One dagger? With his name on it?"

Belle shook her head. "I have half the town looking for that and August already tried that, too."

Neal shook his head. "My mom's name was Milah-"

"Not good enough."

"What do you want then?"

"There's something in this shop that belongs to you," said Belle.

Neal looked. There were about a million things in the shop. "You want me to pick it out."

"Well, Baelfire ought to be able to."

He nodded. "You're not a pushover."

"No, I'm not."

Neal started looking methodically. "You know, we didn't have anything when I was growing up. Our house had a thatched roof. You have to remake those every so often. They leak, they blow away. After he became the Dark One, he started collecting all this crap. Every time I see one of those reality shows about hoarding, I think about him."

Belle tried to hide her internal agreement of that assessment.

"He never got that I didn't care about that crap. I just wanted him back."

"It's different when you have children," Belle said, hating herself for cracking before she had proof. "I know he's caught up with the things, he can't help himself sometimes, but when you have a child, you can't just count on a wing and a prayer. It tears at you when you can't give them something."

Neal stopped and smiled as he spotted it. He pulled the brown leather soccer ball off the shelf and turned to Belle. She held her breath.

"He made this for me," said Neal. "I was playing with it, by myself because I didn't have a lot of friends after he became the Dark One. This farmer's wagon almost hit me and I fell and skinned my knee. So he turned the guy into a snail and stepped on him."

"You're Baelfire," Belle said in astonishment.

Neal shrugged.

"You told Beatrice not to call you anymore!," said Belle.

"Right..."

"You realized you were her brother, didn't you? You're the only person who understands what this is like for her and you told her not to call you!"

He shrugged again. "I didn't know what to do. I have a lot of issues with my father."

"Issues?," asked Belle. She walked up to him. "You have father issues?"

"He broke our deal."

"My father said he was dying to lure me home. Then when I got there, he held me prisoner and tried to abort my baby. After that, he let the Blue Fairy put me under a sleeping curse. Since the Curse ended, he's tried to steal Beatrice's baby tooth, used the possibility of a reconciliation as a distraction while his co-conspirators sent my daughter- your sister- through a magic hat to what they thought was a void. Since then, I have had to stop him from trying to find the Dark One dagger twice. I wish he would let go!"

"Okay, that's a lot of issues..." said Neal.

Belle shook her head. "I'm not saying you shouldn't be angry. He fully expects you to be angry, he expects you to hate him, but you need to know he has spent hundreds of years trying to find you. We were going to find you, but then..."

"What?"

"We found out that if you cross the town line, you forget who you really are. Your cursed self becomes your only self. He's been trying to find a way around it, but there's been a delay."

"Yeah, I guess," said Neal.

Belle smiled. "I'm glad you're here."


Then

"You've returned," said Goldie.

Merlin looked up at the Gold Fairy. He was watching from far away as Reinette and the other royal ladies in waiting hosted a picnic, meant to entertain King Leopold and his knights.

Reinette was singing again.

Her singing was all he wanted to hear.

"Did you figure it out?," asked Goldie.

"Figure what out?"

"Why the fairy dust did not move?"

Merlin cast a glance up at the fairy. "Did you?"

"I believe I did," said Goldie. "Prophecy is a treacherous magic."

Merlin snorted. "You're telling me."

"I suppose you'll have to quit your vision."

"Quit my vision?," he asked. "I can't quit my vision. I've put hundreds of years into it. She is my gift to this realm."

"She?"

"Never mind I said anything."

"These lines of True Love you've brought together, they often have magic," said Goldie.

"People with magic can have True Love as well." He looked back at Reinette. "Apparently."

"If you are trying to make a witch or a monster-"

Merlin turned to glare. "Don't you dare call her those names. You know not what you speak of."

"Then tell me."

Merlin looked back at Reinette, sharing some joke with Eva.

"I won't tell you. I'll tell her," said Merlin.


Now

Belle walked down the street with Neal. The new visitor was attracting attention, especially since he was with Belle.

"So, what have you and this prince guy been doing?"

"Spinning our wheels, mostly," said Belle. "I've been looking through the books Rumple has. He's been helping the dwarves mine fairy dust and basically telling all to Mother Superior."

"Mother Superior?," he asked.

"The Blue Fairy," said Belle. She looked up at Neal. "It hasn't exactly been a smooth three hundred years between she and Rumple."

"No, I guess not."

"She's been against Beatrice for some reason, always. Rumple thought it was just him, but lately he's started to think there's something more to it."

"More? Like what?"

Belle shrugged.

"You know she used magic, right?," asked Neal.

"What?"

"In New York, she used magic on this guy who was trying to take her."

"Nobody should be able to do that," said Belle.

"I know."

"Why didn't she tell me?," asked Belle.

Neal shrugged. "You weren't really believing any of the things she was telling you."

"Right," said Belle. She motioned at the door. "Let's go inside. Wait, what should I say? I mean, what should I call you?"

"Well, Neal works-"

"No, but who should I tell them you are?"

"Oh." Neal shrugged. "You should probably just say the truth. It's all going to come out anyway."

Belle smiled. "Okay."

They went inside. David was sitting at a table with Henry, waiting for the daily meeting.

"Hi, Belle," said Henry.

"Hey, Henry," said Belle. She motioned at Neal. "This is the friend you helped me find."

"What friend?," asked David.

"Can you help us get my mom and Mary Margaret back?," Henry asked eagerly.

"Well, I don't know, but I'm here to help," said Neal.

"Who is he?"

"This is Rumplestiltskin's son," said Belle. "Neal."

"Rumplestiltskin has a son?," asked David.

Belle resisted rolling her eyes. He could be so thick headed. "He is sitting right in front of you."

"You're Baelfire!," exclaimed Henry. "You're in my book."

They did the wrap up. David explained Mother Superior still didn't know how to use the fairy dust to restore a portal which Belle didn't believe at all. They ended up chatting and Belle noticed Neal taking an interest in Henry.

A particular interest.

"What's going on?," asked Belle as she followed him out of Granny's.

Neal stopped and turned around. "What do you mean?"

Belle walked up. "I saw the way you looked at Henry. What's going on?"

"I don't know what you mean-"

"I know the look because a couple of months ago it was the way Rumple looked at Beatrice," said Belle. "I know I didn't have your attention on the phone until I mentioned Emma and I really didn't care because... because no one is ever going to care about Rumple and Beatrice the way I do, but you're Baelfire so... what's going on?"

"I know Emma."

"Oh, Gods," said Belle.

"We dated, sort of. We stole things..."

"What does that mean?"

"I didn't know who she was, but August found me and told me and I had to let her go so she could come back and break the Curse. So I let her go down for these watches I stole."

"Henry was born while Emma was in prison," Belle said with distaste. "Did you know that?"

"I do now," he said sheepishly. "Are you being judgmental?"

"Yes," said Belle.

"You've been hanging out with my dad and you're going to judge me?"

"Don't make this about you and your father. This is about you. As for your father, he has many, many faults and I know that better than most people, but he never would have left me to rot in a prison." Belle stalked off, clacking her heels against the pavement.

"Belle!," Neal called. "Where are you going?"

"Home! We'll talk in the morning! And don't you dare think of leaving!"

Belle walked away and then through the haze of her anger came the realization that the dungeon at the Dark Castle probably counted as a prison.

Never mind. She was making an exit.

She went home with plans to locate the finest bottle of wine Rumple had and have a glass.

Or two.

Or the whole damn thing.


Belle was suddenly aware of flames around her. She pulled her arms close to her and took in her surroundings.

She was in the Netherworld. She remembered coming her a few times after she had been set free from the Blue Fairy's sleeping curse.

It had always been the same. The darkness. Her screaming baby and having to find her. After the Curse broke, she finally realized this was probably where Beatrice's fear of the dark came from. This wretched place.

Belle waved her hand and the flames disappeared. She wasn't about to stand surrounded by fire the whole night.

That's when she heard sobbing.

"Beatrice!," she called, hurrying forward into the darkness. "Beatrice!"

"Mom?," Beatrice answered weakly.

Belle followed the sound of her voice to see her daughter huddled in a corner.

"Mom!" Beatrice got up and ran towards her, their embrace falling through each other.

"Hey, it's okay," Belle said reassuringly. "Neither of us is really here, remember?"

"What are you doing here?"

Belle shook her head. "I drank a whole bottle of wine."

"You what?"

"Apparently, if your natural defenses are lowered, you can end up here again."

"You drank a bottle of wine?"

Belle shook her head. "It is an incredibly long story. Now, tell me what's happening there. Are you safe?"

"I'm at the Dark Castle."

"And Papa's with you?"

"Yes."

Belle smiled and nodded. "Good. That's good. Emma and Mary Margaret are alright?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, then, what's wrong?"

She shook her head. "I keep screwing up. Oh, yeah, your fiancé was a rose-"

"Gaston was a rose?," asked Belle.

"And he's missing a foot-"

Belle gasped and covered her mouth in horror. Was Gaston that rose? Had Rumple given her Gaston?!

"Some crazy woman has my glasses..." Beatrice continued.

"What crazy woman?"

"Cora. She wants to get back to Storybrooke to reunite with Regina and this is my fault-"

"Beatrice, listen to me," said Belle. "None of this is your fault. None of it. Just do what your papa says and I know he'll bring you home."

Beatrice shook her head. "I don't like it here."

Belle shook her head. "It's okay. You'll be home soon."

Suddenly, the ceiling opened and sucked up Beatrice.

"Beatrice!," Belle screamed after her. "Beatrice!"


Regina awoke to the sound of someone banging on her door. She wondered what it could be, since she didn't hear the rabble of the townspeople having decided to kill her again. She pulled her robe around her and went down to the front door.

Where she discovered Belle smelling like a cask.

"Are you drunk?," Regina asked incredulously.

"Cora. She's there. She's found them in the Enchanted Forest."

"What do you mean? That's not possible. My mother is dead."

"No, she's not, Beatrice has seen her and she wants to do something to her."

"How do you know this?"

"We met in the Netherworld. She got ripped away. What does Cora want with Beatrice?"

"I wouldn't know," said Regina.

"Yes, you would," said Belle.

Regina straightened. "I would think she most likely wants revenge."

"For what?"

"Because Rumplestiltskin turned her daughter against her and got her to send her to another realm."

Belle's heart sank.

"I'm sorry," said Regina, shutting the door.


Reinette walked into her room to once again find Merlin.

"My lady."

"Sir," she said. "If anyone sees you, it will be quite a scandal you know."

Merlin sighed. "Yes, I suppose it is generally heading in that direction."

"I was jesting."

He stood and walked to Reinette. "I wanted to apologize for my behavior the other night."

"You ought to."

"See, I have a vision and no one knows the truth of it, but I'm about to tell you."

"You are?," Reinette asked incredulously.

"Please have a seat."

Reinette did. Merlin pulled up a chair next to her.

"This land was not always here. It was created from the remains of another realm with all the magic that was left. The two people that created it, the original powers, disagreed on one thing."

"What was that?"

"Magic," said Merlin. "She thought magic would be safer in the hands of a sort of privileged class of magicians."

"Do you mean fairies?"

"Mostly. He wanted to distribute the magic evenly, but naturally, being a match of equals, they went with her plan."

Reinette smiled.

"Yeah, yeah, it's funny from over where you're sitting," said Merlin. "Anyway, she double-crossed him, tried to take all the power for herself and her fairies and has been using it to those she thinks worthy and no one else ever since."

"Surely that's-"

"It's a decadent system, Reinette. The reason I care so much for the Land Without Magic is that they evolve, they do things, they've got plans to explore the stars-"

"The stars? How can one explore the stars?"

"They'll figure out the how. The point is no one even dreams like that here."

"Except you."

"I've been trying to come up with a way to right the wrongs of this world and to that end I have-"

"Camelot?"

Merlin snorted. "I'm not even really bothering with that any more. No, there is a girl, a very special girl, your granddaughter and I thought she would be the one to change everything."

"My granddaughter? Don't you think I ought to have a child first?"

"I think you ought to have a daughter called Belle."

Reinette was in shock. "Do you suppose I might find a husband?"

"No, I supposed you might find your True Love, the trouble is, I have."

"You have?," she asked in dismay.

"Yes. If you were to be connected with him, you would spend the rest of your life in shadows, not to mention the child and I don't see how she is ever going to meet him if she's his daughter... He is just a thickheaded bastard and won't fall for it at all."

"You couldn't be wrong about my True Love?," asked Reinette.

Merlin turned slowly. "How do you mean?"

He found himself quite surprised as Reinette kissed him.

"Reinette, I-"

"I didn't need fairy dust to tell me," said Reinette.

"You don't know what this means."

"I don't care."

He maintained their close proximity. "You see, Reinette, True Love is magic and all magic comes with a price. Especially this."

Reinette smiled. "You once asked my parents what they were running from."

He had said that. True Love would always get you.


Belle tried to clean herself up after her early morning visit to Regina, but she was afraid it had no effect. Leroy had commented on how bad she looked.

Leroy.

So she sat at Granny's waiting for another conversation with Neal that would probably drive her to another bottle of wine. That or worrying about Beatrice and Rumple.

"You don't look good," said Neal as he sat down across from her.

Belle grimaced. "Thanks for that."

"Were you drinking?"

"Can you blame me?," asked Belle. She took another sip of coffee. "Oh, Beatrice is right. This is doing nothing for me."

"What happened?"

Belle leaned in to whisper. "You mean other than you telling me you think you're the father of Emma's son? And you had her sent to jail for stealing watches you stole?"

"I explained that-"

"Neal, you might imagine that I take a dim view of anything where the pregnant woman gets locked up."

"I didn't know she was-"

Belle held up her hand. "Just save this discussion for Emma and for when my head isn't throbbing."

"Given up on Rumple already?"

Belle looked up at Regina. "This is his son."

Regina frowned. "His son?"

"Neal, Regina. Regina, Neal," Belle managed to groan out. "Oh, by the way, Regina is Henry's adoptive mother."

"What?," asked Neal.

"Yeah, this is why I drank the whole bottle." Belle looked up at Regina. "What are you doing here?"

Regina surprised Belle by sitting down in the booth next to her.

"I am going to help you," she managed to choke out, brushing her hair from her face.

"You're going to help us?," Belle asked in disbelief. "Why? Why should I trust you?"

"Because I am doing this for my son. He wants Emma and Mary Margaret back and if I leave it to you..." Regina paused. "Well, you may yet be fairly competent because Rumplestiltskin must see something in you, but if we leave it to the Prince and all of his noble blundering, my mother will be here before you know it and then we're in real trouble."

Belle nodded. "So, what do we do?"

"As frightening as it is, we have to think like Rumplestiltskin," said Regina.

"Beatrice said they were at the Dark Castle," said Belle.

Regina nodded. "He'll have his magic there to protect them, but that wouldn't be his first order of business."

"He'll want a portal," said Neal.

"Where's he going to get one?," asked Belle. "There are no magic beans. I checked the shop. The slippers are here. A looking glass just sends you to Wonderland and he won't go to Wonderland."

"Peter Pan's Shadow," offered Neal.

"Neverland?," Regina asked skeptically.

"Her Majesty's right, he's not going to do that."

The three looked up to see Merlin standing at their table. He was dressed casually and has something that reminded Belle of her old satchel over his shoulder.

He continued. "The reasons are long and complicated, but I assure you Rumplestiltskin will not be making his way back to this realm with a layover in Neverland."

"Merlin?," Belle gasped.

"You're alive," said Regina.

"I know it's a letdown, Your Majesty, but the fact you hadn't killed your mother was something of a letdown for me so we are almost even," said Merlin, sitting down next to Neal. "Almost."

"Wait, you were there?," asked Belle. "How are they? What's happening?"

Merlin looked her in the eye. "They need our help."

Chapter Text

 


A Long Time Ago In The Enchanted Forest...

"What are you working on?"

Rumplestiltskin turned to see Belle had entered his workshop. She was holding a book as usual.

"Didn't I give you a library?," he asked.

She put the book down on an empty stool and placed her hands on his shoulders.

"You have been in here for hours," she said.

"I'm working on something."

"And what could be so important that it makes you not notice that the sun set hours ago?"

Rumplestiltskin looked up. She was telling the truth.

"Is it about finding Bae?," she asked, resting her chin on his shoulder.

"Yes."

"Can I help?," she asked.

He wanted to laugh. The idea that Belle could help with a Dark Curse? The idea that there was anything dark about Belle? No. She was light itself. His light and that idea would have been so laughable if it wasn't so true.

"No, sweetheart," he said.

"Is it to get to the Land Without Magic?"

"It is."

"Is it a portal or something?"

"Belle..."

She took her hands off. "You don't think you can trust me."

Rumplestiltskin turned around to face her.

"I don't trust anyone with these plans, Belle. It's to find my boy."

"And I don't get to know anything. I want to help."

"I know you do, but there are things that have to be done, Belle..."

Things that required manipulation? Things that required making deals with dubious characters? Things that involved making Regina completely and dangerously irredeemable.

Things that his darling Belle was in no way equipped to deal with.

Things that he would never ask his darling Belle to do.

Luckily, she provided him with an out. "You need magic."

"That's right," he said. He took her hands in his. "When I am closer to finding Bae, I can tell you more."

She nodded and wrapped her arms around him.

She couldn't know the truth. She would try to stop him.

And gods help him, he might let her.


Now In The Enchanted Forest...

"We start simple," Merlin announced, waving his hand to magically clear the table.

"I start," said Gold.

Merlin looked at Gold. "Do you think that's the best idea? Do you even know where to start? You've only started with spinning straw into gold or pushing an overbearing mother through the looking glass."

Beatrice's eyes widened. "The first one sounds kind of okay, but I definitely don't want to do the second one."

"I can start simple," said Gold. "A spell book."

Merlin shook his head. "You can't start her on a spell book."

"What happens with a spell book?," asked Beatrice.

"It's like learning math with a calculator," said Merlin. "It's pointless."

"A jump start," Gold argued.

"She is far too gifted to be using shortcuts."

"Maybe it's not too late to get me into Hogwarts," said Beatrice.

Merlin shook his head. "If you haven't gotten an owl by now, it's not going to happen."

"What?," asked Beatrice. She turned to Gold. "Dad?"

Gold glared at Merlin.

Merlin sighed. "It was a joke, sweetheart. There's no Hogwarts."

"That was not funny," said Beatrice. "I kept my window open for two months after I turned eleven. I got pneumonia."

"That's surprisingly un-cynical for you," remarked Gold.

"It was a phase," said Beatrice, crossing her arms.

Merlin stood from the table and walked around. Waving his hand, he conjured a glass of water. He handed it to Beatrice.

"Make it ice."

Beatrice looked at Gold and saw his puzzled expression. She looked back at Merlin. "Which one of the X-Men do you think I am?"

"Your great-grandmother could do it easily. It came as naturally as breathing to her."

"And who was that, might I ask," Gold inquired.

"Why Catherine the Ice Princess, of course," said Merlin. He motioned at Beatrice's necklace. "She wears her pendant."

"Mom said it belonged to her mother," said Beatrice.

"Catherine the Ice Princess?," Gold asked in disbelief.

"Oh, wishing we'd bothered to ask Belle about herself, are we, sunshine?," asked Merlin.

"Catherine the Ice Princess?," asked Beatrice. "She didn't like go around slaughtering people with bolts of ice, did she?"

"She froze some people on occasion, but only when they really irritated her," said Merlin.

"Did she happen to mention how she did it?," asked Beatrice.

"The word 'how' isn't going to help you," said Gold.

"Then maybe you want to," said Beatrice.

Gold pulled a chair closer to her at the end of the table. He sat down. "Why did you spin that hat?"

"Because I'm a moron."

Gold shook his head. "No. Why did you really do it?"

"Because they said they would hurt Mom," she answered honestly.

"And how would you feel if something were to happen to your mother?"

"What?" The thought paralyzed Beatrice.

"How would you feel? Because, Beatrice, assuming we get out of here, if Cora follows us, she'll want to use you to avenge herself on me and if that happens you and I both know who is going to die first because she loves you and she will stop at nothing, no matter how powerful the woman is-"

"I think you can stop now, sunshine," Merlin said softly.

Beatrice realized her hand holding the glass was cold. She looked to see a solid cylinder of ice.

She looked back at Gold. "You manipulated me."

"I told you what you needed to know."

Beatrice stood up and marched off.

"Magic is emotion, Beatrice," Merlin called after her. "You need a direct line to the soul. Your mother is your soul."

"Would you people just give me five minutes?!," Beatrice snapped as she stormed out.

"Which is what made that such a very clever choice," Merlin said as he turned to Gold.

"Happy?," asked Gold.

Merlin didn't answer right away.

"See, she's tried very hard to bury her feelings," said Merlin. "No friends, a world she wasn't meant to be a part of and a father she wished for that never came. If she didn't bury them, well..."

"We're done," said Gold.

"We're not even close to done, sunshine."

"Yes, we are. Whatever needs to be done, I'll deal with it."

"I didn't see her touch the doors," said Merlin. "Did you?"

Gold realized he hadn't.

"You flipped the switch, sunshine. You are so very good at that."

Rain started. Gold looked to Merlin.

"Tell me that's a coincidence," said Gold.

"That's a coincidence."

Gold glared. "That's a lie, isn't it?"

He walked back to the table and sat next to Merlin again.

"You mentioned the storm the night you came to my shop."

"Was it a storm?"

Gold tried to remember the event. Everything under the Curse was such a haze. He vaguely recalled seeing the storm clouds, growing and some news reports about it. A storm that ran from Maine, it now occurred to him, perhaps from Storybrooke all the way to Manhattan. There was the usual weather panic: lots of rain and thunder, freakish October snow in some places.

"You called it a tempest," said Gold. "A storm born of magic."

"I did."

"And why did you call it that?," asked Gold. "What was happening?"

"Your daughter was being born, of course."


Then

Belle stood in front of the Dark Castle, ready for the magical carriage to take her to her father.

"You didn't have to put me in a new gown," said Belle.

"Yes, I did," he said, looking over his handiwork. It was a gold gown, actual gold thread that he had spun and woven into fabric. Her necklace was more gold he had spun, many threads he idly made into a braid that he had given her for her birthday. He didn't want Sir Maurice to think he was merely looking at a slave on furlough, that sort of thing was always important to these so-called noblemen and he had spent the night toiling on it. Belle, of course, didn't care, but that was Belle.

"Are you sure you won't come?," asked Belle.

Rumplestiltskin shook his head. He didn't want to send Sir Maurice any quicker to his grave. Well, mostly. "No, but you will call me if I'm needed?"

She nodded. "Of course."

She hesitated. He still couldn't shake the feeling that there was something she was not telling him.

"Was there anything else?," he asked.

She smiled and shook her head. "No." She hugged him. "I love you."

"And I love you," he whispered back.

She stepped back. "I'll be back soon. Well, I hope not too soon, but I'll be back."

Rumplestiltskin helped her into the carriage.

"Call me if I'm needed."

Belle smiled as if she thought he was being silly and the carriage set off on its journey.


Now

Beatrice had found the library.

The library.

The tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme library.

It was spotlessly maintained, she guessed through magic and showed no signs of age. She couldn't ponder thumbing through the titles, though. She was too... well, she couldn't decide if it was sad or mad.

"Beatrice?," Gold asked softly.

He came up the stairs.

"I see you found your mother's favorite room."

She scowled and didn't answer. Gold nodded. This was how she was. He sat down next to her and she turned away.

"What I said was true."

"You said it to manipulate me into doing what you wanted."

"Beatrice, you have powerful magic..."

"So I hear."

"Though it pains me to say it, Merlin's right. It's too powerful to be left alone. Cora saw it immediately and will want to use it. Better me than her, you have to believe me on that."

"Right, this is great for you then."

"How is this great for me?"

"You get the kid you wanted, not me."

"What are you talking about?"

She shrugged. "I have to say it?"

"You think I don't want you?," he asked. "What could have possibly given you that impression?"

"No, I get it," she said dismissively. "Congratulations, you have a kid. Sorry, she's a totally pointless nerd who is just going to annoy you and not be anything..."

"Beatrice, the simple truth is that you don't have to be anything. You don't have to do anything. You're mine. I don't understand you, but that doesn't matter because you are mine." He paused. "When I first saw you at Granny's, do you know what I was thinking?"

She snorted. "How could this freak show be related to Belle, let alone be her daughter?"

"No and you need to stop saying you're not beautiful because you are Belle's daughter and you're every bit as lovely as her, which is not a compliment I give to just anyone," he said seriously. "What I was thinking was 'Please, let her be mine because I don't think I could bear it if she wasn't.'"

Beatrice looked up at Gold. "What?"

Gold curled his lip. "That's the response I get?"

"Why? I mean, you didn't want to deal with some kid who wasn't yours-"

"No." Gold was still incredulous at this point. "Just being Belle's daughter would have been enough for me to care for you, but I wanted you."

Beatrice looked away. Gold knew she wasn't going to say anything, but took it as encouragement when she didn't shirk away from his hand in her hair.

"What if she had shown up with a husband?," asked Beatrice.

Gold responded without thinking. "Well, her last romantic interest ended up as a flower, what do you think?"

Beatrice turned back at him sharply. "You have a jealous streak."

"I like to think of it as protecting what's mine."

"Right. Because that's not scary at all."

He leaned in. "It's meant to be scary."


Then

It had been days.

Then a week.

Rumplestiltskin has not left the Dark Castle. He had not gone on any calls, made any deals. All because he wanted to be certain he was here when Belle returned or when she called for him.

One visitor cared not that he was not doing business.

"Good morning, sunshine."

Merlin was waiting at the table in the great hall with breakfast as usual.

"I thought you might be hungry."

Rumplestiltskin took a piece of fruit off the table. "I'm not doing any deals, dearie."

"Oh, I'm not here to do any deals," said Merlin. "In fact, I might have some good news for you. This is a particularly joyous occasion."

"Joyous?," he sneered.

"You'll see what I mean in a bit," said Merlin. "Now, where is that maid of yours?"

"What do you care for my maid?"

"All will become evident soon. Where is she? Belle is her name, I believe?"

Rumplestiltskin narrowed his gaze. "What do you want with her?"

"Don't get any ideas, sunshine. As I said, there is joyous news. You may not see that at first, but life is what happens when you're making other plans."

"What?"

"It's an adage from the Land Without Magic. Do you like it? Now, where is your maid? She ought to be here for this. In fact, it's fairly important that she be here for this."

"She's gone home."

Merlin froze. He stopped and turned slowly towards Rumplestiltskin.

"She what?"

"I don't need to justify what happens with my servants to you."

Merlin looked at Rumplestiltskin in a manner that indicated he clearly thought he needed to justify himself. "Did you release her?"

"She's visiting," said Rumplestiltskin. "She found out her father was dying."

"And have you heard from her since she left?"

"She has not summoned me."

"She didn't send word to say she had arrived safely?"

"No."

Merlin narrowed his eyes. "And how long do you suppose her father needs to die?"

"I ask again, what do you care?"

"I merely say it seems suspicious, sunshine."

Merlin disappeared before Rumplestiltskin's eyes.

Which made him realize it did sound quite suspicious. It wasn't like Belle to not send word for a week.


Now

Beatrice wasn't used to being ripped from the Netherworld. She had learned to control it, but suspected several days of magic lessons had exhausted her. At any rate. she awoke in bed to see a man in black leather. He was holding her glasses.

With a hook.

"You don't look like a crocodile..." he remarked.

"Oh, you are kidding me," said Beatrice.

"It's a shame you're so lovely."

Beatrice sat up. "Okay, your creep factor is basically off the charts right now."

He frowned. "I don't think I understood any of that sentence. Allow me to introduce myself-"

"Captain Hook."

He looked taken aback. "That was surprisingly prescient."

"Hold that thought. Dad!"

Hook swung his hook forward towards Beatrice and they were both surprised when instead of it going in her flesh, Hook went flying back. Beatrice bolted towards the door and ran in the hall.

"Does anybody ever plan on coming when I shout?!," Beatrice screamed.

She marched downstairs to find Emma and Mary Margaret had returned, looking a bit rough after their journey.

"We'll figure out something else," said Mary Margaret.

"Yes, Your Highness, because there are so many other ways to transport oneself to another realm," said Gold. "I was just bored when I created the Dark Curse."

"Don't yell at her," said Emma. "This is my fault."

Gold turned to Emma. "Yes, dearie, I caught that from when you said 'I burned the wardrobe.'"

"Again, guys," said Beatrice.

"Give her a break, Gold. She's new here."

"I couldn't let Cora get to Henry," said Emma.

"Right, because I'm sure she just gave up."

Merlin cleared his throat.

Beatrice turned behind her. "Where did you come from?"

Merlin held up a vial. "I was just collecting the ashes of an Enchanted Wardrobe."

Emma looked at him in amazement. "Wait, could that work?"

"Cora seemed to think so when I found her," said Merlin.

"What did you do to her?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Took her ashes, used several cunning insults, might have said she had the face of a boiled hen..." Merlin shrugged.

"What do we do now?," asked Emma.

Gold examined the ashes in the vial. "Now we have the problem of navigation," said Gold.

"Oh," said Beatrice, "that reminds me. Captain Hook is in my room?"

Beatrice watched as her father's expression suddenly turned very, very frightening.

"Captain Hook?," asked Emma. "Really?"

"So, like, do you know him or-"

Beatrice didn't really get a chance to finish her question as Gold had already taken the sword Emma had been using off the table and headed upstairs.

"Gold!," Mary Margaret called after him. "What are you doing?"

She then followed him up the stairs. Then Emma.

Beatrice turned to Merlin. "You know, it seems like we spend a lot of time chasing after this guy because he's about to kill someone."

"What do you suggest?"

"Well, I don't know what the guy did."

"Stole his wife."

"What wife?"

Merlin shook his head. "Oh, that is so like him."

"He was married?"

"Gold! You can't do this!," shouted Mary Margaret.

Merlin sighed and looked at Beatrice. "Excuse me one moment."

Merlin disappeared into another plume of smoke.

Beatrice sighed and began up the staircase. "And now I'm a psycho if I don't go try to stop him from killing the Johnny Depp wannabe..."

Beatrice joined them back in the bedroom.

"What did I miss?," Beatrice whispered to Emma.

"Well, your dad ripped out that guy's heart and then Merlin made him put it back..." Emma said sideways to her.

Beatrice nodded. "Sounds about right."

"Now," said Merlin, removing Hook's hook, "what did Cora send you for?"

Hook looked at Beatrice. "Her heart." He looked up at Emma. "I don't believe we've been introduced."

"Are you serious?," asked Beatrice.

"I never jest around beauty," said Hook.

Beatrice looked at Emma. "Don't buy it. He called me lovely like five minutes ago.'

Gold raised his hand. "And now he's dead."

"Gold, stop!," yelled Mary Margaret.

"For once, the fairest of them all is correct," said Merlin. He held up Beatrice's glasses. "How did she enchant these?"

"To see everything she sees," said Hook. "I used them to get past this crocodile's magic."

"Oh, he's the crocodile..." said Beatrice. She shook her head. "I don't get it."

Merlin threw the glasses in the fire. He looked at Gold. "Put the pirate in your bloody dungeon already."

"I'd really rather kill him."

Merlin glared. Gold waved his hand and Hook disappeared into a puff of garnet smoke.

"I thought I'd hang on to the glasses," said Beatrice.

"What do we do?," asked Mary Margaret.

Merlin and Gold exchanged glances.

"We need to move, Your Highness," said Gold.

"What about our navigation problem?," asked Mary Margaret.

"How long will it take you to get to the lake?," asked Merlin.

"We can travel through the night," said Gold.

Merlin nodded. "And we'll use blood to find blood."

"You're going back?," asked Gold.

"I really wish I could follow this conversation," said Emma.

"Tomorrow. Sunset?," asked Merlin.

Gold nodded. He looked at Beatrice. "Get ready. We're leaving as soon as I return."

Mary Margaret and Emma followed Gold.

Beatrice went looking for her shoes. She noticed Merlin had picked up a leather satchel and was putting books in it.

"You need reading material for wherever you're going?," asked Beatrice.

Merlin smiled. "Something like that. You might want to find a cloak. The weather here has been quite erratic."

Beatrice nodded. "Right..." She walked to the wardrobe and opened it, finding an array of gold gowns. "Oh, look, straight from the Disney Princess collection. Yeah, there's a blue one."

Merlin smiled and put more books in the bag.

"Are you taking the whole library?," asked Beatrice.

"Not the whole library," said Merlin.

Beatrice selected what seemed to be a sort of aqua cloak.

"My mom and I met Princess Belle at Disney World, you know."

"Do you now?"

"Yeah, I've got a picture. It was pretty hilarious. Well, now it seems hilarious."

Merlin looked at her curiously.

"She told her that she thought the opening song was a little harsh on the villagers," said Beatrice.

Merlin smiled. "That does sound like her. This would have been your house, you know."

Beatrice looked up at him.

He continued. "You probably would have been born in this room. You might have slept in here when you were a baby."

"You like hypotheticals, don't you?"

"You never would have had a nurse, you see. No one would willingly work for the Dark One and your mother would never tolerate keeping a slave."

"Why do you know so much about my mom?," asked Beatrice.

Merlin shook his head. "Not that much."

Beatrice suddenly had a flash of Merlin. He was holding her hand.

"No, I know you," said Beatrice.

"No, I think you must be mistaken," said Merlin.

"I don't think I am."

Gold returned. He was carrying his own bag.

"Beatrice?," he asked. "Are you alright?"

"I'll see you on the other side, sunshine."

"You had better," Gold warned.

Merlin nodded and then disappeared.

"Sweetheart," said Gold, "you were supposed to get ready."

"Yeah, sorry." She walked back over to her shoes and started putting them on. She stopped and looked up at Gold. "Would I have lived here?"

Gold shook his head. "Of course you would have lived here. Where else would you belong?"

"Well," said Beatrice, starting to tie the laces, "that explains my whole life."

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing," shrugged Beatrice. "Let's go home."


Then

Since his daughter's return, Sir Maurice was not getting much sleep.

Especially with the Dark One standing at the edge of his bed.

"Where is she?"

Sir Maurice sat up. "I don't-"

"You're looking well, aren't you?," Rumplestiltskin interrupted. "I thought you were at death's door. A pity you didn't go through it."

"She's not here."

"I have eyes, don't I? Now, where is she?"

"I don't know."

"I saved you. I saved your whole kingdom. And what do I ask? All I ask is your daughter forever. I've held up my end of the agreement, what about you?"

"You will never have her," Maurice snarled.

"Then the deal's off."

Maurice looked out the window and gasped in horror as fires burned at the far corners of his lands. The footsteps of the ogres could be heard in the distance.

"You know where to find me if you change your mind."

"You beast!"

Rumplestiltskin stopped.

"You claim to love my daughter and this is how you show your love! By hurting the people she sacrificed herself to the likes of you to protect?!"

He turned slowly. "When did I claim to love your daughter exactly?"

The ogres screams stopped. There was a different look in the Dark One's eyes now. A new level of coldness.

Sir Maurice realized he had let his hand show. "I don't know, I-"

"Where is she?"

"No, I-"

"Where is she?"

Maurice fell back on the only explanation he could think of. The only one that would suffice. "She's dead!"

Rumplestiltskin froze in horror. Maurice continued.

"She's dead and it's your fault. The clerics tried to cleanse her soul and they couldn't! You have damned her with your black magic!"

"My fault?!," he asked. "My fault?!"

"If you truly care for her, you won't use your powers against the people she sacrificed herself to protect at such a cost."

"Are you daring to tell me what I won't do?"

Maurice shook her head. "I don't expect it to have any effect, beast."

Rumplestiltskin turned around. "I'm amused at this recent spat of bravery, but your words do move me. Instead of wanton death and destruction throughout your land, I shall use my powers on the people who deserve it." He pointed a finger at Maurice. "You."

The Dark One vanished as quickly as he had arrived.

When Maurice awoke the next morning, his men gave him word of the first peasant uprising.


Merlin finally found Belle. In the interim, Rumplestiltskin had gone mad, terrorizing Sir Maurice and his knights, killing the Gold Fairy and making himself a menace.

It had taken Merlin some time to find Belle in the woods. The Blue Fairy had hidden her well.

It didn't take the fairy long to find him.

"A blood tracking spell," said the Blue Fairy. "Whose blood did you use?"

Merlin turned to face the fairy. "Whose blood do you think I used, you trollop?"

"I always suspected," said Blue.

"And yet you did nothing to help poor Sir Maurice."

"Sir Maurice made his oath to the Round Table."

Merlin smiled. "Oh, the oaf made an oath, did he? That's a bit of word play, by the way. Release her from your curse."

Blue scoffed. "And let that monster inside her live? It would be the end of this realm."

"You will be the end of this realm, one way or the other, release her now."

"No."

"Very well," said Merlin. He shrugged off his coat. "How shall we do this? Swords, pistols or magic?"

Blue suddenly became human-sized appearing with a blade in her hand. "Swords."

"How very cocky for an elderly woman in a tutu," said Merlin, a sword materializing in his right hand. "En garde!"

They fought and the fairy was not much for sword play, but she lunged at him and nicked his arm.

That's when Merlin realized something was wrong.

"You tart," he said falling to his knees.

She panted, out of breath. "I had to."

"You tart." He looked up at her with a sneer. "It was the Sword of Damocles, wasn't it? You had it all this time."

"When will you see that my way is the only way for magic?," Blue asked as if she was tired.

"This is no way, Blue and I will have my vision." He felt himself slipping away. "This only works for so long, you know. I shall return and when I do, things will continue as I have planned."

Blue shook her head. "I don't think so, Merlin."

"I do, you winged trollop."

And that was the last thing he said for thirteen years.

Chapter Text

 


Manhattan, 2000

Belle French walked down the street holding Beatrice's hand. The four year old gazed up at her from behind her glasses. It was a perfect morning.

"I want to go to school with you," said Beatrice.

Belle smiled. "I don't think you're quite ready for college, sweetheart."

"I am too! I can read!"

"Yes, you can," said Belle. She was particularly proud of the fact that Beatrice was such an early reader. Belle was pleased that her love of books had been passed along. "There's still a lot to do before college, though."

"Like what?"

"Well, Kindergarten, to start..."

"Do that! Take me to Kindergarten!"

"Next year, sweetheart. I promise," said Belle.

Beatrice scowled as they entered the school.

"Now, today, I have morning classes just like you," said Belle. "Then when I'm done, I'll get you and we'll go home and eat lunch, then we'll take a nap and go to the park. Okay?"

"Hello, Beatrice," said the teacher. "Hello, Miss French."

"Hi," said Belle. She leaned down. "One last kiss?"

Beatrice grudgingly obliged and Belle left her in the care of the teacher.

Beatrice was usually the first to arrive. The other mommies and daddies and nannies brought the other kids late. Her mommy had to go to her own school. It did mean, though, that she got to pick what toys she wanted to play with first while they arrived. She found one of the more ambitious puzzles and began taking out the pieces.

"Mr. French-"

"Avalon. Mr. Avalon."

"She didn't say anything."

"Well, plans just changed. I'm sure she'll call, but I am on the pick-up list." Merlin knelt down next to Beatrice. "Hey, sweetheart, what are you doing?"

"Puzzle."

"How would you like an adventure?"

Beatrice nodded.

"Well, let's get your bag, then."


Storybrooke, Today

Belle, Neal, Merlin and Regina formed a line back to Gold's shop from Granny's. Belle opened up and they went inside.

"What are we looking for?," asked Belle.

"Rumplestiltskin can create a portal on the other side," said Merlin. "The trouble is we have to make certain that portal leads here."

"And my mother?," asked Regina.

"We have to hope she doesn't come through that portal," said Merlin.

"That doesn't reassure me," said Regina.

"Luckily I have a plan," said Merlin.

"So we're looking for some kind of signal?," asked Belle.

"In a way," said Merlin. "We need a specific kind of bottle with which to make a potion formed of blood."

"Whose blood?," Belle asked with alarm.

"I have someone in mind assuming you want all four of them back."

Regina narrowed her eyes. "If you're talking about a blood spell, you only get one shot. How are you going to use one drop of blood to get all four of them back?"

"Oh, Gods," said Belle, covering her mouth and looking at Neal.

Merlin looked amused at Belle. "Joining me at the end of the thought process, eh, darling? Quite a plot twist, that one."

"What are you talking about?," demanded Regina.

"We'll get to that in due time, Your Majesty," said Merlin. "Now, the bottle."

"Can we know what it looks like?," asked Neal.

"Like a potion making bottle."

"You're going to have to be more specific," said Belle.

"I'll get more specific," said Merlin. He looked at Regina. "Your Majesty, I wonder if you might find the other things we'll need."

Regina nodded and went past the curtain into the backroom.

Neal looked at Merlin. "How did you know?"

"I'm Merlin. What aren't people understanding about that?"

Belle motioned towards another case. "Rumple has some glasses and vases over here."

"Oh, yes," said Merlin. "This is quite a collection here, quite a testament to your father's love for you here, Baelfire."

"I sort of go by Neal now-"

"Yeah, I don't have time for you people and all your second names," said Merlin. "So I can either call you Baelfire or forever refer to you as the Savior's baby daddy. It's your choice."

Neal rolled his eyes as Belle tried to hide one of the first smiles she had all day.

"This is all just a bunch of crap," said Neal.

"Yeah, but it's crap he acquired while trying to find you so have a little respect," said Merlin opening the case. He reached down to find a pearlized one almost like an upturned whelk shell. "This one."

"That's a bottle?," asked Neal.

"It's a mermaid bottle, isn't it?," asked Belle.

Merlin nodded.

"Why a mermaid's bottle?," asked Belle.

"What else would you use in water?," asked Merlin. "Mermaids can travel between realms. This is what they use to call each other home."

"And this will work?," asked Belle.

"Don't worry, Belle," said Merlin. "They were fine when I left them."


The Enchanted Forest, Now

"Are you kidding me?!," Beatrice shouted.

She was aware that she had shouted it for the fiftieth or so time in under five minutes. It had been about that long since Cora's zombie nation had come after them. Mary Margaret had gone all Katniss, Emma had gotten out a sword and tossed Beatrice a spare and her dad had started doing that whole fireball thing again.

Beatrice actually knew how to wield a sword. Fencing and yoga were the only P.E. classes her fancy prep school had offered that she had been interested in. Of course, before she had a helmet, a lot of padding and she and her opponent couldn't go past a line, which the undead did not seem to respect. The results were mixed.

Also, she had just cut one of their hands off, which made her scream.

"Beatrice!" Gold swung around with concern.

"How can he be bleeding?! It doesn't make sense!," she shouted.

Increasingly frustrated, she had put a hand forward and...

"Beatrice..." said Emma.

Beatrice opened her eyes. Several of the zombies were now encased in blocks of ice.

"Um, yeah..." She looked at Gold. "At some point, we're going to want to be specific on how that is happening..."

"I'm just glad it did," said Mary Margaret.

"Never mind that," said Gold, grabbing her hand and starting back down their route.

"So, Beatrice just turns people into ice now?," asked Emma.

"Yeah, apparently," Beatrice answered.


Then

Merlin sat on the bench of the park. Beatrice climbed down the castle and sat next to him as he had his drink.

"Where are we?," asked Beatrice.

"A little town called Storybrooke," said Merlin.

"How did we get here?"

He frowned, playing along. "Well, let's see, Beatrice, we didn't take a car, a train, a plane. One moment we were on the sidewalk in New York, next we were here. You're a smart girl. How do you think that happened?"

Beatrice frowned. "Magic?"

"Very good. Magic."

"Magic's not real."

Merlin groaned. "Oh, you are so young to be a skeptic. Do you have your book?"

"My book?"

"You know the one."

Beatrice opened her backpack and got out her storybook. She handed it to Merlin.

"Well, this is really an incomplete account, isn't it? I must have a talk with that wooden young man. Beauty and the Beast, here we are. Do you like this story?"

She shrugged.

"You should. It's all about your parents."

"Mommy said they weren't the same."

"Well, they are and she's just forgotten. So will you by day's end."

"Why did you take me?"

"Because where you were, it's a very bad day," said Merlin. "I had to make certain you would be okay."

"Why?"

"Because you're important." He looked up to see Mother Superior leading a group of nuns down the street. "Oh, excuse me, Mother Superior?"

The woman stopped and looked at him. She didn't have any idea who he was. "Can I help you?"

Merlin motioned at Beatrice. "Game. Set. Match."

Mother Superior looked at him strangely, whispered quietly to the other nuns and hurried off.

Merlin smirked and turned back to Beatrice. "Now, sweetheart, can you spell Rumplestiltskin?"

"Why?"

Merlin shrugged. "I think you'll probably need it to fill out forms."

Beatrice eyed him skeptically. Merlin sensed he was losing her.

He held out his cup. "Want to try my drink?"

"What is it?"

"It's called espresso. It's magic."

"How?"

"It makes you miss nap time."


Now

Regina was not liking what Neal, Merlin and Belle had to tell her.

"You're Henry's father?," she asked with contempt. She looked at Belle. "How long have you known this?"

"I only found out yesterday," said Belle.

"I suppose you'll want joint custody," said Regina. "Is there anyone else related to my son that I should know about? Second cousins? Great grandparents?"

"If it's any consolation, I didn't know Henry existed until a few days ago," said Neal.

"No," said Regina. "No, I find it difficult to accept consolation from the man who framed his pregnant girlfriend who is the son of the imp that let his son go through a portal to another realm. Not to mention-"

"Regina, we could be here all day if you keep going like this," said Merlin. "You fail to see the silver lining."

"Yes, I'm finding it quite difficult," said Regina. "Enlighten me."

"We now have the one drop of blood we need," said Merlin.

Regina nodded. "Henry."

"I'll call David," said Belle. "He can meet us at the well."


Manhattan, Last October

Beatrice walked out of the school, feeling pretty good about the way everything had played out. Taylor was having a fit, the entire school was talking about it and so far she seemed to have gotten away with it.

"Hello, Beatrice."

Beatrice stopped putting her earbuds in and looked up at the man. Older, wiry with the eyes of a hawk. Normally, she would walk past a stranger without a second glance, but in this case, she just frowned.

"Do I-"

The man waved his hand.

"Merlin," she said, the word sounding completely ridiculous. It always did for a minute.

"Happy Birthday," he said. He motioned towards the sidewalk. "Shall we adjourn to Starbucks?"

Beatrice nodded and walked with Merlin.

"How is your mother?," he asked, once they had settled with their drinks and cake pops.

"Good. She's trying to acquire this new collection, she'll probably be working on it late."

"She means well," said Merlin. "She's just caught up with this world."

"I know," said Beatrice.

"Now this is a very important year, Beatrice. This is the year the Curse is broken."

"Really?," she asked.

Merlin nodded. "As was prophesied by your father. Or choreographed by your father. However you want to look at it."

Beatrice frowned. "Why do you keep doing this?"

"Doing what, sweetheart?"

"You find me, sometimes you take me places and then you take away the memory..."

Merlin shrugged. "Don't you have enough to do without this?"

"If this was a Curse, why didn't you break it?"

"It was the way in which the Curse was written. Now, for your birthday wish..."

Beatrice paused. "Storybrooke."

Merlin shook his head. "No."

"What kind of birthday wish is this?"

"You will be there soon enough and there's a lot that has to happen there today."

Beatrice scowled. "And I'm not important?"

"Very well. Anyone in particular you want to see?"

"I think you know."


Now

The four trudged through the woods to the well.

"David!," called Belle as they approached. "David, are you up here?"

The four were making their way up the path.

"We're here!," Henry cheerfully shouted back.

Belle smiled and finished hurrying up towards the well. Henry and David were waiting...

Along with Mother Superior.

"David, what's she doing here?," asked Belle, her blood running cold.

"She offered to help." David pointed at Merlin. "Who's he?"

"Someone you don't want to anger," said Merlin. He pointed at Mother Superior. "She has to go. Now."

"Mom!," said Henry. He was about to run towards Regina, but David held him back. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to help," Regina said coolly.

Mother Superior stood in front of David, blocking Merlin out. "He is a dangerous wizard."

"She is a devious winged tart," said Merlin, walking up to Mother Superior. "Now, if you don't mind, we are on a bit of a timetable if you would like to see your wife and daughter ever again."

"And prevent my mother from crossing over," said Regina.

"Cora?," asked David.

Belle motioned at Mother Superior. "David, you know who this woman is, what she's done-"

"What is it you're asking?," said David.

"We just need a drop of Henry's blood," said Regina.

"Why?"

Merlin looked up at the horizon. "Yeah, I really don't have time for this. Tell you what, blood now and we all go on a talk show together later."

The prince did not look as if he were buying the argument.


They had finally arrived at the lake.

Which was more of a lake bed.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "Okay, your lake is a bit of a letdown."

Gold smiled. "Oh, you'll like this."

He took his hand into the usual wave and raised it up, a spring of water came from the center of the lake bed.

"Whoa," said Emma.

"If only there was a way to market that," said Beatrice.

"Come on," said Gold. "We'll need to keep watch."

"What are we waiting for?," asked Emma. "Why don't we go now?"

Gold stared at the sun. "Merlin and I made an agreement about when they would light our way back to Storybrooke."

"Are you sure you can trust this guy?," asked Emma.

"Well, seeing as how I don't have a choice..."

Beatrice watched as Gold pulled a sword out of the bag.

"How did that fit in there?!," exclaimed Emma.

"Oh, God, please let me," said Beatrice.

"What?" Emma was confused.

"No. Seriously, I've wanted to say this for years." She turned back to Gold. "It's bigger on the inside?"

"It's magic, Beatrice," said Gold.

She shook her head. "You just couldn't let me have that..."

"Your Highness," said Gold, handing Mary Margaret the sword.

"I already have one," she said.

"Not this one. Merlin gave it to me. It's the Sword of Damocles, puts any magical person in a deep sleep with one touch."

"You want me to use it on Cora?," she asked.

"Well, that was the general idea, dearie. Certainly a better idea than using it on me since you need me to get home."

"What did Merlin mean about using blood?," asked Beatrice.

"You can use family links to guide you between realms," said Gold. "A drop of blood. That's all it takes."

"How very clever, Rumple."

They looked up to see Cora.

"Oh, great," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice, stay back," warned Gold. "It's over, Cora."

"There are four of us and one of you," said Mary Margaret.

"And you're not coming with us," said Gold.

"No," said Cora. "You're staying here."

She launched a fireball at them. Gold launched his own back as she vanished.

"Where is she?," asked Beatrice.

Gold waved his hand and the water in the lake flew up in the air.

"It's sunset," said Mary Margaret.

"Then we have to act now," said Gold. He took the vial from his pocket and poured it in the water. It soon formed another portal.

Beatrice looked down at the swirling vortex.

"And how do we know that goes where we want?"

"Give it a moment."

"Oh, Rumple..."

"Don't try me, dearie."

The three ducked balls of flames as Cora appeared in front of Mary Margaret.

"Stop it, Cora."

"What are you going to do? Scratch me?"

Mary Margaret lunged with the sword. Cora vanished again appearing behind her, as she swung around, Cora blew her back with a wave of magic.

"Mary Margaret!," Emma shouted, running towards her.

Cora reached around and grabbed for Emma's heart. Her hand went into her chest, but didn't seem to go through.

Which was when Beatrice noticed the sword was laying alone on the ground.

"Beatrice," Gold hissed as she scrambled.

Cora was still perplexed at her inability to rip Emma's heart out.

"Hey!," Beatrice shouted.

Cora turned. "Oh, you impudent little girl."

"I am not getting stuck here because- because I don't know why, but I am sure it's lame!"

Cora raised her hand to rip the sword from Beatrice's hand. It flew towards her and reached a stalemate as Beatrice raised her hand to stop it. Cora looked at her in irritation.

"You picked one of the four things I know how to do," said Beatrice.

Gold waved his hand, his magic joining Beatrice's and the sword flew back into Cora.

She turned back. "Did you help?"

Gold shrugged as he walked over and took the sword from the now unconscious Cora. "You'll get it next time," he said, putting it back in the bag. "Ready to leave, Your Highness?"

Emma helped Mary Margaret to her feet.

"What just happened?," asked Emma.

"We can stay and discuss that or..."

"Let's go," said Mary Margaret.

"Almost..." said Gold.

"Are we waiting for her to wake up?," asked Beatrice.


Back at the well, things had not progressed.

"You overzealous, ambitious, opportunistic winged tart!," shouted Merlin. He turned to David. "And you, you dolt fraudster, do you believe everything you're told?"

"David, you can't be serious," said Belle. "It's just one drop. Believe Regina if you don't believe us."

"And why would Regina help you?," Mother Superior added primly.

"Because I am doing this to help my son," said Regina. "David. This is the only way to get your wife and daughter back."

"You're not exactly known for being helpful, Regina," said David.

"Oh, look who just discovered sarcasm," said Merlin.

Regina ignored Merlin's barb and looked back at David. "If I didn't really want to help, I would just let them fail on their own. You're going nowhere, she's the imp's mistress and he's..." Regina motioned at Neal. "...well, I'm not entirely sure about him, but he has yet to impress me."

Henry looked up at David. "We have to try, Grandpa."

David released him.

"You're making a mistake," warned Mother Superior.

"Would you shut up?," hissed Belle.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," said Regina. "This might hurt just a bit."

She pricked Henry's finger with the needle and a single drop of blood fell into the shell bottle as Merlin held it. The blood dissolved in the rest of the potion and became a sparkling green substance.

"Oh, there we go? Hear that?," asked Merlin. Song seemed to echo from the shell.

David frowned. "What is that?"

"That is the call home," said Merlin, walking over towards the well.

He dropped the mermaid bottle as the sky lit with bright green.


Beatrice stood at the edge of the portal with Gold, Emma and Mary Margaret, watching it swirl.

"Like, seriously, is there a time limit? Do we have to go, do we-"

Gold grabbed her hand. "Hey. I've got you."

"She's got a point, Gold!," said Emma.

"What's that sound?," asked Mary Margaret.

Gold frowned. "You can hear that?"

"What's going on?," asked Beatrice. "Is that-"

"Never mind. Just jump," Gold said quickly.

Then they did.


Standing at the bottom of a well, Beatrice decided she was not a fan of portal jumping in any form.

"Dad!," she called.

"I'm fine, sweetheart!," Gold called back, echoing through the well.

"Beatrice, just climb up," instructed Mary Margaret.

Beatrice turned back to the brickwork. "Yeah, because I am really good at climbing..."

She started climbing and eventually she could just about see sunlight.

"Beatrice!," Emma shouted. "Do you want to get moving?!"

"It's only my second portal jump!"

"Beatrice?!," she heard Belle shout.

"Mom!"

"Here, grab my hand!," said another male voice. "Merlin, hold on to me."

Beatrice reached up and someone helped pull her up. As she got out in the light, she was surprised to find it was Neal.

"Neal?," she asked as David went to help Emma and Mary Margaret. She looked to see Merlin, Regina and Henry. The Blue Fairy appeared to be leaving. "Are we having a party out here?"

She didn't get an answer as Belle threw her arms around her and grinned. "Beatrice! My darling girl!"

"Okay, Mom, you might want to go easy on the kisses," said Beatrice. "Seriously, Neal, what are you doing here?"

She didn't get an answer to that, either because as soon as Mary Margaret and Emma were out, Henry ran to hug them. Then Emma looked up at Neal and it was like she was looking at someone who had risen from the dead.

"Neal?!," exclaimed Emma.

Beatrice looked up at Belle. "What's going on?"

"Yeah, we're going to go over all of this later," said Belle.

"Oh, I'm fine," Gold muttered as he climbed up. "Don't worry about me, dearie..."

"I've got you, sunshine," said Merlin, lending the man a hand.

"Why is Emma flipping out?," asked Beatrice.

Again, she didn't get an answer because Belle ran to hug Gold without actually letting go of her daughter.

"Mom, Mom, seriously..."

"My darling Belle..."

"Rumple..."

Gold took her face in his hands and kissed her. Beatrice violently yanked her arm away, she would have been willing to dislocate a shoulder.

"Seriously! I was like six inches from your faces!" Beatrice looked at Merlin. "Come on!"

Merlin shook his head. Beatrice looked back at the Charming camp and saw Emma continuing her freak out. She looked up at Merlin. "Okay, do you have a clue?"

"Several."

"Bae?," Gold said suddenly.

Beatrice looked around. "Okay, who's Bae?"

"Well, he's Baelfire," Henry said, pointing at Neal. "You know, from the book."

"I didn't get that story!," Beatrice hissed.

"Come on, Henry," said Emma, taking the boy by the hand.

"Emma, come on!," shouted Neal.

"Emma!," Mary Margaret called after Emma. She started down the path after her with David following. "Emma!"

"Bae!," called Gold.

Neal turned back and looked plaintively at Belle.

"Two hours," warned Belle.

Neal nodded and hurried back down the path.

Gold looked up at Merlin. "What did you know and when?"

"Do you want to interrogate me or maybe explain yourself to her?," Merlin asked, motioning towards Beatrice.

Belle looked at Gold. "Rumple..."

"I have a son," said Gold.

"Oh," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice-"

"I mean, that just might have been good to mention along with, 'Hey, I'm your dad, Rumplestiltskin, the Dark One, I was married to a chick who ran off with Captain freaking Hook, my ex-girlfriend is a total psycho- no offense, Regina- and like, I can make fireballs and stuff.' You know, just general, first day on the job stuff. Okay, where's the car?"

"You're upset," said Gold.

"No. Upset? Why would I be upset?" Beatrice turned towards the path. "Yeah, let's go home. We can all get cupcakes. Cupcake, Regina? Merlin?"

She marched down the path.

"Oh, great job, sunshine," said Merlin.

"Beatrice!," Belle called, hurrying after her.

"Seriously, Gold, 'You're upset', that's the best you could come up with?," asked Regina.

"I'm not taking criticism from you, dearie," said Gold.

Regina rolled her eyes. "Fine. What do I care?"

They suddenly heard thunder.

"I'm going to the car," announced Regina.

Merlin looked at Gold. "We may want to work on the weather thing. Or at the least keep a lid on it until she's done with puberty."


Then

Beatrice cautiously walked beside Merlin as they went down Storybrooke's main drag. There was something in the air, people just wandering through life.

"What if I just walked through here shouting 'You're all under a curse?'"

"What do you think would happen?"

"We could try it."

"There's the man."

Merlin pointed and Beatrice looked down the street. There was a man in a suit, leaning on a gold-topped cane as he talked with someone.

"Be careful," said Merlin. "He's not very friendly."

She looked back at Merlin. "You mean his cursed self?"

Merlin thought on it. "He's not very friendly."

"I thought I made the terms of your tenancy quite clear," said Gold.

"I know, I know, Mr. Gold, but my car broke down-"

"And that's my problem why, Mr. Boyd?"

"Well, I have to get to work-"

"Again, why is that my problem?"

"I can get the money to you next week-"

"And yet rent day is today." He paused and looked straight at Beatrice. "Is there something I can do for you, dearie?"

She froze under his glare. What did she want? This man was her father, but...

What did that even mean?

"Uh..." was her brilliant response.

Beatrice turned around and hurried off.

Merlin groaned. "Great job, sunshine."

"Do I know you?," asked Gold.

Merlin waved his hand, again wiping another tiresome conversation from his memory. He turned after Beatrice.

"He doesn't know who you are."

Beatrice shook her head. "He doesn't care."

"It's the Curse. He doesn't remember who he is or that he loved a woman called Belle. When that changes-"

"So what?," asked Beatrice.

"Beatrice, you've got to trust me on this-"

"Who in their right mind would want me?!"

Merlin sighed. "Well, you just made up my mind."

"On what?"

"In light of the circumstances, since you would be coming back, I was going to let you keep this one, but..." said Merlin.

He waved his hand.

Beatrice was watching Doctor Who on her iPad, trying to remember when she had put this particular episode on when she heard her mother come in.

"Beatrice, where are you?," Belle called.

"In here, Mom!," she answered. She dabbed at her eyes, wondering if she had allergies. She stopped as Belle came in. "What's up?"

Chapter Text

 


Now

By the time Belle caught up with Beatrice, she had arrived at the bottom of the path and was pulling on the rear door handle of the car.

"I've got the keys," said Belle, fishing through her pockets.

Beatrice grunted and pulled the handle one last time, popping it open.

"How did you-" Belle began.

"Oh, yeah, I do magic now. See how I told you now instead of in a few months?" She sat in the backseat and slammed the door.

Belle stood dumbfounded as a rain cloud suddenly appeared. She got in the driver's seat and turned around to face her daughter.

"Beatrice, hear him out-"

"What's your excuse?," asked Beatrice.

"What?"

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I-I was trying to help him with you."

"Oh, yeah, a lot of help."

Suddenly, the door opened and Regina was helping herself in the backseat.

"Seriously?," asked Beatrice.

"Regina, now is not a good time-" said Belle.

"Excuse me, I just helped you get your little family reunion. I think I'm at least entitled to not having my hundred-dollar blowout ruined by the rain storm that came out of nowhere."

"Don't you have your own car?," asked Beatrice.

"I rode here with Neal. Believe me, this day has not turned out the way I envisioned, either."

"Oh, join the club," muttered Beatrice.

The doors opened. Beatrice turned her expression to a frozen glare out the window as Merlin helped Gold in, then joined them in the backseat.

Belle sighed and drove.


A Long Time Ago In the Enchanted Forest

Reinette thought she would be ill as she looked upon the spectacle in Sir Maurice's Great Hall.

She was uncertain if that was the morning sickness or the way her husband paraded around with his hunting comrades, quite pleased with the manner in which he had managed to impregnate her. She thought it rather curious the manner in which men bragged about such matters, as if they were doing any of the work. Her father would have never dared to say such a thing. He was far too much of a gentleman and besides that, her mother would have beat him senseless.

Or rather her husband thought he had managed to impregnate her.

"Reinette?"

She had been daydreaming again. She turned to the lady to her left at the banquet, Queen Eva.

"I'm so sorry, Your Majesty."

"Not at all," said Eva. She leaned in. "Are you feeling quite alright?"

Reinette smiled. "I am quite fine."

Eva nodded sympathetically. "These men they can grow quite tiresome."

Reinette looked over to the corner where King Leopold was engaged in quiet conversation with some of the other nobles in stark contrast to Maurice's boisterousness. "I don't think you know that as well as you claim."

"Well, let us not speak of them," said Eva. "Tell me of Avonlea. What sort of land is it? I have not seen much of it."

Reinette shrugged. "The people are good. There is not much in the way of society here. Maurice's brother knights..."

"What?"

"There is something strange about them and the clerics in this land have such a hold. Magic is so mistrusted here. I dare not speak of my mother's background..."

"Or your father's," added Eva.

"Or my father's," Reinette confirmed. She shook her head. "Enough of my tale. Tell me of your travels."

"Well, you know we went to King Xavier's funeral."

"Such a strange death. And did you meet your old friend?"

Eva nodded. "Princess Cora. I've tried with her, I truly have and she says she accepts my friendship, but..."

"You don't believe her."

"No. I want to-"

Reinette shook her head. "I wouldn't. It's best to trust your instincts on such occasions."

Eva nodded. "Do you suppose you'll be well enough to come to the Summer Palace?"

Reinette stared off again. "I don't know where I shall be this summer."


Now

Beatrice was in the house quickly when they arrived home. Gold limped out of the car, his need for the cane returning. He retrieved the one from the stand by the door and followed Belle into the kitchen. He was puzzled by the sight of an empty wine bottle and more puzzled that Belle was pulling out another one.

"Do you want to tell me what's been going on?," asked Gold as Belle rummaged for the corkscrew.

"Well, Baelfire is Henry's father, that about covers it," said Belle, successfully pulling the cork out.

"And how did you find him?"

"What does it matter? Go talk to your daughter. Neal or Bae will be along as soon as he gets through his argument with Emma," she said as she poured herself a glass.

"You talk to her," said Gold, sitting on the stool at the counter.

"No."

"No?"

Belle shook her head and took her first sip of wine. "No, see, I'm going to go up there and apologize for my part in this which was not making you tell the truth to her right away-"

"I asked you not to."

Belle continued unabated. "But you, it's your story, Rumple. You have to tell it. I never lied to her until this."

"You never lied to her?," he asked derisively.

Belle's eyes shot up at him. Gold had been aware that a different Belle had emerged from the Curse even without the dubious benefit of Regina supplanted memories. There was an independent woman with a career. He had also caught flashes of something aimed at Moe and Mother Superior: the mother bear.

He really wished it wasn't aimed at him in this instance.

"No. I didn't and now she is broken-hearted."

"And why should she be?"

Then he really wished it wasn't aimed at him.

"For months, you have been asking her to trust you and you haven't told her this, this...!" Belle was so exasperated she couldn't finish. "If you want her to trust you, don't be too cowardly to trust her."

Belle put the glass down on the counter and hurried upstairs.


Beatrice wordlessly went upstairs and into her room.

She couldn't express how happy she was to be back in her own room.

Of course, she wasn't capable of expressing much at the moment. She walked over to her desk and sat. Her messenger bag was slung over the back, her mom must have gotten it from the school.

Oh, school. Now that she was home, she would be back at school. This was getting better and better.

Ignoring that, Beatrice turned on her TV, opened her Macbook and grabbed her iPhone from her pocket to put it on the charger. She reached in the bottom desk drawer where she kept her candy stash and found the espresso truffles she had left there. She had three and decided she needed a shower to wash the odor of Enchanted Forest off her.

She came out of the shower and went to brush her teeth when she caught her reflection in the mirror.

It was weird without her glasses. She had never seen herself without her glasses. They might as well have been attached to her face. She could better see that she looked more like Belle than she thought.

"Beatrice?," Belle called.

Beatrice rolled her eyes. Ah, yes, no doubt Princess Belle would be up here to try to make things right.

"I'm getting dressed!"

"I'll wait."

Beatrice groaned and put on her robe. She went into her room.

"Yes?"

"I was just coming up to apologize, Beatrice. I never should have let this carry on this long, I'm sorry."

Beatrice shrugged. "Fine."

"Not fine," said Belle with a frown of disapproval at her daughter's tone. "Your papa loves you. You need to let him explain himself."

"Well, he hasn't wanted to tell me anything before now, why should we change that?"

"You will understand better if you let him explain it."

"Yeah, well, we'll see about that..." She grabbed her pajamas and went back in the bathroom. "I'm sleeping. Is that okay with everyone?!"


Then

Reinette waited in her room. The candle grew shorter and shorter as the night dwindled.

"Were you waiting long?"

Reinette turned and smiled at Merlin as he sat in a chair. "You got my message."

"Indeed I did." He nodded towards her. "How are you feeling?"

"I can't possibly stay here one more day."

Merlin frowned. "Alright."

"I want to come with you."

"And where is it you think I live precisely?"

"It matters not."

"Doesn't it? Where do you suppose our child should be raised? Where she would be protected?"

"You can protect her."

"I can't protect her forever."

"Lock her in a tower then."

"I can't lock her in a tower. Listen to yourself."

Reinette threw her arms up. "Alright, perhaps that is too extreme..."

"Perhaps?"

"Yet I cannot stand Maurice."

Merlin frowned at her. "You said you understood my plan."

"I do."

"You had your choice of sham marriages and this is the one you chose."

"What are you saying?"

Merlin didn't speak.

"You intend to leave me here, don't you?"

"Do you not understand the plan?"

"Our daughter is to find her True Love."

"She must be here to do it."

"What?"

"I thought I was fairly clear on these points."

"But you know who he is," said Reinette. "Surely they can be introduced some other way."

"Yes, we'll just invite him to a ball or a house party," Merlin said dryly.

"Why not?"

"This isn't your usual fairy tale, Reinette. This is very much a man who does not go to balls or house parties and very much a girl who could never meet her True Love at one."

"Well, who is he?"

Merlin was silent. "I'm not telling you."

"You don't trust me?"

"Not when you act like this. You said you understood, you said you were prepared to pay the price that this sort of magic comes with."

Reinette nodded. "And the price is my suffering?"

"You're not the only one."

"Yes, but I am the only one that seems to care."

Merlin stood and walked over. Reinette shirked away from his embrace.

"Believe me when I say this is the safest place for her," said Merlin.

She didn't answer. Merlin waved his hand and a pendant appeared.

"You can't bribe me," Reinette snapped.

"This is a gift," said Merlin. "It was your mother's. I was going to return it to her, but I've just enchanted it. When you wear it, you will remember me, remember the plan, remember the sacrifice you're making."

She turned. "And when I don't?"

"You won't remember it and you'll be able to get through your days." He paused. "That magic will go away with you for someday it must be Belle's and someday it must be her daughter's."

Reinette took the pendant. "Do not return."

"I beg your pardon?"

She looked up at him squarely. "Never return. You are not welcome here. That is the price you must pay for this magic," she said, her voice dripping with anger.

She turned away.

Merlin nodded. "As you wish, milady."

Reinette turned back around, suddenly concerned she was about to regret what she had just asked.

He was gone.


Now

Angry sleep was something Beatrice could manage, especially after she had spent the better part of the day wandering the woods, fighting zombies and dealing with Regina's crazy mother.

Was she angry or was she sad? And why was it so hard to tell? Normal people didn't have trouble telling. Why couldn't she just be like a normal person?

Oh, right. She was living in a fairy tale freak show. Still, so was Emma and she didn't seem to confuse angry and sad.

Beatrice fell unconscious for a while. She awoke to the sound of the cane tapping.

She looked up. Gold was standing by her bed.

"Are you alright?"

"I just want to sleep."

He sat on the side of her bed. Clearly, he was not going to let her sleep. Beatrice grudgingly sat up.

"I crippled myself," said Gold. "I met a soothsayer and she told me I had a son and that my actions on the battlefield would leave him fatherless so I bashed my own leg in so I would be sent home."

"Okay..." said Beatrice, thinking that sounded kind of gruesome.

"With that act, I cemented my reputation as the village coward and my wife- Bae's mother- grew unhappy. She finally left me for that pirate you met. I had to raise him on my own. He was all I had."

He gave her a sideways glance, confirming he had her attention. He continued on with his tale.

"When Bae was almost fourteen, he was going to be sent to the Ogres' War. I tried to run and couldn't. The only power to save him laid with a magical dagger."

"A magical dagger?," she asked skeptically.

He looked at her. "The dagger of the Dark One."

"You have a dagger?"

"Yes. All magic comes with a price. The power started to control me and Bae could see it so we struck a deal that if he could find a way to strip me of my powers, I would do it and he found the Blue Fairy who gave him a magic bean."

"To come here?"

Gold nodded. "When the moment came to go to this new world, I was a coward. I let go of him and he was gone. The price of my power was my son."

"The Dark Curse was about finding Neal?," asked Beatrice.

"Well, it wasn't quite as simple as that," said Gold.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you deserve to know how I failed him, how I failed you and how I am still a coward because I was too afraid you would reject me if you knew."

Beatrice's lip trembled. Her eyes stung.

"Beatrice?"

Gold looked at her in alarm as she put her face in a teal ruffled pillow and started sobbing.

Sobbing girls were not his specialty. This was one of the ways he had to conclude that raising a son was simpler than raising a daughter. She had such emotions and he had no idea where they came from.

"Be-" He had gotten half of the name out when he realized that he had done this. This was his to fix.

"Beatrice," he said, prying the pillow from her face. "Beatrice, why are you crying?"

She was red and splotchy, heaving with sobs. "I don't know..." she stammered out.

He hadn't been expecting that. She could at least provide him with a reason.

"Okay..." He took her in his arms. "Shh... It's okay. I'm right here. Your papa's right here... and I'm not letting go."

Belle walked in. "Rumple- Beatrice, what's wrong?"

She shook her head. Gold looked hopelessly at Belle.

"Neal's here," Belle said. "I'll tell him you'll be a minute."

Belle left.

"You had to be without me a very long time," said Gold. "I love you. What know you don't believe it yet, but I will spend the rest of my life proving it to you."


Then

Belle wandered the forest. She had been playing with the nurse and trying to get ahead at a game of hide and seek.

She might have hidden too well.

"Are you lost, sweetheart?"

She looked up at the man who seemed to be miles above her.

"I was playing and I ended up here."

Merlin knelt down. "Well, that's no way to behave, is it? A young lady can't wander the forest on her own. Anything could happen. You might run into a fairy."

"But the fairy could help me home," she objected.

"Belle, if you listen to me on one thing, let it be this: do not trust fairies."

"Why not?"

"Would you trust any other woman who wore a tutu and threw dust at you?"

Belle considered it. "No."

"Well, there you go." He took her hand and stood. "Come along. I'll walk you home."

They began walking.

"How do you know my name, sir?"

"Everyone knows you. You're Belle of Avonlea. A great beauty."

She sneered. "Who says I'm a great beauty?"

"Just wait for it."

"I don't know you. Are you from Avonlea?"

Merlin scoffed. "I should think not."

"Are you visiting? Have you come to see my papa?"

"Again, I should think not."

The forest thinned and they were at the back entrance of Sir Maurice's castle.

"You should go back," said Merlin. "Before they send out a search party and some knight rescues you. Then you'll have to marry him."

"Eww," said Belle.

"Exactly. Avoid the knights, Belle. Knights are boring. The monsters are far more interesting."

She looked up at him curiously.

"Run along," he said, waving his hand as he released hers.

"Belle!," Reinette called. "Belle!"

Reinette stood in the garden as Belle came running back to her. Merlin watched as Reinette scolded Belle, then hugged the girl and led her inside.


Now

Beatrice awoke. Belle had fallen asleep next to her after explicitly promising not to sleep in her bed. She should have known that was a lie. She heard a car pulling away and suspected that Neal had just now left. Belle had decided to let the reunion happen downstairs on its own.

She went downstairs finding Gold seemingly paralyzed by the front door.

"What happened?," asked Beatrice.

Gold turned. "Hey. You should be asleep."

She shrugged. "So?"

"Bae is going to stay in Storybrooke for the time being, to get to know Henry. And you." Gold shrugged. "If he gets to know me again, that will be purely coincidental."

Beatrice snorted. "Like Mom's going to let him get away with that."

"Yes, your mother does have that effect on people," Gold said with a smile. "Do you want something to eat? A drink?"

"You know, you don't have to do that," said Beatrice.

"Do what?"

"Ask if I need things. I'm fifteen. I can make my own snacks. Not well, but the point stands."

"No, see, I really do because I'm here to take care of you and I need to know what you need, what you want."

Beatrice crossed her arms. "Pancakes."

"Pancakes?," asked Gold.

"I could go for some pancakes."

It was an odd request, but it did seem to be the first thing that she had willingly asked him for without looking as if she were being held at gunpoint.

So he was going to fulfill it.

He smiled. "Alright. Pancakes."

He started walking towards the kitchen. Beatrice followed.

"I don't know if you're a coward," said Beatrice, sitting on the stool on the counter.

Gold smiled ruefully as he gathered the pancake ingredients. "Trust me. I am."

"Well, maybe on the emotional stuff, but I don't know about the Ogres."

"I ran from the battle. I believe you'll find that's the definition of cowardice," he said starting the batter.

"Yeah, but basically we're talking about ogres, right?"

"Yes," he said, wondering what her point was.

"Well, you were in a war and then like fourteen years later the same stupid Ogre War is going on? What kind of crap is that? Not to mention that whole beauty and the beast thing gets rolling because of the Ogres and how long was that?"

"A few hundred years."

"See, a few hundred-" Beatrice paused. "Wait. How old are you?"

"Well, that's a rude question," he said putting a pan on the stove.

"Right..." Beatrice shook her head. She had thought he was older than her mom before... "Anyway, doesn't it seem stupid to go die fighting something that everybody's been fighting for a really long time and making no progress at?"

"Stupidity wasn't at the forefront of my thoughts when I ran, but I see your point," he said as he started the burner. "It was its own madness."

"You saved Neal. Bae. Whatever we're calling him."

Beatrice stared off as Gold finished with the pancakes. He placed a stack in front of her.

"I'll get the syrup," he said.

"No syrup. I hate syrup."

Gold got the butter dish out of the fridge and handed it over.

"So, what do you suppose is with the empty wine bottles?," asked Beatrice.

"Well, I'm not asking," said Gold.

"Neither am I," said Beatrice.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Belle was four today.

She awoke early, as she was four and wanted to get the most out of her day. Her nurse had not even come yet to wake her and Belle quickly saw that her efforts were not in vain.

On her night table where boring things were usually kept like a glass of water and the prayer book her nurse insisted upon, she found a package wrapped in gold paper.

Belle smiled as she pulled it into her bed. Tearing at the paper, she found a book.

She did love books.


Now

Gold thought that he might have finally found the thing that might kill the Dark One besides the dagger.

Teaching Beatrice to drive.

Actually, knowing it couldn't kill him was part of the misery of the endeavour. The other part was that Neal was tagging along. Gold was pleased to have his son around, even if it was just to have him cackle in the back, but he made no secret of his enjoyment.

"Beatrice!," Gold shouted.

"What?"

"Stop sign!"

"I was stopping!," she protested.

The Cadillac lurched as Beatrice slammed on the brakes. Neal snickered in the back.

"Right..." said Gold. "What you want to do is gently press down on the brake, not smash it at the last possible second."

"Fine."

She started driving again and then slammed again in a near collision with a truck.

Gold sighed. "It was a four way stop."

"Watch where you're going!," the man driving the vehicle shouted.

Gold also discovered the one area where Beatrice's temper was bound to show itself.

"Watch where I'm going?! Watch where you're going! It was my turn!"

"Yeah, why don't you come over here and say that?!"

"No, you come over here, pal!"

"Seriously, you're worse than a cab driver..." said Neal.

"And now he's getting out..." said Gold.

The man got out, slammed his door in a rage and walked over to the driver's side of the Cadillac, where he quickly realized who the occupants were.

"Uh, hi, Mr. Gold..."

"Hi," said Gold. "I'm just teaching my daughter how to drive."

"Right, yeah," the man said awkwardly. "Keep up the good work."

He hurried back to his truck and peeled out.

"So," said Gold, "let's go again and make sure it's clear."

She started again.

"Did you even look?," asked Gold.

"I'm in the intersection, how is it not my turn?"

"It's not about it being your turn, it's about whether another car is going to crash into you."

"I read the handbook, I'm pretty sure it's about if it's my turn," said Beatrice.

"Also, I don't know that starting fights with the other motorists is the best strategy," said Gold, earning another cackle from the backseat.

"I don't know, Pop, I think she might be able to handle herself," said Neal.

That's when they saw the lights on the sheriff's patrol car flash.

"Pull over," Gold said with a sigh.

Beatrice jerked the car to the side.

"It's not necessary to pull the car over all at once," said Gold. "Put it in park."

They waited. It was Emma.

"Hey, Emma," said Neal.

"Oh, hey." She tried to ignore him and leaned in on the window. "Beatrice, seriously, I've gotten ten calls about your driving."

"Is there nothing else happening in this town?," asked Beatrice.

"Mrs. Schuman says you almost hit one of her kids."

"There's like a hundred of them or something!," said Beatrice. "How am I supposed to know when they're still coming?! I was there like ten minutes, it's like waiting for a marathon to go by."

Emma looked at Gold.

"You must concede it's a fair point," said Gold.

Emma looked at Neal.

"There were a lot of them," said Neal.

"You can't run over kids!," said Emma.

"I didn't! Almost was the operative word! Also, not my fault," said Beatrice.

"Right, well, could you be more careful?," asked Emma. She looked askance at the Cadillac. "Maybe it's the car."

"What's wrong with the car?," asked Gold.

"It's a land yacht, Gold," said Emma. "How is she supposed to learn to drive in this monster?"

"Precisely. I want as much metal as possible between her and whatever she inevitably crashes into."

"Hey!," said Beatrice.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but it is going to happen," said Gold.

"It's not going to be my fault," said Beatrice.

"Of course not, sweetheart," said Gold.


They walked into the library. Belle looked up and smiled as she sat at the circulation desk.

"How was it?," she asked.

"Good," said Beatrice.

Belle looked up to Neal and Gold.

"She's progressing," said Gold.

"It's fun to watch," said Neal.

Beatrice shot him a glare.

"Is Tamara still coming?," asked Belle.

"Yeah. Are we still on for dinner?"

"Yes," said Belle.

"I've got to get going. I promised Henry I'd meet him."

They said their goodbyes and Neal left.

"Who is Tamara?," asked Gold.

Belle scowled. "His fiancee. He's told you. I told you."

"So, we're still pretending he doesn't have feelings for Miss Swan?"

Beatrice nodded. "Pretty much." She looked at Belle. "So, are we acting normal for this dinner? Because I don't think we can pull that off."

"I don't know," said Belle. "He hasn't said when he's going to explain everything to her. Beatrice, would you help me with the display in the children's section?"

"I'm not reading," she warned.

"I didn't say anything about reading."

Beatrice walked off to the children's area.

"What about reading?," asked Gold.

"Oh, in New York, she used to volunteer to read for the children's story hour sometimes. She was good at it. She won't do it here. I'm working on it," Belle said with a wink.

"And how is the library coming? Do you need anything else before the opening?"

"No," said Belle with a smile, "my benefactor has been very generous."

"Have you had time to give any more thought to what I told you?"

Belle looked down. "It's ridiculous."

"Belle..."

"I don't know what you want me to say, Rumple. My father is my father."

"It might explain some things," said Gold. "Such as his callous disregard for your health and safety in some circumstances. His total lack of concern for his only grandchild. Also, Merlin seemed fairly certain and..."

"What? He's never been wrong?"

It pained Gold to make his next admission. "Being wrong isn't really what he does."

"Then why don't you ask him?"

"I will, if you wish it, but this is your life. Your father."

"Then let's just leave it."

Gold sighed. "I think perhaps for Beatrice's sake we need to know. Understanding where her magic comes from may well be instructive in helping her control it."

"I never had magic. My mother never did magic."

"Yet her mother was Catherine the Ice Princess and now we find our daughter can turn people into popsicles."

Belle nodded. "You're right. I'll ask Merlin what he knows of it when I see him later."

Gold furrowed his brow. "You're seeing him?"

"He's coming by to help with the library tomorrow," said Belle. "I don't have a lot of volunteers. I didn't see the harm."

"That's the problem with him," Gold muttered.


Then

Belle stirred awake in her room at the Dark Castle, finding she was alone.

"Rumple?," she asked into the air.

She was answered by the doors to the room opening and Rumplestiltskin entered carrying a tray.

"Happy birthday," he said, placing the tray on the bed next to her.

"You cooked for me?," she asked.

"Yes, it does seem to work better this way around," said Rumplestiltskin. "Though I suppose that's to be expected when you take a noblewoman for a maid."

She shot him a playful scowl and then broke into a smile. "Well, thank you. Breakfast in bed, what a treat, though I thought you would have had some other bed antics in mind for my birthday."

"You wanton girl," he said, sitting down on the edge.

"Wanton woman," she corrected as she took her tea. "I believe that's more correct."

"What will the people of Avonlea say when they discover how you've been corrupted?"

"Well, no man will have me," said Belle.

"How fortunate for me," said Rumplestiltskin. He held his hand out revealing a package wrapped in blue paper.

"What's this?"

"It was a gift for an innocent maiden, but seeing as she's not here..."

Belle took it. "You didn't have to get me anything."

"Go on."

Belle smiled as she unwrapped it. She opened the box to reveal a gold necklace which was several of the strands of gold Rumplestiltskin had spun braided together.

"It's beautiful," she gasped. "Oh, Rumple, it's too much."

"You do remember I make gold?"

"I've never had anything this valuable," she said.

Rumplestiltskin took the necklace from her and moved to be behind her. She held up her hair as he put it around her neck.

"You could have me spinning gold for you night and day and yet you never would," said Rumplestiltskin. "Which is why you deserve this and more."

Belle smiled. "Thank you. How do I look in it?"

"Beautiful," he said, kissing her shoulder. "Just beautiful. That's just the beginning, though."

"The beginning of what?," she asked.

"The rest of your gift,' he said. "Which means unfortunately, I'll be out the rest of this morning."

"The rest of my gift? Rumple, I don't need anything else."

He got off the bed. "You deserve it, though."

"Nothing extravagant," Belle warned futilely. "What shall I make for dinner?"

"Belle, you can't make your own birthday dinner. I'll arrange for something." He kissed her hand. "I shall return."

Rumplestiltskin left.

"I don't want anyone's firstborn!," Belle shouted after him.

"I'll take that under advisement!," he called back.

Belle passed the rest of the morning agreeably, taking her time with breakfast, dressing and wandering over to the library.

When she arrived, she spotted something on the table. It wasn't entirely unexpected, not after this many years. A package wrapped in gold paper with her name written on the top. She opened it to reveal a book.

"Much Ado About Nothing," she read off the cover. By someone called William Shakespeare. She had strangely never heard of him and she had read everything she thought. Belle sat in her usual chair, warmed by the light of the window and sat.

It was a play, the first couple of pages were some nobleman and a messenger talking about a war. It didn't really pick up until the nobleman's niece began to speak.

I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he killed, for, indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off and now is the whole man governed with one!

Is it possible Disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

The name of the nobleman's niece was Beatrice.


Now

Merlin entered the library carrying two cups.

"If that's for Beatrice, I sent her home. She's still catching up on her schoolwork," said Belle.

"No, it's for you," he said putting the cup down and pulling a straw from his jacket pocket. "Iced tea."

"Thanks," said Belle. "Beatrice said you prefer espresso like her."

"It's an addiction," said Merlin. "One I am unwilling to part with."

Belle nodded. "I don't know where Beatrice got hers. One time when she was four, she wandered off in Barnes & Noble and I found her at the café with an iced mocha. There was no going back."

"So," said Merlin, "what do you need help with?"

"I'm just finishing shelving the history section," said Belle.

"Almost to the end then," said Merlin.

"Not a moment too soon," said Belle. "The opening's this weekend."

"Well," said Merlin, "I'll get to work then." He began heading towards the staircase.

"Rumple was concerned..."

Merlin stopped and turned. "Yes?"

"He seems to think that there's some great mystery that we're not getting about Beatrice." Belle shrugged.

"And you?"

"She's my baby," said Belle.

"Well," Merlin began, "Rumplestiltskin knows this, I doubt he's said it to you. I've been following him with great interest since he was a very small lad."

Belle giggled involuntarily.

"What?," Merlin asked.

"It's just hard to picture Rumple as a boy."

"Well, I assure you he was. We must all begin somewhere."

"What was he like?"

Merlin considered. "Good and sweet and broken-hearted."

"Broken-hearted?," asked Belle.

"Very. He was without his parents early on. Even when his father was there, he would have been better off without him. He was raised by two spinsters, the first kindness he ever knew. He was clever, but see, he was the son of a coward so it never mattered."

"It sounds like a sad life," said Belle.

"It was," said Merlin. He took a sip of his espresso. "See, what he doesn't know is that I've followed your family for the same time."

"My family?"

"Yes, your grandparents, their parents and their parents and theirs and theirs. I can name them all, what they liked to eat for breakfast, what made them sad. All True Love."

Belle frowned. "All True Love?"

"Yes."

"You told Rumple that Beatrice comes from an unbroken line of True Love on my side," Belle began. "That's not right, though. My parents never loved each other."

"And how do you know that?"

"My mother told me."

"Your mother told you what you needed to know to keep you safe."

"So, she did love Maurice?"

"No," said Merlin.

"Oh, so..."

"Let's say the man who fathered you had many enemies, enemies who were waiting for the child of his True Love, enemies who wanted to put a stop to it."

"Like Beatrice?"

"Precisely. In fact, the same group."

"But my father is with them."

"Because to keep you safe your father cast a spell on Sir Maurice to make him forget all about the Knights of the Round Table and the oath he had taken. None of the other knights would dare storm Maurice's castle to harm you and even if they had... let's say it would have been unpleasant for them."

"My father has magic?"

Merlin paused. "He gets by."

"Then why did he abandon me? And my mother? She was so unhappy with my father."

"Well, he wasn't exactly enjoying himself, either."

"Why did he do it?"

"Your father didn't abandon you. He always looked after you."

Belle shook her head. "I went with the Dark One-"

"You chose that, remember? Besides, there was no place safer."

"Except for the Blue Fairy and Regina-"

"He couldn't help that. He was incapacitated at the time."

The door opened. Emma entered with Henry.

"Hi," said Emma. She looked awkwardly at Belle and Merlin. "Neal was going to pick him up for dinner, but I guess Tamara had car trouble? I have a call to go out on."

"Nothing serious?," asked Belle.

"Somebody stole the goose that laid the golden egg," said Emma. She shrugged. "I don't know."

"Is it okay if I hang out here and go home with you, Belle?," asked Henry.

"Of course it is," said Belle. "Merlin and I are just shelving some books. We'll be done soon. Shall I drive him back?"

"Anyone except Beatrice," said Emma. "See you later, kid. Thanks, Belle."

"I will go finish that shelving," said Merlin. He headed up the stairs.

"Is it okay if I go to the children's section?," asked Henry.

"Do you have your book with you?," asked Belle.

"Do you want to see it?," he asked.

"Please," said Belle. She came around the counter and joined Henry at one of the tables as he opened his backpack and pulled out the book.

"I don't have that many stories about you," said Henry. "Which isn't fair because you're pretty cool."

Belle smiled. "Thanks, but I was wondering if you had any stories about Merlin?"

"Yeah," Henry said cheerfully flipping the pages. "The Knights of the Round Table. Camelot. Oh, there's this one where he falls in love with an evil fairy but she just wants to take his powers."

"What?," asked Belle.

"Yeah, it's way before any of the stuff with the knights, though. They disagree about how to use magic."

Belle smiled in relief. "That couldn't be her then."

"There is the one with his daughter."

Belle's stomach flipped. "His what?"

"Yeah, right here," said Henry, flipping the pages. "He has a daughter, but he couldn't see her to keep her safe from the evil fairy, but he always watches her and every year on her birthday, he leaves her a gift."

"A gift?," asked Belle.

"A book. He always leaves her a book."


Then

Belle French awoke in her apartment to the sound of Beatrice crying softly in her crib.

"Beatrice," said Belle. The apartment was just a studio so she was at the crib in two steps. She picked up the infant and rocked her against her chest. "It's okay. You're okay. Did you have a bad dream?"

Beatrice's sobbing settled. Belle smiled.

"What about your new glasses?," Belle asked. She picked them up off her own night table. The baby had just gotten them a few days before. She hadn't liked them at first, but the doctor assured her it wouldn't take too long for Beatrice to realize she could see in them and act accordingly. Belle worked the strap around the girl's head and gave her a kiss. "There. That's so much better, isn't it?"

Beatrice cooed back something. Belle knew all parents thought their children were special, but she thought for certain Beatrice's cooing sounded different from other babies. It sounded almost... skeptical.

"Anyway," said Belle, "let's feed you."

Belle nursed the baby and then tried to feed her some strained peaches. After mixed results, Belle set some Cheerios in the tray on the high chair and sat across from her.

"It's my birthday," said Belle.

Beatrice stared at her.

"It's not like you had to get me anything," Belle teased. She got up and opened the curtains on the kitchen window. The baby whined. "It's spring, Beatrice, you'll have to let some light in."

She walked back around. "Anyway," said Belle, picking up some clutter in the small kitchen, "I was thinking we should do something special for it. A little cake? I could have a slice and you could make a mess of it. We could go to the zoo and the library."

That elicited another small shout.

"Well, it's my birthday," said Belle.

There was a knock at the door. Belle walked over to the door and opened it.

There was no one there.

She looked down to see a package in gold paper. Belle looked down either side of the hallway, then knelt down to pick it up. She took it and retreated back inside the apartment.

She sat at the kitchen table and sat to unwrap it as Beatrice watched.

It was a book.

Last year, she had still been in the hospital in Boston on her birthday when two books appeared: Much Ado About Nothing and Pride and Prejudice. She had taken Beatrice's first name from the former and her middle name Elizabeth from the latter.

This one was called "The Mayor of Casterbridge."

The story was about a man, a drunkard who sold his wife and daughter in an auction to a sailor. Belle didn't usually care for anything this depressing, but the language of the book was so beautiful she was forced to devour it, ever waiting for the happy ending. She read it throughout the day, at the park, while Beatrice napped in the stroller at the zoo and that night after she put the baby to sleep.

The man spent the rest of his life trying to make amends, trying to make it up to his daughter. In the end, he lost everything and died alone, asking that the daughter not even be told of his death, that no mourning be done, no bells tolled, no flowers laid and that no one remember him.

Belle thought it was the saddest thing she had ever read. If it was really a birthday present as she liked to imagine it was, she wondered why and of course, who had given it.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Bernard was the eldest son of the Duke of Padua. After a long and happy life, the Duke was in ailing health and so it fell to Bernard to begin taking on some of the responsibilities for the duchy, not the least of which was the meeting he was about to take this morning.

"Try not to ramble on as you do," his father warned. "She doesn't like rambling."

"Yes, Father."

"Don't try to haggle with her. She abhors haggling."

"Then why do we even bother?," asked Bernard. "Why don't we just send a messenger with the gold?"

"You don't treat a weather witch like that!," the Duke hollered. "She must be treated with the respect due her station."

"Very well," Bernard sighed.

"Now, you must be off. Don't be late! She abhors lateness!"

Bernard rode his horse through Padua and followed the map to the witch's home. It was at the corner of four kingdoms that depended on her patronage and more modest than he would have guessed. Her father said he had been dealing with the same witch for his whole life and she had never aged a day.

He tied his horse to a tree and went to the door. He went to knock and it opened of its own accord.

"Okay..." He gingerly stepped inside. "Hello?"

"In here!," a female voice called.

Bernard tried to follow the sound of the voice and stepped into a parlor where a plate promptly went flying at his head. He ducked to avoid it, landing in a heap on the floor.

"Are you alright, sir?," a small voice asked.

Bernard looked up. A small boy and girl stood over him. Behind them was a woman in elegant dress, with extremely curly chestnut hair and not too bad looking if he was perfectly honest. Not bad looking at all.

"I'm fine, thank you," he said getting up.

"I am so sorry, your lordship," said the woman. "This is my niece and nephew- Cyril, Abigail, how do you greet the heir to the Duke of Padua?"

Cyril bowed and Abigail curtsied.

"Very good," said the woman. "Only on social occasions, though. Never show nobility too much respect in private. It ruins the whole balance of things."

"Sorry?," asked Bernard.

"I am prattling on, aren't I? I was just giving them their magic lesson for the afternoon and it seems I should have chosen something less breakable."

Bernard shrugged. "These things happen, I suppose."

"Do they?"

"I suppose."

"Children, you may play outside while I discuss business with his lordship."

The children scampered off.

"Business?

"You came to speak to me, did you not?"

"You're the weather witch?"

"I prefer weather sorceress. Amelia is my name. Shall we sit?"

She motioned at a table and the chairs came out. Amelia took one and Bernard cautiously followed suit.

"How has the gardening been in Padua this year?," asked Amelia. She motioned and a book floated off the shelf and opened before her. She picked up a quill. "Your father worried about the roses last year."

"The gardening is good, I suppose..."

"The crops? You've been growing wheat?"

"Yes."

Amelia put her quill down. "You're new so let me walk you through it. We arrange a series of days: wet days, warm days, cold days-"

"Snow days?"

"I don't do snow. You want the Ice Princess."

"Oh, right," said Bernard.

"We arrange days for optimal growth of your crops and we arrange for a few wildcard days."

"Wildcard days?"

"A small flood here and there keeps the fairies none the wiser. No one is hurt, though, usually I just wash away someone's cart or boat and you give them a small amount of gold to buy a new one."

"Why are the fairies kept in the dark?"

"Treacherous creatures," said Amelia. "Don't you know that? Merlin said he knew you."

"You know Merlin?," asked Bernard. "Did you meet at some sort of guild meeting?"

Amelia ignored him. "Anyway, the Blue Fairy is in pursuit of a magical girl."

"A magical girl?"

"Yes. She thinks it has something to do with my line so the less I see her the better."

"Does it have something to do with your line?"

"I wouldn't know. It's in the future."

"Can't you see the future?"

"No, I can refer you to the Good Seer Octavia. There used to be another one, she had eyes in her hands."

"Eyes in her hands?"

"Yes, things did not end well for her."

"No?"

"Never mind that. Shall we discuss what wet days you would like?"


Now

Henry chatted excitedly the whole way home while Belle's mind raced. She entered the house in a haze.

"We're here," Henry excitedly announced.

"In here!," Beatrice called back.

Belle followed Henry in the kitchen to find Gold cooking while Beatrice sat at the counter.

"What are you doing?," asked Belle.

"Cooking for the dinner you insisted we have," Gold said pointedly.

"That's tonight?," asked Belle.

"Uh, yeah..." said Beatrice.

"That's why I came over here with you?," Henry added.

"Right," said Belle.

Gold frowned. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Belle smiled. "Can I help?"

"Beatrice has set the table. The lamb is in the oven. I'm just working on dessert."

"Right," said Belle.

"And you're sure you're alright?," asked Gold.

"Fine," said Belle.

"Beatrice, why don't you take Henry in the other room?," said Gold.

"Every time I get sent in a different room I end up with a new magical power," Beatrice complained.

"Now, please."

Beatrice and Henry left. Gold turned to Belle.

"What is it?"

"Does Merlin have family?"

"What?"

"Henry had this story and-"

They heard a car and Belle stopped. Henry ran in.

"He's here!"

Beatrice followed. "Yea, I bet this dinner won't be awkward at all," she said. She glanced up at her parents' furtive looks. "As usual, we're off to a great start."

The door opened and Neal rushed in.

"Where's Tamara?," asked Belle.

"Yeah, I had to beat her in," said Neal. "She had car trouble and I haven't had time to explain the fairy tale thing."

"Oh, come on," said Beatrice.

"What?," asked Belle.

"You don't have to do anything," said Neal. "You just have to not mention fairy tale stuff."

"Right, yeah, let's practice that. Hi, Tamara, these are my parents Belle and Rumplestiltskin," said Beatrice.

"Okay, you shouldn't introduce people," said Neal.

"It's not my fault this is going to be a disaster," said Beatrice.

"Come on, Beatrice," Neal moaned.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "Back me up here."

"Hello?"

"That's her," said Neal. He walked into the other room.

"For what it's worth, Beatrice, I think you're correct," said Gold.

"Well, we'll just have to keep it together for one evening," said Belle.

Beatrice eyed her. "Are you okay?"

Belle sighed. "Can I have a hug?"

Beatrice rolled her eyes and put her arms around her mother.

"Thank you," said Belle, releasing her.

Neal led a woman in. "Okay, this is my family. My son, Henry and my little sister, Beatrice. My dad and uh, Belle."

Tamara smiled and started shaking hands. "Mr. Cassidy."

"Mr. Gold," he said without thinking.

"Oh." Tamara shot a quizzical look at Neal.

"Call him Rum," said Belle. She motioned at the next room. "Come on in."


Then

Bernard tried to listen. He really did, but it was tedious remembering what days Padua needed good weather for the spring fete, the Summer Equinox Lady, the harvest festival and the Winter Equinox Lady.

Then came the price tag.

"How many pieces of gold?"

"It's a standard agreement."

"Yes, but that much?"

"Yes, I suppose it is a great deal unless your people need to eat."

He sighed. "Isn't there some way to knock it down a bit?"

Amelia smiled in amusement. "Well, I've never known a noble who cared to haggle."

"Does it have to be gold?"

She stiffened. "If the form of payment is the problem, why don't you go talk to the Dark One?"

"Does he do weather?"

"Yes, I believe I does. You weren't planning on keeping your first born child, were you?"

"Right... what if I were to pay you by season?"

"By the season?"

"Payment system, you know? We start with summer and see how that goes, then come back."

"You only want to pay me for the summer?," asked Amelia.

"Is that a problem?"

"No, of course not," Amelia said through pursed lips. "If that's how you want to do business, who am I to stop you?"


Now

Dinner was going as well as could be expected when four-fifths of the room had to censor their conversation. Gold had moved to silence. Belle was distracted and Beatrice, well, she really didn't care to chat up her brother's fiancee.

It mostly was on Henry.

"So, how did you two meet?," Henry asked brightly looking at Neal and Tamara.

There was a knock at the door.

"Expecting someone?," asked Tamara.

"We never expect anyone," said Beatrice.

"What?"

Tamara looked at her curiously.

"I'll get it," said Beatrice.

She got up, went to the front door and opened the door, where she found a princess in a ball gown.

"Beatrice!"

"Aurora?"

"I found you."

"Um... come in..." said Beatrice.

Aurora came in and looked around. "Is this your castle? It's cozy."

"So, have you been in Storybrooke?"

"No, I just got here."

"You just got here?"

"Yes, I stowed away on a pirate's ship."

"On a what?"

"Yes, it was him and some man missing a foot. They're here to kill the Dark One."

"Hold on," said Beatrice.

She walked into the dining room.

"Everything alright, sweetheart?," asked Gold.

Beatrice leaned down by Gold. "Do you happen to remember my friend, Aurora?"

"I can't say that I do."

"You know, Aurora," she said. She began to hum "Once Upon A Dream."

"I don't know what that is," said Gold.

"That's the theme from Sleeping Beauty," said Tamara. "Right?"

Gold sighed. "Excuse me."

Gold got up and followed Beatrice back into the entry hall.

"So, Aurora, this is my dad," said Beatrice.

"You found him," Aurora said in astonishment.

"Could you go back to the part about the pirate and the one-footed guy?"

"Hook?," asked Gold. "Hook and Gaston?"

"Yes, they're on some quest to kill the Dark One," said Aurora. "Gaston made it sound as if he's cast a spell on some poor girl."

"Yeah, that's my mom," said Beatrice.

"Oh," said Aurora. She looked at Gold. "And that makes you?"

"Who do you suppose?"

"Well," said Aurora, trying to regain her royal composure, "it's a pleasure to meet you."

Neal came out. He spotted Aurora. "I say no fairy tales and this is what happens?"

"She just sort of got to town," said Beatrice.

"Yes, how exactly did this turn of events come to pass?," asked Gold. "Did Hook kidnap you?," asked Gold.

"Hook?," asked Neal.

"I called this," said Beatrice.

"I stowed away on his ship," said Aurora.

"And why would you do that?," asked Gold.

"My fiancé, Philip, is in love with someone else," Aurora said with contempt. "She's called Mulan."

"Whoa," said Neal.

"Wow, okay," said Beatrice. "So not in the Disney version."

"Is that lamb?," asked Aurora.

"Beatrice, would you help our guest find something to wear?," said Gold.

"Then what?"

"Then take her into dinner."

"Oh, come on, no," said Neal.

"What do you propose I do with her, then?," asked Gold. "Put her under a sleeping curse and lock her away in a tower?"

"What about Hook and Gaston?," asked Beatrice.

"I shouldn't worry, sweetheart. I've dealt with them once. I can do so again."

"Maybe I should call Emma," Neal suggested, clearly uncomfortable with the tone his father was taking.

"No, I can handle this," said Gold.

Neal turned. "Belle!"

"You don't need to-"

Belle came in the living room. She saw Aurora. "What's going on?"

Neal pointed at Gold. "Talk to him." He walked back into the dining room.

"Oh, so this is how it's going to be?," asked Beatrice. "That's just great!"

"Beatrice, take your friend upstairs," said Gold.

She groaned and motioned for Aurora to follow her.


Beatrice watched as Aurora hunted through her closet, then not finding anything acceptable she hunted through Belle's.

"Why are all of your mother's gowns so short?," asked Aurora.

"Because we live in the twenty-first century?"

"What about this one?," asked Aurora, pulling out a dress Belle had worn to a library fundraiser.

"No." Beatrice sighed and pulled out a pale blue vintage forties dress of her mother's. "What about this one?"

"Well, I suppose that's acceptable. I shall have to learn the ways of this new land."

"Yeah, about that," said Beatrice, following Aurora back to her room, "why are you here?"

"I told you. Philip is in love with someone else." She stepped in the bathroom.

"I thought he was your True Love or whatever."

"Yes, well, that doesn't seem to matter as much to him."

Aurora emerged wearing the dress and her tiara.

"Not going to ditch the tiara for dinner?"

"Aren't you wearing yours?"

"I don't have one."

"Oh." She looked at the TV. "Is this your magic mirror?"

"No, that's the TV."

"The what?"

"Yeah, we can go over this later. Let's go eat, Dowager Countess."

Aurora followed. "I'm not a countess and I'm certainly not a dowager."

"Yes, Lady Grantham."

They entered the dining room. Neal and Tamara stopped regaling Belle and Henry with some story.

"Guys, this is my friend Aurora Grantham, you know my mom and Neal. This is my nephew, Henry and my brother's fiancée, Tamara."

"Aurora?," asked Henry.

Belle quickly shushed him. The two sat down.

"It's lovely to meet you all," said Aurora.

"That's a cute hair comb," Tamara said motioning at the tiara.

"It's a tiara," Aurora corrected before anyone could stop her.

Beatrice looked at Belle. "Yeah, this is going downhill fast."

"Oh, hello, everyone!," a voice boomed.

Beatrice looked up to see Merlin coming in.

"So," he said jovially, "I hear that the murderous one-handed pirate and the potentially murderous one-footed knight are on their way here to kill our Mister Sunshine." He picked a dinner roll from its basket and looked at Tamara. "Now, what shall we do and who are you exactly?"

Tamara looked at Neal. "What the hell is going on?"

"Pirates?," asked Henry. "Cool."

The doorbell rang.

"That ought to be Regina," said Merlin.

"What? Did you put it on Facebook?," asked Beatrice.

"I texted her," said Merlin. "You can't leave the Evil Queen to her own devices in these circumstances. She'll get ideas."

"I'll get it," Belle said quietly.

"The Evil Queen?," Tamara asked harshly.

Merlin sat down at the table and started making himself a plate. "Someone's a bit behind."

"This is my fiancée, Tamara," Neal said quietly.

"Hi, Tamara. I'm Merlin."

"What is going on?," Tamara demanded.

"Well, once upon a time a queen cast a dark curse-" Beatrice began.

"Beatrice," Neal warned.

"What? Should I start further back?," asked Beatrice. "How far back? Stable boy far back or ogre wars far back?"

"Neal, can I speak to you in the other room?," asked Tamara, getting up and walking away.

"Thanks, thanks a lot," said Neal.

"Oh, no problem," said Beatrice as he hurried after her. She turned to Merlin. "I so told these people we couldn't act normal."

"The day you do act normal, that will really be something."

Regina entered, closely followed by Belle. "Henry, come on."

"Not so fast, Regina," said Merlin.

"He's my son and I'm going to keep him safe from the pirate and the floral arrangement," said Regina.

"But for one thing," said Merlin. "Your son is still Rumplestiltskin's grandson and Hook is not terribly interested in how he hurts Rumplestiltskin, only that he does."

"I'm familiar with the man," said Regina. She looked at Aurora. "Aren't you supposed to be asleep?"

"Wait," said Henry, "the pirate is Captain Hook?"

"Oh, to be ten." Merlin looked up at Belle. "You're very quiet."

"No," Belle protested. "I should see what Rumple is doing."

"The Enchanted Forest?!," Tamara shouted from the other room. "Get real with me, Neal! If you want out, just say it!"

"That's going well," said Beatrice.


Belle walked into the workshop just in time to see Gold dissolve some gold into a potion.

"Don't ask."

"I think Merlin's my father," said Belle.

He paused.

"That's not funny," said Gold.

Belle didn't say anything.

"You're serious?," asked Gold.

Belle nodded.

"Did he say that?"

"Not in so many words, but I've been getting books on my birthday for as long as I can remember," said Belle. "I got them in the Enchanted Forest, in your castle and in New York. Henry's got a story in his book about Merlin and a daughter who gets books for her birthday."

"He's..." Gold sat back down on the stool. "I don't understand."

"I'm still trying to process it myself." She looked up to see Hook running in the cellar behind Gold. "Rumple!"

Gold snapped around and with a wave of the hand, Hook was paralyzed against the wall.

"Do you mind, dearie? We're in the middle of something. Now, where's the flower?"

"You have magic," said Hook. "There wasn't supposed to be any magic in this land."

"Did Cora tell you that, dearie?"

"Where is Gaston?," asked Belle.

"I assume your fiance went looking for you, love."


Inside, the fight between Neal and Tamara had not lessened.

"Seriously, you think I believe your dad spins straw into gold?!"

"I think we should make popcorn," said Beatrice, assessing what she could gather from the doorway.

"Why doesn't she believe him?," asked Aurora.

"Oh, yeah, just fyi," said Beatrice, "everyone thinks you're just a story."

"What's fyi?"

"What's the matter, Your Majesty?," asked Merlin.

"Nothing. I'm just mad Rumplestiltskin can cook this well," said Regina, finishing the piece of lamb she had gotten.

The doorbell rang again.

"Should I get that?," asked Beatrice.

"No, I'll get it," said Merlin.

Merlin got up and walked into the living room.

"Is my mom ever coming back?," asked Beatrice.

She went out the back door from the kitchen. "Mom!"

Getting no answer, she went further down the steps.

"Mom!"

She felt a hand clamp over her mouth and a knife at her throat. She caught Gaston's profile in the moonlight.

"Where is Belle, witch?"

She squirmed and his hand became tighter. Beatrice wondered which of her semi-useless magical powers she ought to deploy. The throwing back thing? Popsicle mode? The candle lighting thing was out, taxi hailing wouldn't help even if that was a thing.

She tried to shake him off and had no luck since Gaston was as stupid as he was strong. She saw lightning in the distance, growing closer.

"Hey!"

Gaston turned and Beatrice was treated to the sight of Princess Aurora with a rolling pin. She swung it at him, baseball bat style and he didn't even stumble. Beatrice kicked at the wooden peg that replaced his foot and ankle, the knife nicking her in the process.

"Sir Gaston, what poor manners."

Beatrice looked up to see Regina, with Henry not far behind.

She waved her hand and the knife fell from his hand.

"It's terribly rude to show up at a house uninvited and interrupt dinner. Now, let her go or I'll have to teach you a lesson about manners."

"And why should I listen to you, Evil Queen?"

"You should listen to me," Beatrice heard Merlin say. He put his index finger and Gaston and he unceremoniously flopped to the ground.

"He wounded you," Aurora said.

"I'm fine," said Beatrice, feeling woozy.

"Whoa, sweetheart, I've got you," said Merlin, catching her.

"Gold!," Regina shouted. "Belle! Get out here!"

Merlin eased her to the ground. She saw her parents rushing out. Merlin's hand became glowing blue and Beatrice felt the same tingling over her neck as she had with her wrists and her eyes.

"Beatrice, sweetheart," said Belle, cradling her.

"She'll be alright," said Merlin.

"Hello?"

They looked up to see Emma, David and Mary Margaret arriving.

"Is everything okay? What happened?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Where to begin with that," remarked Beatrice, still feeling very out of it.

"Sheriff, you can do your job and get this and that pirate off my property or I can kill them," said Gold. "Either way."

"Guys, what happened?," Neal asked from the back porch.


Then

It was a very wet ride to the weather sorceress' house.

Too wet for the harvest.

Bernard had been learning the rest of his duties and had lost track of when the summer ended. He had gotten his reminder a few days before when the rains began in Padua.

He finally arrived, sopping wet though the rain broke when he arrived at the border of Padua. He could see the great storm cloud hanging in the sky over his land.

"Well, well, well," said Amelia, "look who's come to call."

"You didn't really leave me a choice. I rode in the pouring rain the entire way here."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said. "Let me help."

She waved her hand and a blanket appeared on his horse, a roaring fire in front of him. The horse neighed in appreciation as Bernard dripped.

Amelia shrugged. "I have a soft spot for animals. So much more pleasant than people."

"How do I make the rain stop?"

"Well, you could begin by paying my fee."

"For the year?," he sighed.

"For the year, else what will happen when autumn runs out? It might be a very cold winter."

Bernard grudgingly took a sack off the steed's saddlebags. He handed it to Amelia.

"Thank you," said Amelia.

She smiled and the cloud cleared from Padua. The sun shone down on the land.

"I think it ought to clear in time for the harvest," said Amelia.

"It happens just like that?," Bernard asked in amazement.

"You should have seen it when I was a teenager," said Amelia. "Rain when I was sad. Wind when I was mad."

"Thunder and lightning when you were angry?," Bernard offered.

"Thunder, yes. Lightning when I was scared." She walked back to the cottage. "Have a pleasant journey home."


Now

Before long, Beatrice was in her room, crashed out on the bed. Belle came in.

"So, dinner went well," said Beatrice.

Belle smiled and tucked the covers around her. "I think Tamara got an idea."

"Why are you tucking me in?"

"Because I'm your mother, I love you and you've had a trying evening." She kissed her on the cheek. "Good night."

"Good night," said Beatrice.

Belle started downstairs as the Doctor Who theme began to play. She smiled and went down to see Merlin still in the entry way.

"Rumplestiltskin will be back. I told him I would wait," said Merlin.

"Right..." said Belle. "Thank you for your help. Again."

"No thanks needed."

Belle nodded.

"You're very quiet this evening," said Merlin.

"The weather," said Belle. "That's been Beatrice, hasn't it?"

"What made you put that together?"

"My great-grandmother was a weather sorceress. I knew her when I was very young and I don't think I believed her, but she told me stories about how when she was upset, the sky would open." Belle shrugged. "The same thing happens every time Donna Noble loses her memories."

"Who?," asked Merlin.

"It's from Doctor Who. Beatrice feels these things deeply. I was the same when I was her age, just with books."

"Like mother, like daughter."

"Have you ever read a story called The Mayor of Casterbridge?," Belle managed to stammer out. "Thomas Hardy?"

"Yes," said Merlin.

"That's a sad book," said Belle. "I cried for an hour and I was twenty. I had just turned twenty that day."

Gold entered. He looked from Belle to Merlin. "Am I interrupting something?"

"I was just leaving," said Merlin. "Good night, sunshine. Good night, Belle."

Merlin hurried out. Gold turned to Belle.

"Well?," he asked.

Belle just shook her head and threw herself into his arms.

"It can't be as bad as all that," Gold ruefully remarked.

"I don't have any idea what to do," Belle admitted.

"You'll figure it out. You always do."

Chapter Text

 


Now

Beatrice walked downstairs for another normal day.

Rumplestiltskin was making her espresso, while Belle gave her a plate of fruit and Princess Aurora sat next to her at the counter. Gold had been in a generous mood that Beatrice knew was her mother's doing and was letting the princess stay in one of the guest rooms for the time being.

"The party for the library starts at four," said Belle.

"I'll come after school," said Beatrice.

"I can help you," Aurora offered.

"Thanks," said Belle. She exchanged glances with Gold and looked back at Beatrice.

She hated when they did that.

"So," began Belle, "your birthday is coming up."

"Your birthday?," Aurora asked excitedly.

"It's not a big deal," said Beatrice.

"I wouldn't say that," said Gold. "It's your sixteenth birthday."

"Sixteenth?," Aurora shrieked. "Are you having a ball? What's the theme? What color dress should I wear?"

Aurora could be exhausting.

"She can have whatever she wishes," said Gold.

"I'm not having a ball for a number of reasons," said Beatrice. She looked pointedly at Aurora. "Like people don't have balls."

"You must want something," said Gold.

"There's a remote control that looks like the Doctor's sonic screwdriver," said Beatrice. "I'll email you the website."

"Beatrice, we have to do something," Belle insisted.

"No, we don't," said Beatrice. "Is someone going to drive me to school?"


Then

Belle had been staring at the gown for an hour.

It was gold. She did like gold. Her father had overseen its creation to the dressmaker's dismay. Of course it would have been Reinette's purview were she still alive. She would have even rather had her grandmother do it. Catherine, not Maurice's mother. She was a rather tedious woman who clung to the clerics like a life preserver and had never approved of anything even mildly amusing ever.

It didn't make a difference if she stared at the dress for another hour. She still had to put the down on, go downstairs and meet her fiancé. They had been betrothed since Belle was fourteen, but never met. Reinette had cleverly put that off time after time. Then she had died. The mourning period had bought more time, but now Maurice had decided it was time to move forward.

She thought back to the last summer she had spent at the palace and the Good Seer at the party Queen Eva gave. She had promised True Love, "with the most powerful man in all the realms." Whoever Gaston was, she was sure he wasn't that. He was a knight, apparently Maurice thought highly of him. Whenever Belle tried to inquire after his interests, her father laughed. He claimed there was no need for a husband and wife to have similar interests.

Her maid, Viola, entered. "What are you still sitting around for? Sir Gaston has just been seen entering the village."

Belle didn't care for Viola much. The maids her mother had brought on had all left since her death. She had no confidantes left in the castle. So she dressed and went downstairs.

Belle sincerely hoped that seeing Gaston would change something in her.

It did not. He was a great hulk of a man, the other ladies fawned over him, but Belle couldn't see anything that pleased her.

"I'm Sir Gaston." He spoke his own name as if it were the most important thing anyone was ever going to tell her.

Belle was completely certain it was the least of her concerns.

"We're going hunting tomorrow," said Gaston. "Your father said you would."

Yes. The least of her concerns.


Now

Beatrice was silent. Gold was silent.

"Beatrice," he began.

"No."

"You didn't even let me speak."

"Fine..."

"I have missed fifteen of your birthdays," said Gold. "Is it so wrong that I want to celebrate this one?"

"Fine. Get a cake and ice cream. You can get a banner if that will help you."

"Why don't you want a party?," he asked as he pulled the Cadillac into the drop-off queue for the high school.

Beatrice sighed and collected herself to look her father straight on. "Look, Mom may have that whole Disney mentality going, but you and I both live in the real world and we both know that no one is going to come to a party for my birthday so let's just save a step and not have one."

"Beatrice..."

"I have to go," she said opening the door.

"Beatrice, look at me."

She sighed and turned. Gold kissed her on the forehead.

"Have a good day, sweetheart."

Beatrice got out of the car and shut the door.

"It'll be good when it's over," Beatrice muttered as she headed into the school building.


"I think you should throw her a party anyway," said Aurora.

"I think that's a terrible idea," said Merlin.

Belle was treating two of her most loyal library volunteers to lunch in preparation for opening day.

"Why is that so terrible?," Aurora asked. She seemed to have no problem taking on the ancient wizard. "You have balls to meet people, she obviously needs to meet people."

"People don't want to meet her," Merlin reminded them. "They're all morons, but that's how it is, I'm afraid."

"Because they don't know her," said Aurora. "If she never meets them, how can they know her? I had a ball for my sixteenth birthday."

"And we see how well your life has worked out thus far," said Merlin. "You've run away to another realm because your fiancé is having an affair with the warrior princess."

"Is she a princess?," asked Aurora. She shook her head. "Not that I care."

"Honestly, I was probably overreaching," Belle admitted. "She hasn't had an actual party since she was ten and..."

"And what?," asked Aurora, picking at her salad.

"Well, no one came," said Belle. "I don't think it was some great conspiracy, but all the other girls came up with excuses and after that, she wasn't interested. We should do something."

She looked up to see Mary Margaret approaching.

"Belle," said Mary Margaret. "How's the library coming?"

"We'll be ready for this afternoon," Belle said brightly. "Are you coming?"

"I wouldn't miss it," said Mary Margaret.

"Thanks. I keep thinking no one will bother coming," said Belle. "Hey. Do you have plans on the twenty-second?"

"Of October? Yeah, it's Emma's birthday." She stated it as if it were obvious.

Belle's face dropped. "Emma's birthday is the twenty-second?"

"Yeah, we're planning this big party, but don't tell her. It's a surprise."

"Oh," said Belle.

"Sorry, I've got to run," said Mary Margaret. "I'll see you at the library."

Mary Margaret hurried off. Belle turned back to her table mates.

"That's the worst," said Aurora. "Another princess with the same ball date?"

Belle knew full well how these things worked even if her father hadn't let her have one for her own eighteenth birthday. She had attended her share while Reinette was alive. "I can't possibly go into competition with Emma's party. It's ridiculous."

"I suppose since everyone loves her for breaking the Curse," said Aurora. "It's not even fair really. You can't be that old, unmarried and taking up ball dates. It's unfair."

Belle shook her head at Merlin's bemused expression.

"We have to go over some things about this land later," said Belle. "Besides, I can't put her into competition with family."

Aurora nodded. "We should get back."

Aurora walked ahead.

Merlin turned to Belle. "Something else preying on your mind, my dear?"

"No," said Belle. "Right now, I'm just hoping the opening goes well."


Then

Gaston had been in the castle for a week. Belle had done everything her father required, organizing all the meals, showing him around the province and the absolute boredom of going hunting. If she were to be perfectly honest, the entire business was boring. She felt like little more than a decorative centerpiece at meals, no one so much as spoke to her. She wondered why they even required her presence. They could do everything without her. Perhaps they could do the wedding without her.

Today, rain called off the hunt and this meant Belle was trapped in the study with Maurice, his knights, Gaston and his sycophant, a funny little man called Lefou. He urged Gaston on into braggery, as if the man needed an invitation.

"You're like the son I never had," Maurice said, incensing Belle. "You'll see that Avonlea is prosperous."

Gaston probably didn't know what prosperous meant. Too many syllables.

"The fact that Belle has been my only heir has troubled me for a very long time," said Maurice.

Gaston laughed. "Well, you can bet that won't happen to me!"

Belle suddenly had a vision of a house full of mini-Gastons. A horde of tiny, shallow brutes who had never seen a thesaurus. Or knew what it was.

That was it.

Belle had enough. She couldn't do it anymore.

"Sir Gaston, have you met the king of Avonlea's neighbor?," she asked.

"No."

"What was his name?"

"I can't say I know."

"It's just you'll be dealing with him a great deal," said Belle. "For matters of diplomacy."

"Well, I'm more into fighting than talking."

She nodded. "I see. How many troops does Avonlea have at the ready?"

She caught the first of Maurice's glares.

"I-"

"What's the weakest line? Which sentry towers are in need of repair?"

"You needn't worry your pretty head, Belle," said Gaston.

"Of course not-" said Maurice.

Belle tartly cut off her father. "I think someone ought to worry, preferably someone that can answer anything about Avonlea."

"I'll see you in the hall, Belle," Maurice said gruffly.

"No, I'm interested to hear Sir Gaston's answer."

Maurice grabbed Belle by the arm and took her in the hall. As he slammed the door, Belle heard Gaston and the others laughing.

"What do you think you're doing?!," asked Maurice. "What was the meaning of those questions? Why would you want to show up your future husband?"

"Those questions are important to this land, Papa. I thought you would know that."

"He will learn in time-"

"He can't learn manners or how to have interest in me!"

"Of course he's interested in you!"

"He is interested in me as a brood mare."

Maurice shook his head. "What do you want, girl? This is the way things are done."

"Not for everyone," said Belle.

"I see. This is your mother's doing, putting girlish notions into your head-"

"It is not a girlish notion to wish to be valued as something more than an ornament."

"That woman always had ideas that were above her place."

"Please don't speak ill of her, Papa."

"This is my home and I will speak how I wish. Your mother never even tried to have a happy home. I would hope you'll have more maturity."

"Because you never listened to her!," Belle finally shouted. "How is anyone supposed to be happy if nobody cares what they think?"

"You may be excused to your room. I'll explain you're not feeling well," said Maurice. "Don't even think of composing a letter."

"Am I forbidden to write now?"

"I know you'll write your grandparents for help. Overindulgent people that they are, they will doubtless come to your aid, which would be a mistake," said Maurice. "Avonlea needs this match. This is your purpose."

Belle walked away.


Now

Gold picked up Beatrice as usual and they made their way to the library. There was already a decent sized crowd inside. Granny and Ruby manned a snack table. Belle was doing her best to make her way around. She caught sight of Beatrice and Gold and quickly excused herself to come over.

"Well, it seems you have a success," said Gold.

"I had a lot of help," said Belle. "Speaking of which..."

Belle reached around the circulation desk and pulled a book out from behind the shiny new Mac.

"The Story of Babar?," Gold asked.

"No," said Beatrice.

"What's it about?," asked Gold.

"An elephant who dresses well. You would like him," said Belle. She looked at Beatrice again.

"No," she repeated.

"You love Babar. Remember when you made me read it to you in the original French?"

"Mom, nobody wants me to read-"

"I want you to read. I don't have anyone else and I have a room of children waiting for story time."

"Get Aurora. She's a princess. People like princesses."

"She doesn't know the story. You do."

Beatrice looked down.

"On occasion, I have to ask you to be brave because if you never have to be brave, nothing good will ever happen. So, I'm asking you to be brave."

Beatrice took the book and walked to the reading room.

A hush fell over the room as Beatrice entered. Only Henry smiled at her.

"So," she said, taking a chair, "Our story is going to be Babar by Jean De Brunhoff. He was French, it's actually based on a story his wife made up for their children. There's also some French colonial undertones, but since this was written in 1931 it's more about longing for a bygone era..."

The children stared at her, a mixture of fear and stupidity.

"But you don't care about that, so..." She began reading and holding the pages up. "In the great forest, a little elephant is born. His name is Babar. His mother loves him very much. She rocks him to sleep with her trunk, while singing softly to him."

She changed pages as the first worried mother arrived and rushed her son out.

"Babar has grown bigger. He now plays with other little elephants. He is a very good little elephant. See him digging in the sand with his shell?"

She showed off the pictures as more parents arrived with looks of grave concern.

"Babar is riding happily on his mother's back when a wicked hunter, hidden behind some bushes, shoots at them."

Most of the kids got up then.

"Like this is worse than the Enchanted Forest with the heart ripping and the child soldiers," Beatrice muttered. "The hunter has killed Babar's mother! The monkey hides, the birds fly away, Babar cries. The hunter runs up to catch poor Babar..."

"Babar runs away because he is afraid of the hunter. After several days, very tired indeed, he comes to a town..."

Babar had just begun his tutoring when Beatrice finally gathered the courage to look up.

Henry was the only one left.

"Well," she said, closing the book, "that went great."

"I liked it," said Henry. "You're a really good story reader."

"Thanks," Beatrice said half-heartedly.

"Maybe they just went to get snacks," Henry offered.

"No, they didn't," said Beatrice. "They left because I'm me."

She got up and walked out to where her mother was chatting up Doctor Hopper and Marco. Gold stood next to her, making no secret of his boredom.

"Why do you do this to me?," Beatrice asked.

Belle was blind-sided as the book went in her hand. "What's wrong?"

"What's wrong? I just got rejected by a roomful of children. Children! That's a new record! That hasn't happened since I was a child! Thanks for that!"

Belle looked across as most of the mothers of the children she had seen go in the kids' room stood in a huddle and whispered conspiratorially as they cast glances at Beatrice.

"What happened?"

"What always happens! I can read books to kids and old people, I can try to chat up strangers every day for the rest of my life, but it is never going to make a difference! I'm never going to be as popular as you!"

"Don't raise your voice at your mother," Gold warned.

Belle shot Gold a look that clearly meant for him to not interfere. She turned back to Beatrice. "Just take a breath and we can talk."

Beatrice shook her head, unable to speak and just walked out.

"I'll get her," said Gold.

"No, I have to," said Belle. "I'll be right back."


Belle quickly tracked Beatrice down to a gazebo in the Town Square, where she sat alone on the floor as a light rain fell. Belle rushed in and sat down. Beatrice rolled her eyes.

"You didn't really think I wouldn't come after you?," asked Belle.

"I wish you wouldn't."

"Why would you ever wish that?"

"Because you would be admitting the truth, that I am not a girl people care about and I never will be."

"That's not the truth," said Belle. "That's just a bad thing you think about yourself."

"Do you know what my days are like? Really?"

"You don't tell me," said Belle.

"Because you'll worry!"

"Tell me," said Belle, straightening herself. Beatrice looked away and Belle took her chin back to face her. "Tell me. How was your day?"

Beatrice took a moment to look at her mother. She then steeled herself.

She was going all in.

"I went to my first class that's usually okay because I'm not in deep yet. I could still ignore people. In second period, we had to work in groups and no one picked me. Third period Pre-Calc, the teacher ignores me which is driving me crazy because that whole class is so far behind. Fourth period physics, again, no one will work with me. Fifth period, there are these boys who make a big show of pushing their desks away from me. Sixth period, well, that's French, insults in a whole other language. Seventh period, there are these girls who always talk about me. I thought at first they didn't think I could hear them. Now I think they only talk about me because they know I can hear them."

"What do they say?," asked Belle.

"It doesn't matter."

"It matters, what do they say?"

She shrugged. "The same things everyone says. I'm weird, I have no friends, I'm going to smite everyone, why don't I just kill myself and save us all the trouble?"

Belle was horrified. She wasn't naïve. She knew there had to be some things thrown at Beatrice just for being her father's daughter, but not something so terrible. "Do you think that?"

"God, Mom, I'm not going to kill myself..."

"Do you think that?"

She sighed. "If I died, face it, no one would care besides you and dad. If anybody felt bad, it would be like 'Oh, no, what could we have done differently?.' Probably not be bitches..."

"You're right," said Belle. "When I was your age, I was very popular."

Beatrice frowned. "Oh, good, I feel better."

"You told me once before the Curse broke that the most important thing in life is to be pretty and likable. The thing is, though, I was popular because I was pretty and I suppose, likeable. Nobody cared what I wanted from life, what books I read, what my dreams were. Your father says I saw inside him, well, he was the first person to ever bother seeing inside me. When you find someone who wants to know who you really are, pretty and likeable won't even enter into it."

"Great. I just have to hold out for True Love."

"Yeah, that's all."

Beatrice shook her head. "It's never happening."

Belle smiled. "If you could see what I see, you would know I'm telling the truth." Belle crawled across the floor of the gazebo next to Beatrice and embraced her. "I'm sorry you've had such a rough time and I wish you would have told me sooner because you are the most important thing in my life. I want you to be happy."


Then

It was the morning after her eighteenth birthday and Belle was having the fitting for her wedding gown. She had written her grandparents, though it took a small bribe and a smile to get one of the hall boys to pass it on to a messenger. Maurice had been stopping all her mail for some reason.

She felt awful sneaking around her father. She knew she had a duty to Avonlea, but she couldn't imagine a life with Gaston that didn't involve throwing herself off one of the towers. There had to be another way.

"That will do very nice," said Viola.

Belle looked in the mirror at the frock. White monstrosity was the first thing that came to mind.

She looked at the seamstress. "Does it need so much fabric?"

"The clerics are prescribing the more conservative these days and your father says you have an example to set."

Now she was also to be denied a wedding gown she could tolerate. She could only imagine the clerics advised so much fabric so it would be more difficult to run away. That would be something if she did. She could run off and join her old friend, Snow White, in the woods. Hopefully she would get over her clumsiness in time.

Belle's fantasy was interrupted by the sound of something in the hall. She stepped off the pedestal and rushed out her door to see two of the footmen taking her mother's portrait down.

"What is this?," Belle demanded.

"Sir Maurice wants it down to make room for your wedding portrait," one of the footmen answered timidly.

Belle marched back into her rooms. "Get me out of this dress now."


Belle marched downstairs.

"Where is he?," she asked Jean.

"The receiving room. You shouldn't go in there-"

Belle ignored him and walked in.

"The ogres marched last night, crossing over the border here..." said one of the knights, pointing at the map.

"Do we know what incited them?," asked Maurice.

"No," said the knight. "One minute, all was calm and the next it was as if something had been unleashed."

"How many dead?"

Belle listened as the facts came out. The dead, the injured, the destroyed farms. Avonlea was in great peril and they made it sound like a matter of days.

"Belle," Maurice finally said. "You shouldn't be in here."

"I want to help," said Belle.

Gaston all but scoffed. "Leave this to the men."


Now

"You've been reading that page for ten minutes," said Gold.

Belle looked down. It was. They had gotten through the rest of the library reception without incident, come home for dinner and now Belle tried to enjoy her usual pre-bed ritual with a book as Gold read some finance magazine or other. It wasn't working.

"Is it Merlin?," he asked.

Belle shook her head and put the book on the night table. She turned towards Gold and propped herself on her elbow. "I'm tabling that for a while."

"Do you think that's wise?"

"We need to focus on Beatrice," said Belle. "We have to help her."

"She doesn't want a party, Belle, she's made that perfectly clear and after today's incident who can blame her?"

"What did you do after I left?"

"I might have mentioned that were I planning some nefarious scheme, I would hardly need Beatrice. There were two children in that room I never collected on."

"I can't believe you."

"Oh, sweetheart, I thought you knew me better."

"No. I can't believe there were two children in that room you never collected on."

"Well, frankly, I took one look at them when they were born, decided they were somewhat homely and didn't want to be stuck with them if I couldn't find a buyer."

"I need some of your specialized skills," said Belle.

Gold raised an eyebrow. "Well, there's a promising sentence."

"There are two wretched girls in Beatrice's art class."

"What would you have me do? Trap them in glass? Cast them to another land? Curse them to everlasting spinsterhood?"

"I was thinking we would talk to their parents."

"That doesn't sound very satisfying."

"I thought you would do most of the talking," said Belle.

"Oh," Gold said, his lips forming a smile. "Now that could be interesting."


"Mom! Dad!," Selena called.

"Selena, get in here now."

She rolled her eyes and followed her father's voice to the living room where she soon saw the cause for the seriousness in her father's tone.

"Selena," said her mother, "have you met Mr. and Mrs. Gold?"

The Dark One and Belle sat on the sofa, sipping tea. Of course she knew them and immediately feared what was about to happen and wondered what that little weirdo had told her parents.

"I don't believe so," said Gold. "You're in class with our daughter, Beatrice. Isn't that right, sweetheart?"

"Yes," Belle confirmed, nodding as Selena's parents looked terrified.

"You see, it's been a difficult transition for Beatrice. New school, new town, you understand," said Gold.

"Yes, of course," the mother said nervously.

"It seems that some of her classmates have been less than kind to her," Gold continued. "I wondered if you knew who that might be."

"No," said Selena, lying as badly as a teenager could while her parents continued looking nervous.

"Are you certain? Because if you did, that would be something that would displease me and I would have to take action to put an end it." He stared at Selena. "Are you certain, dearie?"

"Mr. Gold-" the father began.

Gold raised his hand to silence him. "Are you certain, dearie?"

"Yes."

Gold smiled. "Good. Then I won't be hearing any more of it, I'm sure. Thank you for your time. We'll see ourselves out."

Belle primly put her tea-cup down. "Yes, you have a lovely home."

"Yes, no fire damage at all. Come on, Belle."

Gold and Belle walked out and down the family's front steps.

"Oh, wait for it," Gold whispered.

"What are we waiting for?," asked Belle.

An argument suddenly erupted from the house, with parents asking Selena what she had done to offend the Dark One and did she want them all turned into snails?

"Oh," said Belle.

"I don't know that it will make her any friends."

"No, but it will get the bullies to shut their stupid mouths and once they do, perhaps some decent children won't be intimidated."

"I like this side of you," said Gold.

Belle smiled. "Do you?"

"Well, to be fair, sweetheart, I do like every side you have."

Chapter Text

 


Now

"Happy birthday!"

Beatrice bolted awake. Belle was carrying a tray in her room, complete with espresso and flowers in a vase. Gold was right behind her.

"What?"

"There," said Gold dryly. "That was precisely the reaction we were hoping for."

"Sit up," Belle ordered and Beatrice did. Belle set the tray down on her lap.

"Sorry? What's going on?"

"It's your birthday," said Gold.

"Well, thanks, but I have to get ready for school," said Beatrice.

"You're not going to school today," said Belle.

"I'm not?"

"No," said Gold. "Did you really think we would subject you to your schoolmates' tiresome company on your birthday?"

"Yeah," said Beatrice.

"Well, we're not," said Belle. "The day is yours to do with as you wish."

"Really?"

"Yes, really," said Gold.

"So," said Belle, "what are you going to do?"

"I don't know," said Beatrice.

"You're going to just sit here and watch Doctor Who, aren't you?," asked Gold.

"Yeah, pretty much," said Beatrice.

"We'll leave you to it, then," said Belle.

"Call if you change your mind or when you want lunch," said Gold.


Last Week

"Hey," said Belle, hurrying in the pawn shop where Gold waited behind the counter. "I came as soon as I could. I had to shove Mrs. Schuman and her children out. I swear they all have Cheetos powder on their fingers."

"Do you have any idea what they've done now?"

"Who?"

"Our charming in-laws."

Belle rolled her eyes. "I told you, I don't-"

"They've reserved the park."

Belle was surprised. "I thought the party was at Granny's."

"It was at Granny's. Then more people wanted to come. Now it's at the park."

"How many people?," asked Belle.

"I've lost count," said Gold. "It seems that most of the town is coming."

Belle leaned against the counter. "So, we just keep Beatrice out of the park. Maybe she won't even care."

"Oh, she'll care."

"She didn't want a big party."

"No, she wants one, she can't have one, so there we are so I suggest we revisit what we can do." Gold reached under the counter and put a stack of brochures on top.

Belle looked over. "A car? You want to get her a car?"

"She is turning sixteen. I believe that's the custom in this land."

"Only for spoiled rich kids. Especially when the person in question only has a learner's permit."

"Yes, I've spoken to the Storybrooke Department of Motor Vehicles and I believe something could be arranged."

Belle shook her head. "It's too much. What about that thing she wanted?"

"Yes, I've already ordered it and according to the 'support monkey' I spoke with, it should arrive tomorrow. That aside, I have not given her anything for fifteen birthdays. The car won't even approach the value of what I would have given her on those occasions." He held up the brochures. "I'm leaning towards a Volkswagen. The Audi looked promising, but I didn't like the tone of the salesman."

Belle put her hands over Gold's. "I know you want to give her everything, but this is not the right time for this."

"It will give her some distance from me," said Gold.

Belle shook her head. "I don't understand."

"She could drive herself to and from school and about town. She wouldn't have to arrive with the most hated and feared man in Storybrooke."

Belle leaned across the counter on her toes and kissed him. "You're a good papa. You don't need to prove it with things."


Now

Belle drove along the road as Gold spoke on the phone.

"I was told that I could expect delivery today," Gold said sternly.

Belle rolled her eyes.

"I am aware of the additional charges because I read the agreement. Did you happen to read the agreement?"

"Well, you ought to know no that one has ever broken an agreement with me," said Gold.

"Really, Rumple?," Belle whispered.

"No, it most definitely would not suit me to take delivery in Boston."

Belle stopped in front of the park. The seven dwarves appeared to be building a dance floor and there appeared to be a sound system going up.

"They can't be serious."

Gold glanced up at Belle's comment. "The vehicle will be delivered this afternoon at the time I requested or I will have no need of it or you. Is that understood, dearie?" He paused. "I thought so."

Gold hung up.

"This is just out of control, isn't it?," asked Belle.

"Sorry, have you met Prince Charming?"


Then

It was market day in the coastal village. The town was bustling and at the shore the mermaids sold seashells in exchange for trinkets. Merlin quite enjoyed this: blending. Seeing what people did, pretending he was one of them. Though that was not why he had come today.

He was here on business.

Merlin made his way to them.

"What do you want?"

Merlin sat on a rock where the waves lapped against the shore.

"Oh, come now, Cousin Alope, I did you a favor, didn't I? Or aren't you enjoying life under the sea?"

"What is it?"

"I'm looking for a book. I heard Ursula might have seen it."

"A book?," she asked.

"The book."

Alope's face dropped. "Cousin..."

"I want it."

"What for? You know what that book does."

"You were always somewhat simple-minded. You need not concern yourself with what that book does, just that I want it."

Alope softened. "Ursula traded it."

"And to whom did she trade it?"

She smiled. "The three."


Last Week

"Has Rumplestiltskin come up with a plan yet?," Merlin suddenly asked.

"A plan for what?"

"Beatrice's birthday, of course."

"Oh, right," Belle smiled. "We're keeping it low key. Just the family and Aurora."

"Wise move."

Belle hesitated. "Would you like to come?"

"Would I like to come?"

"Yes," said Belle. "Unless you have plans or something."

"What? Like attending the Savior's carnival?"

"You aren't, are you?"

"What would I do that for?"

"So, you'll come?"

"I'll come. Be sure to warn the Dark One."

Belle looked up to see Mary Margaret and David entering the library.

"Hi," said Belle.

"Henry told us about Beatrice's birthday," said Mary Margaret. "I had no idea it was on the same day as Emma's."

"Right," said Belle. "We're keeping it small. I realize it is his mother, but we would love to have Henry over for just a bit."

"We're sort of having a pretty big party," said Mary Margaret.

"Oh?," asked Belle. There really was no need to share that Rumple practically knew the catering menu.

"Maybe Beatrice could do something a different night?"

"Well," said Belle, "I would have to talk to Rumple."

"They could share," said Mary Margaret. "How many people do you have coming?"

Belle shook her head. "I would have to get a final count..."

"How many could it be?," asked David.

Mary Margaret cast David a glare.

Belle cleared her throat. "It might not be the best idea."

"Why not?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Well, I don't know how many people you have coming, but I would hate to invite the comparison..." said Belle.

"What comparison?," asked David.

"The comparison that Beatrice would feel as if she were tacked on to Emma's party," said Belle.

"No..." Mary Margaret said, shaking her head.

"We just want to help," said David. "We know she doesn't have a lot of friends."

Mary Margaret shot him another look.

"Yes, I had noticed that," Belle said tartly. "Sorry, I'll have to talk this over with Rumple."

"Right," said Mary Margaret. "We didn't mean to offend you."

"No, just because your husband's pointed out that my daughter's a pariah..."

"We were trying to help," said Mary Margaret.

"Yes, I'll consider it..."

Mary Margaret and David left.

Belle turned to Merlin. "Can I ask you something? And please, be honest."

"You may and I will," said Merlin.

"Am I a total bitch if I am angry about what just happened?"

"No."


Now

Belle looked across the street from the bakery at Game of Thorns.

"Well," said Gold, "the birthday girl has put in her lunch order. What are you staring at?"

"I think my father is supplying flowers for Emma's party."

"Look on the bright side, he's probably not your father."

Belle cast a glare at him. "He's still the man who raised me. The least he could do is not give flowers for someone else's party..."

"No, sweetheart, the least he could have done was not try to murder his unborn granddaughter," said Gold. "The least the Charmings could do is not have anything to do with him."

"He's the only florist in town," said Belle. She looked back at the abandoned dessert case. "What is taking so long?"

"An excellent question," said Gold. "Oh, Mr. Drury?"

Mr. Drury emerged. "Uh, yes, Mr. Gold?"

"Is there a problem?"

"Well, it's just that the cake isn't quite finished."

"I ordered two weeks ago," Belle protested.

"It's just we had a large order come in at the last second."

"Let me guess," said Belle. "For Emma's party."

"It'll be just one moment," said the baker, rushing away.

"This is getting ridiculous," said Belle.

"I should have a word with him," said Gold.

"No," said Belle.

"As you wish," he said with resignation.


Beatrice was enjoying her birthday. She was lounging around the house, dressed in yoga pants, one of her Doctor Who tees with her hair piled on top of her head, moving from room to room in no hurry. She never got to look like a slug in Storybrooke, she always felt like people were watching her. It was nice just to not have anyone looking.

The doorbell rang and she went to get it.

"Emma," she said.

"Hey."

"Hey. If you want my dad, he's out."

"No, actually, I brought you something."

"Oh," said Beatrice, stepping aside. "Come on in."

Emma walked in. "Have you been crying?"

"What?" She sniffled. "Oh, I was just watching 'The Angels Take Manhattan' then you know Rory, then Amy and she says 'Goodbye, Raggedy Man.'"

"Why do you watch a show that makes you cry?"

"It's hard to explain."

"Well, anyway," said Emma, holding up a small paper bag, "Henry said you would like this."

"Thanks," said Beatrice, taking it. She opened the bag. "You got me River Song's journal!"

"Yeah, I still don't know who that is," said Emma.

"Thank you," said Beatrice.

"You're welcome. I have to get going. I've got all these weird calls coming in."

"Isn't it your birthday?," asked Beatrice.

"Yeah, it's not a big deal. I'm not even having a party."

"What kind of weird calls?"

"You know, jumping cow, guy fell off a wall. Why?"

"You're having a party."

"I just said-"

"It's your birthday and your guilt-ridden parents who sent you through a tree to Maine aren't at your side? You're having a party. Try to act surprised."

"No, I don't think so.." Her phone beeped again. "Gotta go."

"You'll see I'm right," Beatrice called after her.


Then

The three fates looked up to see Merlin standing among their threads.

"What do you want?," asked Morta.

"Why does no one say hello to me anymore?"

"We're busy," said Nona as she continued at the wheel.

"I know, I know, life, death, etcetera," said Merlin. "I was just wondering if I might have that book."

"What book?," asked Decima as she measured threads with the rod.

"The Book of the Dark Princess."

Nona stopped spinning and exchanged glances with the other two.

"I traded for that book for a reason," said Morta.

"You don't know what type of monster it might reap," said Decima.

"Nor do you," said Merlin. One of the threads on the wall hung much longer than any of the others. "Who is this?"

"No one you know," said Decima.

"Just born."

"I know..." mused Merlin. "The child of a god? I didn't know anyone was expecting."

"Consult an oracle if you want details," said Morta. "We only spin, measure and cut."

"Such a strange thing you do," mused Merlin. "You spin the thread of life, you measure how much one gets and then you cut it. Don't you ever feel like you're murdering them the moment they're born?"

"Don't be absurd," said Morta. "It's fate. It's decided."

He held the long thread in his hand. "And yet this one gets to live so long." He looked up. "Aren't you tired?"

"Of what?"

"Of being gods," said Merlin. "Of deciding who lives and for how long. Suppose you just stopped?"

"We can't stop," said Decima. "This world would descend into chaos like the other-"

"Just suppose," said Merlin. "Suppose they got to decide for themselves. What sort of world would that be? See where I'm headed with this?"

"And what would this Dark Princess have to do with it?"

"Give me the book and we'll find out," said Merlin.


Last Week

Belle walked into the pawn shop, fuming.

"Back so soon?," asked Gold.

Belle stopped at the case as Gold put up his bookkeeping. "Mary Margaret just paid me a visit. She found out Beatrice's birthday is on the same day as Emma's."

"Judging by your mood, I would say she made a proposal."

"She suggested that we do something on another day or better yet, Beatrice could share with Emma."

"Beatrice could share?," Gold asked his voice dripping with contempt.

"I have never been this mad. What does she see in that man?"

"She means our daughter could have the leftovers from her daughter's party?"

"And what's worse is that she thinks she's being nice!"

"Careful, sweetheart, you're sounding a bit too much like Regina for my taste, though I am enjoying this side of you." He put the car brochures back on the counter.

"Rumple, it's still..."

"I'm proposing this: a day off from school to do with what she wishes, a small dinner with her family, the whatever it was and a brand new car. Now, what discerning sixteen year old can argue with that and won't that prove a big enough distraction from Miss Swan's party?"

Belle grudgingly picked up a brochure. "Do these things have safety information?"

"I've already underlined it."

"And they have license plate frames and things that say 'My other ride is a TARDIS.' She'll want that."

"I'll call the customer service monkey."


Now

Beatrice came downstairs.

"There she is," Belle said in an excited voice.

"You look lovely," said Gold.

Beatrice looked down at the purple dress. "Not really. I only got out of yoga pants because you people threatened me with pictures."

"Speaking of which," said Belle, hurrying back towards her phone on the table in the hall. She held it up. "Smile!"

Beatrice rolled her eyes.

"My mother commissioned my portrait for my sixteenth birthday," said Belle. "You're getting off easy. Now, smile."

Beatrice smiled and waited as Belle got several shots.

"Okay, let's go," said Beatrice. "Come on. Sweet sixteen."

"We're still waiting on our guests," said Belle.

"Guests? We have guests?"

"Of course we have guests," said Belle. "Your brother and Merlin. Not to mention I am not sure what's happened to Aurora."

"Oh, you know her, probably saw a spinning wheel or a prince or something," said Beatrice. "Let's get going."

"We're going to give them a bit," said Belle.

"It's not the only thing we're waiting on," said Gold, checking his watch. "Excuse me one moment."

Belle turned back to Beatrice. "Do you want a drink or anything?"

"Okay."

"Okay," Belle smiled. Unable to resist, she gave Beatrice a kiss on the cheek. "You are becoming a beautiful young woman."

Belle walked off. The door opened and Merlin entered.

"There's the birthday girl," said Merlin.

Beatrice frowned.

"What's wrong?," asked Merlin.

Beatrice got a flash. "Nothing..."

"Are you certain?"

"Yeah."

"Very well. Where are the rest of our revelers?"

Beatrice shrugged. "I don't know."

"At any rate, happy birthday," said Merlin, handing her a gift wrapped in gold paper.

"Thank you," said Beatrice.

Belle came in the entryway. "Merlin."

"I got a present."

"I see that," said Belle.

"Should I wait?," she asked, motioning at the gift.

"No, go on," said Belle.

Beatrice opened it, revealing a book. It was a great, thick thing with red leather and her name in gilded letters. Beatrice flipped through, puzzled. The first pages were written and then it just went blank.

"Okay, I don't get it," said Beatrice.

"Simply put, the book is the story of your life," said Merlin. "Unwritten for the most part, but it will write itself. Or rather you will write it."

"Okay, thanks for the weird magical book." She caught her mother staring at the book. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," said Belle. She looked up at Merlin. "Did you want a drink or something?"

Aurora entered, carrying cotton candy. "I am so sorry. I got distracted in the town square."

"You have cotton candy?," asked Beatrice. She took a piece off. "Is there a carnival or something? I could go for cotton candy."

"Well, it's Emma's party-"

Belle motioned for her to shut up and the princess acted too slowly.

"Emma has a party in the town square?," asked Beatrice. "And there's a cotton candy guy?"

"And something called funnel cakes," said Aurora.

"Seriously?"

Gold entered, hanging up his phone. "What's this?"

"Emma's having some giant party," said Beatrice.

"Is that so?," asked Gold.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "That was so unconvincing."

"I wouldn't concern yourself with it," said Gold.

"I wasn't going to," said Beatrice.

"It's just awkward you two having the same birthday," said Belle.

"Well, there's like seven billion people on the planet," said Beatrice. "I probably have the same birthday as a lot of people. Wait, I can do this, seven billion divided by three hundred and sixty-five, no wait, three hundred and sixty-six..."

"Well, good," said Belle. "We're just waiting on Neal."

"Oh, I saw him at Emma's party," said Aurora.

"He was where?," asked Gold.

"It's not a big deal," said Beatrice.

"Sweetheart, on this occasion, I'm going to have to disagree with you," said Gold.

"Mom!," said Beatrice upon noticing her mother was practically at the front door.

Belle stopped and turned. "I'll just be a minute."

"Whatever, can I just have dinner?"

Belle nodded. "Okay, we'll eat," said Belle.


Then

Merlin sat in the forest and looked at the book. Red leather. A gilded title "The Dark Princess."

"Merlin."

He recoiled at the sound of her voice. He wanted to wretch. Merlin turned to see her.

"You've really gone all in for the whole fairy bit, haven't you, Viviane?"

She rolled her eyes as her wings fluttered. "Blue."

"Ah, the blue trollop. How are things? You know, in whatever you're calling it, in Pixie Hollow?"

"You made your choice."

"I could never be like you. Glitter wreaks havoc with my complexion."

"What do you want with the book?"

"What do you care?"

"That book is the story of a Dark Princess."

"That's where you're wrong, you short-sighted sparkling tart. This is many possible futures. It is as yet unwritten."

"And you want to write it?"

"I'm just going to do the set dressing."

"Merlin, I'm begging you to reconsider..."

"Really? Begging? Oh, well, then, by all means, let me stop."

"You have Camelot-"

"Camelot will fall as quickly as it rises. And why? A woman. I've figured a way around that."

"A Dark Princess," Blue said, her voice dripping with contempt.

"I've always wondered about that title, 'The Dark Princess.' What do you suppose it means?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"I don't think it is, though." He locked eyes with her as she floated above. "And don't begin to think you can get your little glowing hands on this book."

Merlin disappeared before her eyes and found himself back at his cottage.

"Now, Book of the Dark Princess, where do you begin?"

He opened the book and waved his hand. A magnificent illustration of a tree appeared with many branches and a few names filled in at the top of the mother's side.

There was the most curious thing on the father's side. Just one name.

"Rumplestiltskin? How do you even say that? What sort of sadist calls their son Rumplestiltskin?"

He thought back to the long thread in the Fates' room.

"Now, how do you manage that?," Merlin asked the page.


Now

Beatrice made it through dinner. She tried unsuccessfully shove the attention off herself and they had finally ended up in the living room eating more cake as Beatrice tried out her sonic screwdriver remote.

"I don't understand," said Aurora. "Why is that skeleton walking?"

"The Vashta Nerada are making it move," said Beatrice.

"And what are they?"

"They're the creatures that live in the shadows."

"And what's happening with the red-headed woman?"

"Donna's trapped in the computer core," said Beatrice.

Aurora paused. "Okay, I need you to start over again."

"We have restarted four times," said Merlin. "Go with it."

"Mom hates this episode!," Beatrice called, teasing at Belle in the kitchen.

"I'm not watching it!," Belle called back.

"Why does she hate it?," asked Aurora.

"The Vashta Nerada are in the books," said Beatrice. She looked at Gold. "Are we done yet? You've been standing there like an hour!"

"We most certainly are not," said Gold as he stared out the window.

"Yeah," said Beatrice, taking another bite of cake. "If we're waiting on Neal to show, I don't think that's quite happening. Speaking of which, we're all agreed this Tamara thing isn't going to work out, right?"

"Most definitely," said Merlin.

"Without a doubt," said Aurora.

Her musing was interrupted by the sudden boom of fireworks.

"Okay, seriously?," asked Beatrice. "Did Emma's birthday become an actual national holiday or something?"

"That's nothing," said Merlin. "You should have seen the spectacles made in the Enchanted Forest over these things. Great balls, days of dances and fireworks on the hour..."

Aurora looked up. "I'm sorry. Are you mocking my ball?"

"Oh, was that your ball?," asked Merlin.

"It was wonderful. Everyone said so."

"You mean the people you invited?"

"I'm getting more cake," said Beatrice.

Beatrice walked back in the kitchen. Belle was wrapping up dinner.

"I am going to give Neal a piece of my mind," said Belle.

"I don't care," said Beatrice, lifting the glass dome off the cake dish.

Belle shook her head. "You can care, you know. You're allowed to care."

"I don't care."

"What is it you think would happen if you said how you really felt for once?"

"Why does it matter so much to you? If I was popular, would that make you happy?"

"It is not the popularity, Beatrice. It's that you don't think you're worth a big party. You don't understand just how extraordinary you are."

Beatrice shook her head. "I'm not-"

"Beatrice!," Gold called.

She looked at Belle. "What is that?"

Belle smiled. "You should go see."

Beatrice walked out front. There was a car. A cute, deep blue hatchback.

"What's that?," she asked.

Gold was signing some papers as a young woman stood nervously by it.

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like a car."

"Very observant. Of course, it would have been easier to observe in the daylight," said Gold, glaring at the woman.

"Once again, I am very sorry, Mr. Gold. I had trouble finding this place on my phone's GPS and then I got turned around by the carnival."

Gold handed the papers back. "Will that do?"

"Yes, Mr. Gold and thank you for your business..."

The woman handed him keys.

"Beatrice," said Gold, turning towards her.

She carefully descended the front steps. "Sorry, what is happening?"

Gold put the keys in her hand. "Happy birthday."

"You got me a car? Like a normal car? It's not to drive to Hogwarts in?"

At this point, Miss O'Malley looked extremely confused.

"Good night, Miss O'Malley," said Gold.

The woman nodded and quickly left.

"You got me a car." Beatrice shook her head.

"Do you like it?"

"Yeah, but, you shouldn't have gotten me a car..."

"Yes, we've seen you drive," muttered Merlin.

"Beatrice, this is not one one hundredth of what you deserve," said Gold.

Beatrice slowly smiled. "I have a car." She turned back to look at Belle. "I have a car."

"I see that," said Belle.

"You have a car," Gold repeated.

"I have a car." She suddenly turned to Gold and hugged him. "Thank you, Dad!"

Gold was taken aback by the sudden display of enthusiasm. "Well, that made it worth it."

"Hey, guys."

They looked up to see Neal coming.

He held his hand up. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time. I know you're pissed."

"Oh, you know?," asked Belle.

Neal pointed at the hatchback. "Is this Beatrice's?"

"Yes," said Beatrice. "So, what was so great about Emma's party?"

"Yeah, she's pissed."

"Really?," asked Beatrice.

"Yeah, she said she didn't want a party let alone a fair. It got pretty intense."

"Well," said Beatrice, "I'm going for a drive and you can't come."

Belle smiled. She was actually standing up for herself.

"Sunshine is not always wrong. A well-timed gift can do wonders," Merlin whispered to Belle.

"Yes," Belle said, thinking back to many birthdays and many books that came at the moment she needed them. "I think you're right.."

"I can't come?," asked Neal.

"No, you missed dinner. You're lucky you're getting cake," said Beatrice.

"I sort of filled up on cotton candy," said Neal.

"Oh, well, too bad," said Beatrice. She jingled the keys. "Who wants to come with me?"

Gold grimaced. "Legally, I think I have to..." He looked at Beatrice. "Around the block, that's all. It's dark."

"Aurora?"

"I distrust these carriages..."

"Is that your excuse?," asked Merlin.

"Yes!," Aurora hissed back.

"Too bad. Mom, come on," said Beatrice.

"Okay," said Belle, following them.

They got in and were soon off on all the adventure the drive around the neighborhood could offer.

"Now, Beatrice," said Gold, "it's a newer car and lighter, you might find that you-"

She slammed her foot on the brake, lurching them forward.

"That you don't need to push as hard on the brake," finished Gold.

"Right," said Beatrice. "I get that."


.

Chapter Text

 


Now

"Hello."

Beatrice looked up. It was a boy, he was in the year ahead of her. Artie. He was on the debate team and the basketball team, though she still wondered how Storybrooke had a team for everything when the only other school they could play was the convent school since no one could leave town. Then again, logic and high schoolers were never easy bedfellows.

"Artie, right?"

"That's right," he said. "Or you may know me by my other name: Arthur, King of the Britons."

This was really too good to pass up.

"King of the who?"

He looked irritated. "King of the Britons."

"King of the who?"

"King of the Britons!," he said in exasperation.

"Well, I didn't vote for you," said Beatrice.

"What?," he exclaimed.

"Not a Monty Python fan?"

"You're Merlin's new protegé."

She shrugged. "I guess. Maybe."

"You should know something. I am the once and future king."

Beatrice frowned. "Of the Britons? I think they have that covered. Charles, Wills, Harry. I mean, I think they might get down to David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch before they go looking for some teenager in a Coldplay t-shirt in Maine." She paused. "No. Wait, I'm sorry. David Tennant's Scottish, but there are other Doctors-"

"What are you talking about?," Artie exclaimed.

"Story of my life. Except on tumblr."

"Do you know why I'm a teenager? Merlin did this to me after Camelot fell."

Beatrice narrowed her eyes. "Are you trying to scare me?"

"Just warning you."

"My dad is the Dark One."

"Yes, I caught that. Have you met my sister?"

A senior girl with heavy makeup appeared next to Arthur.

"Oh, right, Morgan," said Beatrice. "Yeah, still betting on my dad. Look, guys, I don't get this thing people do here where we stare each other down and make thinly veiled threats, I'm not that into it and anyway, I don't think that King of the Britons thing is happening for you. If you wanted to be king, try to catch up on some of the culture." Beatrice shut her locker and walked away.

"This isn't over!," Artie shouted.

"Go to my dad for the thinly veiled threats! He's really good at that!"

Beatrice left.

"I don't understand anything she says," remarked Artie.

"Don't worry, brother," said Morgan. "I have a plan."

"Which is?"

"It involves a trip to the archer."


"Hi, Beatrice."

Beatrice stopped and turned. It was rare that she spoke to anyone, even rarer that anyone said hi to her, especially when she was on her way to her father's shop.

"Uh, Duncan, hi."

"Pretty crazy exam today, huh?"

"Physics? Yeah, I guess. Did you need help with it?"

"No, I mean, no, thanks..."

"Okay, well, see you around," said Beatrice, turning back towards the shop.

"Do you have a date for the fall formal?"

Beatrice stopped and turned again.

"What? Me?"

"Because I was thinking maybe if you didn't, you could go with me."

"Is this a joke?"

"What? No-"

"Because I just got around to reading the book of Carrie and if you guys dump pig blood on me, I literally do not know what will happen. For real. I don't know."

"What? It's not a joke."

Beatrice pointed at the shop sign. "You know Mr. Gold is my dad, right? Also known as Rumplestiltskin, also known as the Dark One, the... no, that's everything, but really, he does this thing with a fireball and it's not good. It's good if you're fighting zombies, but I can't really imagine another instance where it would be good. Camping, maybe."

"So, you don't want to go?"

"I don't know..."

Belle peered out the shop window, hiding behind a grandfather clock in the window display, completely watching what was happening.

"Belle!," Gold called from the backroom. "Maybe you should call her!"

"I'm sure she's fine, Rumple," said Belle as she watched Beatrice talk.

"This is unlike her. She said she would be here."

"Well, you know, Rumple, she might have found something that interested her..." Belle said, turning her attention back outside.

"I just want to be clear," said Beatrice. "You are asking to go on a date with me?"

"Yes."

"I could be crazy. My father may turn you into a flower."

"Well, I'd like to avoid that..." said Duncan.

Beatrice's phone buzzed. "Sorry," she said to Duncan. She picked it up and saw a text from her mother.

She darted her eyes back at the shop window and Belle hid from view.

Beatrice rolled her eyes. She looked back to Duncan.

"Okay, here's the deal," said Beatrice, "I will go, but it's strictly on a friendship at best level."

"Okay..."

"We will go to the dance and maybe coffee or something. You will try nothing because I am not going to be responsible for your death, maiming or possible transformation..."

"What's this?," Gold asked.

Belle nearly jumped. "Where did you come from?"

Gold pointed at Beatrice and Duncan outside. He would not be distracted. "What's this?," he repeated.

"I guess he and Beatrice are just talking."

"And how long have they been talking?"

"Do you know him?"

"I know his father was a farmer and he delivers papers. I know he should probably stop talking to my daughter-"

"Oh, Rumple..." Belle said with exasperation.

The bell rang as Beatrice came through the door.

"Okay, how long were you both watching?"

"How long should we have been watching?," asked Gold.

Beatrice pointed at Belle."Blame her. I have a date. What do I have a date for?"

"A date?," asked Gold.

"Where are you going?," Belle asked, her voice tinged with excitement.

"The fall formal. I'm going to a dance. Are you happy?"

Gold looked at Belle. "You are happy," he said, his voice dripping with contempt. "What are you happy for?"

"I think it might be good for her to get out and do things that other girls her age do," said Belle. She looked at Gold. "And so do you."

"No, no, I don't," he said.

Belle looked back at Beatrice. "You will need a dress. When is this dance?"

"Friday."

"Friday!," Belle exclaimed. "We should go look now."

"No, you really shouldn't," said Gold.

"It's already Wednesday, Rumple," said Belle. She looked at Beatrice. "Come on."

She was already ushering Beatrice out when

Gold called after them. "I never gave my permission!"

"Okay!," said Belle.


Then

"Rumple..."

Rumplestiltskin looked past the spinning wheel to see that Belle had entered the room. She came and stood beside him.

"What are you doing up?," she asked softly.

"Nothing," he answered. "Go back to bed."

"I don't like the idea of you alone here in the dark," said Belle.

He scoffed. "I'm fine."

"I know, but I still don't like it," Belle protested.

Rumplestiltskin smiled slightly. "Oh, Belle, I've endured more loneliness than this."

"I'll get a book," said Belle.

"My darling Belle, there's really no need."

"Do you want me to be in bed alone?"

"You were asleep," he argued.

"Come back to bed," Belle insisted. "I'll make it worth your time."

She smiled at him, he involuntarily smiled back.

Then there was a knock at the door.

"Who is that?," Belle asked.

"Go back to bed, Belle," said Rumplestiltskin.


Now

Gold tried to busy himself at the shop on the day of the dance. The dance. Belle wouldn't talk about anything else, fussing over every detail, hearing none of his well-reasoned arguments. So he went to the shop and cleaned and restored and did the books and thought of new ways he could destroy Duncan if he laid a finger on Beatrice. He was still trying to work out how to keep it from Belle and was leaning towards cursing the boy so it was as if he never existed, which was an option.

A distraction arrived in the form of the doorbell ringing. He looked up at Emma as she strode in.

"Okay, Gold, do you have it?"

Gold frowned at Emma. "Is it all that much trouble to ask for a greeting?"

Emma rolled her eyes. "Hi, Gold. Do you have it?"

"Well, I can hardly say if I do, if I don't have any idea what 'it' refers to, can I?," asked Gold.

"Hart Archer came to me. The guy from Good Morning Storybrooke?"

"I know him better than you, dearie."

"His house got broken into. He's missing some arrows."

"So naturally you thought of me."

Emma nodded.

"What would I need Cupid's arrows for?"

"What would you need any of the stuff you have for?," asked Emma.

"If those arrows were good for anything, I would have them. Lust I can concoct on my own."

Emma frowned. "Can't they make you fall in love?"

"There's a difference between thinking you're in love and being in love. Take my son for instance. He thinks he's in love with Tamara-"

"Could we not?," asked Emma.

"You came here, dearie. Now-"

"I hear Beatrice has a date," Emma shot back.

"How do you know that?"

"Belle told Mary Margaret."

"And now the entire town knows my daughter's personal business."

Emma snorted. "Please. The entire town already knows everything about Beatrice. They don't watch anyone closer, even when she's not driving." Emma waited as Gold went back to his books. "So, do you like the kid?"

"No."

"I always thought he was sweet, maybe a little dopey-"

"There's problem number one..."

"What? Okay, he's not a genius..."

"And Beatrice is a brilliant girl. Anyone less intelligent will bore her."

"It's just a dance, Gold."

"Exactly. It's pointless."

"Wow, you're fun," said Emma.


Then

"Rumple!," Belle hissed following him to the entry way of the Dark Castle.

"I told you to go back upstairs," said Rumplestiltskin as she quickened her pace to follow him.

"It's the middle of the night," said Belle. "Who would dare come up here in the middle of the night?"

"Exactly what I intend to find out, sweetheart," he answered. He turned back to her and cupped her face with his hand. "Now, please go upstairs."

Belle nodded and went up the staircase. Rumplestiltskin turned towards the doors and waved his hand to open them.

A man stumbled through. Nice clothes, velvet, not the sort of unannounced guest he was used to. Most of the peasants who were desperate enough to venture to the Dark Castle in the dead of night barely had the clothes on their backs.

"Dark One," he said, bowing his head.

"Yes, yes, dearie, what can I do for you?"

"I am Harold. My daughter, Enid, she's only eight and she's ill..." he stammered. "No medicine can help her, the clerics' prayers to the gods have failed and she's dying..."

Thank the gods Belle hadn't heard this, she would have already-

"Rumple."

Exasperated, Rumplestiltskin turned to see Belle back down the stairs.

"Yes, Belle?"

"Aren't you going to help him?"

"We were just getting to that part, where he tells me why I should help him-"

"I'll pay," said Belle.

Rumplestiltskin rolled his eyes. "You can't do this every time. I would already have your eternal servitude a dozen times over if I wanted it."

"I had no idea I was worth so little," said Belle.

"Don't try to get clever with me-"

"I don't mind paying, my lady," said Harold. "Enid is all I have. She's worth everything to me."

Rumplestiltskin turned to the man. "Then you have a payment in mind, dearie?"

"Yes, see, I keep the clerics' library," he said. "I lock away their forbidden books of dark magic. I would gladly let you take whatever you need in exchange for my daughter's help."

"Well," said Rumplestiltskin, "you are unusual, aren't you? I almost forget what it's like to deal with intelligent people, it happens so rarely."

He caught Belle's glare.

"Present company excepted, of course," he added.

He paused as the man stared back at him.

"The deal is struck."


Now

Gold arrived home to a strange sight.

Belle was cooking.

"What are you doing?," he asked.

"I thought I would get dinner done early," said Belle. "That way Beatrice can eat before she leaves."

Gold rolled his eyes.

"I saw that," Belle warned as she stirred the tomato sauce. "She's nervous, you know. This whole thing terrifies her."

Gold remained silent.

"I wish you could at least pretend to be supportive," said Belle.

"Am I not?"

Belle ignored him. "No one has ever asked her to anything like this. You know what it's like for her. Maybe things are finally changing for her."

"Mom!," Beatrice shouted.

"Coming!," Belle called back, turning off the heat on the stove.


The skirt was ripped.

Beatrice was starting to panic.

It was a sign. She wasn't supposed to go, this was a stupid idea, she didn't belong at a dance anyway. Belle had been so pleased with the choice: a purple bodice with a sweetheart neckline and a beaded purple skirt. It was pain enough selecting it with everyone in the store staring.

"Rumple!," Belle called.

"What? He's not going to help! This was a stupid idea, anyway, why did you make me do this?!," Beatrice shrieked.

"What seems to be the matter?," asked Gold.

Belle held up the piece of skirt with the ripped hem. "I don't know what happened."

Gold came over and examined it. "I can fix it."

"I don't see a magic wand," Beatrice muttered.

"Don't be silly," said Gold.

Beatrice paused. "Wait, you sew? You sew things?"

"Of course he does," said Belle. "Your papa is a man of many talents."

"Belle, could you get my sewing kit?"

"You have a sewing kit?," asked Beatrice.

Belle quickly returned with the item. Gold took out a pincushion.

"Ow!," said Beatrice as a pin stabbed her.

"Sorry," said Gold.

"What are you doing?"

"This dress doesn't fit you," said Gold.

"I put it on in the store, it went on," said Beatrice.

"The bodice is too loose and the skirt you just ripped is slightly too long for your height." He looked up at Belle. "Which your mother knew I wouldn't be able to stand."

Belle feigned an innocent expression.

"You bought me an ugly dress?," Beatrice asked in disbelief.

"It is not ugly," said Belle. "I just knew your papa could make it better."

"Because you are too pretty a girl to wear a dress that doesn't fit you," said Gold, putting in the last pin. "Alright, your mother will help you out of it and I can finish it."

"Duncan said he would be here in like two hours," said Beatrice.

"He can wait," said Gold.

"We can do your hair," said Belle.

"Great, we'll do whatever magical princess thing you do with your hair," said Beatrice.

Belle frowned. "What magical princess thing?"


Then

The library was empty of the clerics. No one dared come down to the vault where the books of Dark Magic were locked away.

"I think you wanted to help him," Belle whispered.

Rumplestiltskin looked up from the bookshelf. There was no stopping Belle from accompanying him on this trip as it contained two things she had great affection for: a selfless man willing to sacrifice all and a library. She had forced him into healing the child before they even went and now she stood at his side.

"Wouldn't you like to look at some of the other sections?," asked Rumplestiltskin. "I'm fairly certain we can take whatever we like."

"That's just it, though," said Belle. "This vault isn't protected by any magic. You could have come in whenever you liked if you wanted something. You felt sorry for him."

"He was desperate," said Rumplestiltskin. "It's good for business."

"I know you. You sympathize with anyone wanting to protect their child."

"Belle..."

"That's why you missed Robin Hood."

He looked back at her.

"Why do you insist on goading the beast?"

She leaned closer. "Because you're not a beast," she whispered.

"Harold!," he called for the librarian.

The man returned. "Yes, Dark One?"

"There's something missing here," he said.

"What? No-"

"Don't toy with me, dearie."

"Harold wouldn't do that," said Belle.

Rumplestiltskin rolled his eyes. "There's a volume here. It's missing."

"Oh, you mean 'The Book of the Dark Princess.'"

"The what?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"It exists only in legend," said Harold.

Belle frowned. "You have a spot on the shelf for a book that only exists in legend?"

"The monks believe it exists, that it came from the very first of the gods," said Harold. "I've gathered everything about it, what's been said, whispered, written."

"And what do they say of this Dark Princess?," Rumplestiltskin asked skeptically.

"There are many tales," said Harold. "She is thought to be powerful in all things, some say she is the end of the world."

"Do you believe that?," asked Belle.

"I believe in reason, my lady," said Harold.

Rumplestiltskin snorted as he looked at the monks' library. "Odd profession you've chosen then."

"There is one fact of the Dark Princess that is known for certain which makes me doubt all this," said Harold.

"Which is?," asked Belle.

"That she has not yet been born," said Harold.

"How do you have a book about someone who hasn't been born?," asked Belle.

"Precisely, my lady," said Harold.

"I think we're about done here," said Rumplestiltskin waving his hand. Various books vanished from the shelves. "We'll be off."

Belle looked at Harold. "Won't you get in trouble for the missing books?"

"Come along, Belle," Rumplestiltskin grumbled, taking her by the arm as he strode out.

"I just want to see that he's alright," said Belle as they walked towards the carriage.

"You can write him," Rumplestiltskin muttered as he helped Belle inside.


Now

Gold opened the door. There stood Duncan, the farm hand turned paper boy turned the fool that had dared ask his daughter to a dance.

"Uh, hi," Duncan stammered. "I'm here to pick up Beatrice."

Gold stood aside and the young man didn't move.

"She's in here and she's not going anywhere if you don't come in here, so make up your mind, dearie."

Duncan timidly came inside and Gold let the door slam behind him, making him jump just an inch.

"So, Duncan, have you had many girlfriends?"

"Uh, a couple."

Gold frowned. "Is my daughter merely another one of your conquests then?"

"Uh, no."

"Can you answer a question without saying 'uh?' You see, that suggests that you're thinking of the answer."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Gold. I- I guess I'm just nervous."

"As well you should be," said Gold. "She's to be back at eleven in exactly the same condition as she is leaving this house. If I find that she is not, well... that wouldn't be good for you. Do you understand?"

"Rumple! We're coming down!," Belle shouted before Duncan could answer.

"And she won't be able to help you," Gold added in an even lower voice.

Belle came down, quickly followed by Beatrice.

Gold really wished he hadn't altered that dress. He was struck not for the first time with how like Belle his daughter looked, though it did finally occur to him for the first time that Beatrice was just two years younger than Belle had been when he met her.

He didn't think any good could possibly come of that.

"Do you have anything planned beside the dance?," Belle asked.

"They're back at eleven," Gold answered.

"Yes, Mr. Gold," said Duncan.

"We should be going," said Beatrice.

"Let me get a picture," Belle pleaded.

"Definitely going. Come on, Duncan."

They were gone and Gold was left standing there.

"He seems nice," Belle remarked.

"What the hell just happened?," asked Gold.

Belle smiled and wrapped her arms around him. "Don't worry, Rumple. She's coming back."


The hush.

Beatrice was used to it.

"What happened?," asked Duncan.

"I walked in," said Beatrice. He looked at her inquisitively. "That's what happens when I walk in places."

The room was staring. Curious at who had actually asked Beatrice out, curious still that he was not an insect.

She caught the amused glances of Artie and Morgan. They weren't the only ones staring, but there was something different about their stares.

"Want to dance?," Duncan squeaked out.

"Not really," said Beatrice, reluctantly holding her hand out.


Gold looked out the window.

"Rumple," Belle sighed, "it's nine. You said eleven. You can't stare out the window for two more hours."

"I wouldn't have too if you hadn't encouraged her to accept this young man's proposal."

Belle laughed. "They're just going to a high school dance, not getting married."

"You let her go out with a farm hand."

"He asked!"

"Well, in the future, let's see if we can be more discerning than that."

"I thought it was discerning. He had the courage to ask," said Belle.

"Gall is more like it."

"Instead of staring out the window, can you think of anything else we could do for two hours?"

Gold looked to Belle. "How can you think of that at a time like this?"

She smiled. "Come upstairs and I will show you."

Gold was sorely tempted, but all thoughts were interrupted by a ring of the doorbell.

He opened it to find Emma and Mr. Archer.

"What is it this time, Sheriff?"

"Where's Beatrice?"

Gold frowned. Belle sided up next to him. "Why?," she asked.

Emma looked to Hart and back. "Someone stole one of Cupid's arrows..."

"I don't have it," said Gold. "I thought we cleared that up."

"You don't think Beatrice..."

"No," said Emma. "Where is she?"

"The high school formal," said Belle. She watched as Gold grabbed his coat and keys, then quickly followed suit as they walked down the steps and to the car. "What is going on?"

"I just saw Duncan," Hart explained. "He's under the effects of the arrow."

"Yeah, it gets better. Hart says it's about to wear off," said Emma.

"Oh, gods," said Belle, hurrying to the car.


The dances at her prep school were held in the ballroom of some fancy hotel usually. Beatrice had never been to those and was now thinking they had to be a little better than Storybrooke High's gym decorated in fake autumn leaves and glitter-covered banners. Why was it always the glitter?

The others had been surprised to see her, but had not said anything. Beatrice was still surprised to be here.

And dancing. Why was she dancing?

"So," said Beatrice, "do you watch anything on TV?"

"Hockey," said Duncan.

"Oh," said Beatrice. "What about Doctor Who?"

Duncan paused. "Is that the show about the phone booth?"

This probably wasn't going to work.

Beatrice looked up to see Gold coming in.

"Dad-"

Before she could finish a question, Gold had pulled her aside and taken her hand.

"You're leaving. Now," said Gold.

"But you said-"

"Where's your coat?," asked Gold.

"Mr. Gold-" Duncan began to object.

"You. Shut up," Gold instructed.

"Dad, you said-"

Gold leaned forward and whispered. "If you have ever trusted me about anything, you will leave now."

They now had the full attention of the entire dance, clearly waiting for someone to turn into a snail. Beatrice did manage to catch the amused glances of Artie and Morgan.

"Sorry, Duncan," said Beatrice.

"Don't apologize to him," Gold added distastefully. "Come along, sweetheart."


From the gym to the parking lot, Beatrice fumed, finally bursting as they hit cold air.

"What is your problem?!," Beatrice shouted.

Gold let go of her arm. "You didn't answer your phone."

"It was in my coat!" They got outside and she looked up to see her mom, Emma and Hart.

"What's going on?," she asked.

"Someone stole from Mr. Archer," said Gold.

"What?" She looked over at him.

"Yes, sorry about that. I didn't realize it until I saw Duncan with you," said Hart.

"So the only way someone could like me is if they were under a spell from a magic arrow?," asked Beatrice. "Thanks!"

"No, no," Hart said, trying to back pedal. "You're very cute, especially since you ditched the glasses."

"Okay, maybe you want to watch what you say about the sixteen year old," warned Emma.

"Yes," Gold added.

"I should be going," said Hart.

"Yeah," said Gold.

Hart hurried off.

Emma looked at Beatrice. "You okay?"

"Yes, I'm enjoying this new level of humiliation in my life," said Beatrice. "Now I'm dressed up and humiliated. This is just great. Where's the car?"


"Beatrice?," Belle asked.

She walked in the room. Beatrice was in the process of disassembling her carefully crafted look for the dance.

"Did you have fun at least, while it lasted?," asked Belle.

Beatrice didn't answer.

"This wasn't my fault. The least you could do is not be angry with me-"

Beatrice spun around. "Not your fault? How do you suppose that? You told me to say yes, you dressed me up and did my hair and sent me out there to look like an idiot!" She shook her head. "I need to stop listening to you."

Belle collected herself. "Alright. Duncan wasn't the one. I never thought he was. The point was for you to be out there, with people. You'll be alone forever if you don't let people in."

"I will be alone forever no matter what I do."

"No, of course you won't."

Beatrice sat on the bed. Belle carefully sat next to her and ran her fingers through her daughter's hair. "Somewhere out there is a boy who has no idea how dull his life is because you haven't walked into it yet."

"I don't think so."

"And why not?," Belle demanded.

Beatrice scoffed. "Fourteen generations of True Love. You don't think the luck's run out?"

"It's not luck," said Belle. "It's destiny."


Then

Rumplestiltskin couldn't believe it. Belle took the letter from the bird with a smile.

"You actually wrote him," he said as the bird delivering Harold's letter flew away.

"You said I could," Belle said plaintively, opening the envelope.

"That's not what I meant," said Rumplestiltskin, sitting back in his chair.

"Then you ought to have chosen your words more carefully," she said.

Belle sat on the arm of his chair. "Enid's doing well," said Belle.

"Oh, good," he said flatly.

"You're pleased and you know it," said Belle.

"Why did you write Harold?"

"I asked him more about that book," said Belle. "I think he thought it was you asking so he's sent me copies of everything."

"The Dark Princess? Why would I be interested?"

"You are the Dark One."

"And yet I know no Dark Princess. "Besides, if she hasn't been born by now, I wouldn't be worried."

"I'm not worried," said Belle. "I'm just curious."

"What for?"

"It's a book about someone who hasn't been born yet," said Belle. "How is anyone not curious? How can the monks be so concerned about someone who hasn't done anything yet?"

"Don't look to the monks for reason, darling Belle."

Belle moved from the armrest into his lap, curling against his chest.

"You're just going to sit there to read that?," he asked.

"Do you mind?," asked Belle.

He didn't answer.

"Other noble ladies don't have this annoying curiosity," said Rumplestiltskin. "They have hobbies. Gardening, weaving..."

"This is my hobby," Belle protested. "Besides, noble ladies don't have hobbies, they have children."

She saw him recoil.

"Was there something in there to help you find Bae?," she asked.

"We shall see," he answered quietly.

Chapter Text

 


Then

Belle spun around in front of the mirror, the skirts of her new ball gown flying.

Reinette laughed at her daughter's exuberance. "Well, now, who was it that didn't want a new gown?"

Belle smiled at the deep blue fabric. "It is nice."

"You will look so lovely attending the season."

"The season?," Belle asked. "Papa said I couldn't."

"Belle, you are a young lady from a great family. You must be in society." Reinette sat on the bench and motioned for Belle to join her. "The balls will be abuzz with the talk of you and your beauty."

"Papa says I'm promised to Sir Gaston-"

"Belle, you are not condemned to that life. You will be meeting with the greatest and the best in the kingdoms. Remember what the seer said?"

Belle rolled her eyes. "You actually believe her?"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"My tutors-"

Reinette nodded with contempt. Of course the tutors Maurice selected would say such things. "Your tutors don't know what they're talking about." She shook it off. "Never mind that. You are going to have a lovely summer."


Now

"Belle," said Aurora, "your father is here."

"Good. We need someone to sort the periodicals," Belle said absent-mindedly, looking through the paperwork at her desk.

Aurora frowned. "Moe French?"

Belle froze. She couldn't believe she had made that mistake. Without any overt declaration, Merlin had eased his way into their family, joining them for dinners and continuing his work at the library. Rumple hated the man like a father-in-law and his nature with Beatrice was easy, like they had known each other years.

Belle sighed. "I'll be right there."

She made her way from the office back to the Circulation Desk. Moe had a bouquet. She crossed her arms.

"What do you want, Father?," she asked.

"I came to beg you to listen to reason, Belle," said Moe. "I truly don't want to see your soul condemned."

"You should leave before I call Rumplestiltskin."

Moe seethed. "That beast is part of the problem."

"And Beatrice is the other part?"

"Belle, you don't know what she is, what a monster she will become. You have been used to unleash this great darkness-"

"How dare you call my daughter names. She is innocent. You and the other knights are the ones full of darkness."

"I did what was necessary, Belle."

"Oh! Sir Maurice!"

Belle looked to see Merlin coming in with a tray of drinks.

"Are you yet living?," Merlin added.

"Merlin," Moe hissed. He looked at Belle. "Have you been listening to this man?"

"You know," said Merlin, "I was incredibly disappointed when Rumplestiltskin chose to permit you to live. I think he hoped you would die slowly."

"I'm speaking with my daughter."

Merlin eyed him as he put the drink tray down. "Has your head grown fatter?"

Moe turned to Belle. "You have no idea what ideas this man put in your mother's head. What he's done to manipulate her family. They thought he was their friend, all the time trying to create a Dark Princess-"

"Oh, yeah, because you were her friend when you tied her down and forced poison down her throat."

Belle's mind raced as the argument continued. The Dark Princess. The unknown book. All those years ago.

"Belle! Are you going to listen to me?!," demanded Moe.

Merlin looked at her expectantly.

"I think you should leave, Father," said Belle. "Please don't return."

Moe did not look happy.

"Take the flowers," Belle instructed.

Moe grumbled as he took the bouquet and left.

Merlin looked at Belle. "What did he want?"

It was finally enough Belle decided.

"We need to talk."

Merlin nodded. "I believe we do."


Then

King Midas' castle was unlike anything Belle had ever seen. She had spent many of her summers at King Leopold and Queen Eva's summer palace up until Eva's death. The new queen had never really resumed entertaining in the same fashion and for the most part, society was grateful as whispers had always surrounded her and that mother of hers. Midas' palace was laden with gold and beautiful gold-trimmed mosaics.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?"

Belle looked up from her staring at the mosaic to see her grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Padua.

"Grandfather!," Belle cried, running over.

"Oh, my beautiful girl," said the Duke, all grins. The years may have aged him, dared to slow him down even, but never soured him. He embraced his granddaughter with his usual enthusiasm. "Oh, I missed you, Belle!"

"I missed you, too, Grandfather."

"And what am I exactly?," asked the Duchess with playful scorn.

"Grandmother," Belle smiled and hugged the woman. She looked to Reinette. "Mama didn't mention you'd be here."

"It was a surprise," said Reinette.

"A not unpleasant one, I hope?," asked the Duke.

"Of course not," said Belle.

"Your mother told us of her plan to launch you into society and we thought we might be of help," said Catherine.

"I don't understand," said Belle.

"To remind people that you are the granddaughter of the Duke of Padua, descended from royal blood," said Catherine.

"Grandmother, you know I don't care about such things," said Belle.

"Oh, Belle, come now," said the Duke, taking her by the arm. "Don't be such a snob. Some dukes are perfectly nice people."

The Duchess snorted.

"Oh, do you have some disagreement, my lady?," asked the Duke.

"Yes, quite a virulent one," she replied.

The Duke leaned towards Belle conspiratorially. "She doesn't know what she's talking about. Ignore her. I'll introduce you to King Midas. Whatever you do, don't shake hands."

They walked ahead as Reinette took her mother's arm to follow them at a leisurely pace.

"Who is it we're looking for exactly?," asked Catherine.

"The most powerful man in all the realms," said Reinette.

"All the realms?," asked Catherine. "Curious choice of words."

"It's what she said."

"Well, if he's here, I think Belle will shine."

"It's Princess Abigail's ball."

"Yes, she is lovely, but she only has eyes for one of her father's men. Fred or someone. Belle has the added benefit of novelty."

"I'm determined that she get settled," said Reinette.

"You can't rush these things, darling."

"I have to hasten it somehow. Maurice would hold her in a tower if he could until she marries Sir Gaston. I've done everything I can to stop an official engagement. Last time I had to declare the castle rife with elfin plague."

"Is that an actual disease?," asked Catherine.

Reinette shook her head. "I'm not sure."


Now

Belle put Aurora in charge of the circulation desk and took Merlin upstairs to the caretaker's apartment. There wasn't really anything in it except for atrociously out of date encyclopedias and an old sofa, but it would do for this conversation.

"What do you want to know first?," Merlin asked.

Belle sat down on the sofa. "Who's the Dark Princess?"

"You know, that title is misleading..."

"Is it Beatrice?"

"Do you know what the villagers called you when you came down from the Dark Castle? Not at first, but later, when it became clear you were not a slave."

Belle shook her head. "I didn't know they had a particular name for me."

"The Dark Mistress."

The title surprised Belle. She had been called "Mistress of the Dark Castle" a couple of times, but that moniker sounded detached, like she was just a housekeeper.

"You're the Dark Mistress in the same way that Beatrice is the Dark Princess," Merlin explained. "It took me a long time to understand that title. I had to learn to understand Rumplestiltskin, the way he loves his children. She was always going to be his princess."

"The Dark One's Princess," said Belle.

"Yes."

"I used to think about it," said Belle. Merlin glanced at her curiously. "I didn't have much time to fantasize after I realized I was pregnant, but I had seen him with the infants from his deals and I knew the way he spoke about Bae. I knew he would worship the ground she walked on."

"Why didn't you tell him?," asked Merlin.

She shrugged. "I was trying to think of a way."

Merlin smiled and shook his head. "There's never a good way."

"Then I got word about my father and..." Belle was tearing up. She looked at Merlin. "I knew if I told him he would never let me see my father."

"Indeed not."

Belle tried to hold back tears. "It's my fault, don't you see? Beatrice lived without her father for fifteen years because I didn't tell him. I stole another child from Rumple, all their firsts, maybe the Curse would have never happened-"

"Oh, Belle, no," said Merlin. "There were two people that could have stopped the Dark Curse: Regina and Rumplestiltskin. That's all."

Belle shook her head. "What about you?"

"I came to Rumplestiltskin, not long after you departed," said Merlin. "I didn't realize that. I knew you were pregnant, but that the future of the Curse hadn't changed, so I knew you hadn't told him. I was going to make you."

"Make me?"

"Yes," said Merlin. "I was rather looking forward to it. I imagine he might have fainted or at least turned a very pale shade of green."

Belle tried to picture it and couldn't help but smile. Her standing before the all-powerful Rumplestiltskin and watching as he fell to the floor with the news.

"And what about the Curse?"

Merlin shook his head. "The future is a dangerous thing. It's hard not to beat yourself over what might have been. I was hoping to make a deal with him, to come up with a plan to find Baelfire. At the least, I wanted to secure your place inside the Curse, to make you and Beatrice safe."

Belle nodded. "We would have been together."

"That was my plan. That was always my plan, Belle."

"What happened?"

"The Blue Fairy," said Merlin. "She found me as soon as I found you and she stopped me."

"You looked for me?," asked Belle.

"Of course I looked for you. As soon as I awoke, I looked for you."

"Why?," asked Belle.

Merlin didn't answer.

"What are you really asking, Belle?"

Belle tried to summon the courage to ask the question she had wanted to, the question she already knew the answer to.

"Are you my father?"

"Yes."

Belle shook her head. "I don't understand. Why did Maurice raise me? You didn't even-"

"To keep you safe. To go with the plan, to give you what your mother and I couldn't have, your True Love." Merlin leaned in. "If I had just dropped you off at the Dark Castle on your eighteenth birthday and told Rumplestiltskin here was his True Love and go make a Dark Princess, do you think that would have worked?"

Belle scoffed. "No."

"And you never would have had the thing you love most." He paused. "Your library."

She shook her head. "You're not funny."

"Yes, I am."

"Okay," said Belle. "What is the Dark Princess for?"

"You surprise me, Belle. You seem to have forgotten something that I told you once on the day you were born. Something you remembered your whole life."

Belle tilted her head at him, at a loss.

"No one decides Beatrice's fate but Beatrice."

Belle smiled.

"There's something else I should probably tell you."

"Do you think I could take more?"

"I dare say you can."


Then

Reinette entered her chamber at Midas' palace. The ball had been a success, both for the Princess and Belle. No one had particularly caught Belle's eye, but she had been noticed and she had enjoyed herself. Reinette sat at the dressing table and started removing her jewels.

"Hello, Reinette."

Reinette spun around. "Fairy Godmother."

The Gold Fairy smiled. "It's been a long time."

"Indeed it has." She motioned at the settee. "Please sit."

"I take it you're looking for Belle's True Love," said the Gold Fairy.

"Most desperately. Maurice has her set to marry Sir Gaston."

Goldie nodded in understanding. "He doesn't have her best interests at heart."

"Do you have a suggestion?," asked Reinette.

Goldie held up her wand. "What do you say we give it one last shot?"

"Can you spare the fairy dust?"

"I knew this day would come. I've been saving it up for a while," said Goldie.

"Is there any way to do it without her coming along?," asked Reinette. "Belle is so headstrong if we took her to him-"

Goldie nodded. "Get one of her books."


Now

Belle entered the pawn shop.

"Hey," she said flatly, turning the shop sign to closed.

The action surprised Gold. "Hey."

She walked over.

"Sweetheart, what is it?," Gold asked, thinking there had to be something wrong.

"I just had that chat with Merlin."

Gold dreaded the result. "And?"

Belle nodded.

"No worse than Moe, I suppose." He looked up at Belle. "Is there something else?"

"Do you remember 'The Book of the Dark Princess?'"

Gold searched his memory. "Vaguely. What made you think of that?"

"Our daughter."

"Oh, Belle, don't be ridiculous."

"The book Merlin gave Beatrice for her birthday is the book. He had it all this time because... because she's special."

Gold shook his head. "No. She is not-"

Seeing he needed help, Belle walked over and hugged him. He aqueezed back, despite his worry.

"It's just a book title, Rumple," said Belle. "You can't get a whole book from the title."


Then

Reinette met Goldie in King Midas' statue garden that she strongly suspected was made up of former family members. With a wave of her wand, the Gold Fairy enchanted the book and it flew, they followed.

They flew a long way, to a land that Reinette had never seen, finding themselves in the mountains and ending up at a great castle. They landed in the gardens.

"This is remarkable," said Reinette. "Such a great house. Very far removed from things."

Reinette looked back at Goldie. The fairy wasn't speaking much.

"What's the matter?"

"The matter is the owner of this castle," said Goldie.

"What of him?"

"We should leave."

"Is this indeed the home of Belle's True Love?"

Goldie didn't speak.

"What is so horrible?," Reinette demanded.

"Cat got your tongue, Goldie?"

Reinette spun around to see Merlin standing in the gardens next to them. His appearance was a shock, she hadn't seen him in years.

"Merlin," she gasped, unable to say anything more coherent.

"Did you know this all along?," demanded Goldie.

"Know what?," said Reinette. "Is someone going to tell me what's going on?"

"This is the Dark Castle," said Merlin.

"The Dark Castle?," asked Reinette. "Is that not a bit melodramatic?"

Merlin shrugged. "The owner has a flair for the dramatic."

"And the owner is Belle's True Love?"

"Yes, he is."

"And what sort of man owns a Dark Castle?," asked Reinette.

"You knew this all along," Goldie accused. "What sort of monster are you trying to make?"

"Choose your words carefully, Goldie," said Merlin. "Or risk choking on them."

"You would hand over your own daughter to the Dark One," said Goldie.

"The Dark One?," Reinette asked, remembering her meeting with him years ago and his curious refusal of her deal.

"First off, I'm not handing her over. When Belle goes to him, she goes willingly."

"He is capable of-"

"Not when it comes to Belle," said Merlin. "He could never hurt her. In fact, she'll be safer here than she would most other places."

"Safe?," Goldie snorted.

"This is really a conversation for Reinette and I to have," said Merlin. "Why don't you fly off?"

"If Blue finds out-"

"Then Blue will have me to deal with."

Goldie vanished into a gold dot and flew off. Reinette turned to Merlin.

"You did know."

"I've always known."

"This special girl, our granddaughter, she is to be sired by the Dark One?"

"Rumplestiltskin is more than you know."

"I should hope so."

"Shall I show you?"

Reinette scoffed. "Do you suppose a dinner party would sort us out?"

"That was not what I had in mind, though he is a rather good cook," said Merlin. He snapped his fingers. "We are now invisible."

"And what's the point in that?"

"To show you what he is when he doesn't think anyone's looking."


They went inside the great castle. Reinette observed the first great room, full of eclectic treasures.

"It's filthy," she remarked.

"All in good time," said Merlin. "This way."

They were half up the stairs when Reinette heard a baby cry.

"What is that?," she demanded.

"It's Rumplestiltskin. What do you suppose it is?"

Reinette rushed up to follow the sound. She found a simple nursery, no flourishes, but comfortable. There was a screaming, red-faced newborn.

"This is someone's child he's taken?," demanded Reinette.

"This is someone's child he's dealt for."

"Oh, I feel much better."

"Yes, yes, what?!," came a sing-song voice.

Rumplestiltskin entered the room and Merlin pulled Reinette away from the crib. She watched as Rumplestiltskin picked up the child.

"You're not wet," remarked Rumplestiltskin. "You just ate. What is it?"

The infant continued to cry.

"It's that mother of yours, isn't it?," he asked. "Are you crying over her? You're wasting your tears, little one. She just traded you for two cows. Only two! She sold you under market value."

The baby cried.

"Hush, hush, now," he cooed. "Tomorrow I'll take you to your new family. They took something from a very wicked queen to get you. They won't give you up as easily."

They watched as Rumplestiltskin rocked and soothed the infant, then left it to sleep.

"Have you seen enough?," Merlin asked.

Reinette nodded wordlessly.

Merlin returned Reinette to King Midas' statuary.

"So?," asked Merlin. "Are you still going to lock her in a tower?"

Reinette shook her head as she took a seat on a bench. "I don't know what to think." She looked back up at him. "He's her True Love?"

"Indeed. She'll be able to see the good in him."

"And the child?"

"You don't actually believe what the Gold Fairy said, do you?"

"I have to ask, don't I? I am her mother."

"No child born of True Love can be a monster." Merlin sat next to Reinette. "Belle will have everything she needs to make her happy. She will be able to have a life raising her child with her True Love. Also, there's a rather large library involved."

"And will she be corrupted?"

"She will be changed, as all love changes us," said Merlin. "Belle cannot be corrupted, in fact, quite the opposite. Her goodness will corrupt his darkness."

Reinette nodded. "Then I will be pleased for her."

She stood and walked away.

"Reinette," Merlin called.

She stopped and shrugged. "What more is there to say?"

"Anything."

"What difference would it make?"

"All the difference."

Reinette walked away, leaving Merlin alone.


Now

Belle walked into Beatrice's room. As usual, everything was going. Her textbooks were out on the bed. The TV was on. The iPhone was playing music and Beatrice was painting her toenails as she read.

Belle shook her head. "How can you think?"

Beatrice shrugged. Belle kicked her heels off as she moved the textbooks aside to join Beatrice on the bed.

"You're not sleeping here again, are you?"

"That was once," said Belle. "You had been in another realm and you are my only baby."

Beatrice cringed as Belle squeezed her affectionately. "God, Mom!"

"You are so wonderful," Belle said, giving her a kiss. "Turn these things off. We need to talk."

Beatrice released herself from Belle's grip and turned off the music, then muted the episode of Sherlock she had on. "Yes?," she asked, twisting the nail polish closed.

"I just had a talk with Merlin," said Belle, playing with Beatrice's hair.

"Oh, God, what do I have to do now?," she asked.

"Nothing," said Belle, grateful that she, Rumple and Merlin were the only ones appraised of that knowledge for now, such that it was. "Merlin told me something and I wanted to tell you."

"And that is?"

Belle took a moment. "Merlin is my father."

"Okay..." Beatrice took that in. "Are there any more relatives you guys want to clue me in on? We could get this all done at once. Should we just run downstairs and check with Dad?"

Belle smiled. "I think we're done with surprise relatives."

"So Moe's definitely out of Thanksgiving?"

Belle hugged Beatrice tightly. "He's always been out, whether he was my father or not, he tried to hurt you and you're... you are everything."

Belle caught sight of the book Merlin had given Beatrice sitting under the nail polish bottle.

"Beatrice!," she exclaimed, rescuing it from having something sparkly from the Katy Perry OPI collection drip on the cover.

"Sorry," she shrugged.

"You need to be more careful with this," said Belle, wiping the dripped polish off. "Extremely careful."

"I know, I know, books are..." She shook her head. "You need a catchphrase. For books. You've already got that 'No one decides my fate but me' thing. Work on that."

Belle was dumbstruck. Her beautiful girl, as she always was, not knowing her future was in her hands.

"Can I borrow this?," asked Belle.

"Sure," said Beatrice. "It's a bunch of blank pages and a really weird family tree."

"Thank you," said Belle, getting up. "I'll keep it safe."

"Okay..." said Beatrice, un-muting the Sherlock episode and getting her Pre-Calc book out.

Chapter Text

 


Now

Belle watched Gold in frustration as they stood behind the counter in his empty shop.

Since borrowing the book from Beatrice, Gold had cast several wards over the object to keep it from ill-intentioned hands, then he had tried to figure out how to use it himself.

"I have tried every implement I can think of," said Gold as Belle leaned on the counter to stare at the book. "Every magical quill, every type of ink. The only thing left to try is blood."

Belle frowned at him.

"Which, obviously, I won't do."

Belle flipped through it again. "Maybe the pages are enchanted?"

"It's no enchantment I know of." He looked back up at Belle. "When did Merlin say the title changed from 'The Dark Princess' to Beatrice's name?"

"He said it must have been just after I realized I was pregnant with her. I had just finished with Much Ado About Nothing not long before and I liked the name."

Gold thought on it. "You got it on your birthday."

"Yes," she said with a smile.

Gold's mouth curled into a smile. "That was a good birthday."

Belle nodded in agreement. "Very good."

"I should ask Merlin," Gold said, returning his attention to the book.

"Which you can do later," said Belle, wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning up to kiss him. "We have date night."

He frowned. "I thought that was merely a clever ploy we were using to not have Beatrice around when we discussed the book."

"I thought it might be more convincing if we did the date part. I've made reservations at that nice restaurant at the waterfront, but that's not for an hour."

"I don't suppose you have any idea what you would like to do with that hour?"

"We could re-enact my birthday..." Belle said, teasing him with another kiss.

"Is that when you think Beatrice..."

Belle smiled. "Maybe or it might have been on that trip we took to the Island Kingdom?"

Gold's mouth curled into a smile once more. "That was a good trip."

They kissed again.

"Is the door locked?," asked Belle.

"With the spell I cast, no one is getting in here."


Beatrice used to look forward to Friday evenings in Manhattan. Anything was possible when she and her mother went out on the town in search of something new and exciting. A movie. Snagging a table at Serendipity. They had once found a restaurant that only served different types of lasagna.

Storybrooke had considerably less options.

Even less tonight.

Her mother had casually mentioned it was "date night" and that perhaps it would be a good night for Beatrice to have dinner with Merlin or Aurora, who had recently moved out into one of Gold's vacant properties. Merlin was shutting down the library and Beatrice was waiting at Granny's, getting dessert out of the way.

"Hey, Beatrice."

Beatrice looked up. It was Leroy/Grumpy coming in with the other six dwarves. For some reason, he had a soft spot for her. She suspected it was actually a soft spot for her mother, but she was just happy enough to not have someone drop the Dark One bomb at her every meeting.

"Hi, Leroy."

"Where's your mom?"

Beatrice took a breath. "Date night."

Leroy's face contorted in disgust as Beatrice's did much the same.

"Yeah, I know," she confirmed.

"You can eat with us if you want," said Leroy, motioning at where the dwarves had sat.

"Oh, thanks, but I'm supposed to eat with my grandfather."

Leroy frowned. "Moe?"

"No, Merlin. Has that not gotten around yet? I thought there was an email or something."

"No, not yet."

He paused and Beatrice turned behind her. Mother Superior had entered with some of the nuns. She stared icily at Beatrice.

Ruby was on it, walking up to the former fairy. "Come on. You know what Mary Margaret said."

Beatrice frowned and strained to listen. What had Snow White said?

"I'm not doing anything," Mother Superior said huffily. "I didn't even know she was here."

"Maybe we should go," one of the other nuns offered, glancing back at Leroy and Beatrice.

"Quiet, Astrid," Mother Superior said in a curt tone.

"If she's here, you can't be," Ruby said quietly. "Don't make me get Granny."

"Do you know when you might be done?," Mother Superior asked, suddenly turning towards Beatrice.

"Sorry?"

"When do you think you might be done?," she repeated. "So I can know when to come back."

Suddenly all eyes in the diner were on Beatrice which was not a sensation she enjoyed.

"Come on. You're better than this," Ruby implored.

Defeated, Mother Superior turned in a huff, running smack into Merlin.

"Oh, the Blue Trollop," he said. "How not nice to see you again."

"Merlin. Enjoy dinner with your monster."

"Big talk for someone who hasn't gotten her wand back."

"I will."

"And I will be here as ever. All roads go through me."

Mother Superior left with the nuns.

"Bye, Astrid," Leroy let slip.

Beatrice turned back to him as Merlin came to sit across from her in the booth.

"What did she say?," asked Merlin.

"I don't know. It was weird," said Beatrice. She motioned at the space formerly occupied by the nuns. "Was that Nova?"

Leroy put his gruff demeanour back on. "What? Who?"

"Astrid. She's Nova."

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Um, Nova? The woman you were in love with?"

Leroy shook his head. "Dwarves don't fall in love."

"Except when they do," she contradicted.

She just then noticed Merlin watching her as Leroy went back to his table.

"Why don't you ask her out to coffee or something?," asked Beatrice.

"She's a nun."

Beatrice nodded. "Yeah, because Regina made her a nun. She's the Evil Queen, not the Pope. What is she even actually queen of?"

"Look, she's a fairy. I'm a dwarf. That's how it is."

"Why does that mean you can't do what you want?"

Ruby came over. "Hey, give him a break, okay?," she asked softly.

"Why is it, even with the Curse broken, nobody can tell me why they do what they do?," she asked.

"Our land was different," said Ruby. "Now, what can I get started for you guys?"


Then

The Duke of the Frontlands kept meticulous records of every child who was born. Merlin had tried many lands before, but once he arrived at the Frontlands finding a child called Rumplestiltskin was a simple thing.

He walked out to the cottage. Less of a cottage, more of a shack with a thatched roof in bad need of repair. Merlin spotted several empty bottles in the grass surrounding the home and one look inside the hole in the wall passing as a window revealed that there was no furniture merely a pallet on the floor.

He walked around the house, looking for the occupants when he found a baby in a basket.

He knew him as soon as he saw him.

"Rumplestiltskin..." he said with a smile.

"Stop!"

Merlin turned to see a gaunt woman with even thinner red hair brandishing a shovel.

"Back away from him," she instructed.

Merlin motioned at the baby. "Are you this boy's mother?"

"Yes, I am," she said. She suddenly looked stricken. "You haven't bought him, have you?"

"Bought him?," Merlin asked in disbelief. "Is he on the market?"

"Not exactly," the woman muttered, putting down her shovel. "My husband, you see, he's got a bit of a gambling problem..."

"Your husband?," Merlin asked. "I didn't see a husband mentioned on the birth certificate."

"Well, he's meant to get properly married, but business has been slow..."

Merlin motioned at the callouses on her hands. "Is that why you've been working in the fields with an infant at home?"

"Just a bit of gardening..." She paused. "Sorry, who the bloody hell are you?"

"My name is Merlin. And you are?"

"Gormlaith."

Merlin nodded. "So Rumplestiltskin wasn't that much of a leap."

"Steady on! What's that supposed to mean? Why are you showing up at my house, asking questions about my baby?," she demanded.

"Do you believe in True Love?"

"Princes kissing girls to wake them up from curses? That sort of nonsense?"

Merlin nodded. "So the romantic part is coming from the other side of the family. Understandable."

"What are you talking about?"

"Who's this?"

Merlin turned to see a man stumbling over.

"Malcolm," said Gormlaith nervously, "we have a visitor."

"Yes, hello, I'm Merlin," he said. "I was just telling your... I was just saying what a handsome boy you have here."

Malcolm shot a look. A look that suggested how little regard he had for his offspring. He walked back into the house and Merlin watched Gormlaith cringe as they heard the sound of the family's few possessions clattering and breaking.

"You should leave," said Gormlaith. "It's never good when he's in one of his moods."

"And what about you?"

"I can handle him."

"And the boy?"

Gormlaith picked up the baby's basket and headed back towards the shack.

"Look after him," Merlin instructed. "We'll talk later."

Gormlaith shot him a look and went inside.


Now

 

Beatrice was cautious as she entered the house, knocking on the door and stomping in. "I'm home! In the living room!," she added for good measure. No way was she going to share Emma's fate of walking in on her fairy tale parents...

Not happening.

Belle entered from the kitchen. She had on her robe and nightgown. "How was dinner?"

"Good."

It was then that Gold joined them. "And Mother Superior?"

Beatrice shrugged. "I don't know. She barely said anything to me."

"Yes, but what did she say to you?"

"Rumple, Ruby would have said if it was important," said Belle.

"Sorry, Ruby talked to you?"

"She texted," said Belle.

"Why?"

"Because I asked her to look out for you," said Belle.

"Great. Just so I know, is there anyone else keeping an eye out for me?"

"Beatrice," said Gold, "I don't know that you're appreciative of the contempt that Mother Superior has for you."

"Yes, she traded me for a tree and stole my baby tooth," said Beatrice. "I get it."

Gold looked pointedly at Belle.

"Just be careful around her," Belle implored.

"Beatrice, we brought you an extra dessert," said Gold. He looked at Belle. "Could I speak to you alone?"

"Yes," said Belle.

Beatrice tried not to think about what Gold wanted to speak to Belle about. He gave her a kiss and said good night, then Belle followed suit.


Then

Merlin had been not far from Longbourne when he heard there was a market day. His hosts sought to entertain him by saying that there was often very fine wool for sale there.

That's when the market had attracted his interest because he thought his spinner might be there. He had not looked in on him in a while since the spinsters who raised him died and wondered how Rumplestiltskin might be getting on.

That's when he got a surprise and Merlin did not get surprises often.

He was looking at the various stalls when he did find Rumplestiltskin selling wool. That's when he noticed the lovely dark-haired young thing next to him.

A wife?

Rumplestiltskin had a wife?

Given the man's quiet nature and the considerable emotional wreckage that his childhood had done, Merlin had almost entirely expected Rumplestiltskin to remain a bachelor the three hundred or so years before his True Love came into his life.

"Can I help you, sir?," he asked.

Merlin frowned. "Do you not remember me?"

"I'm sorry. I don't."

"Merlin. I was a friend of your aunts."

"Rumple..." said the woman.

Rumplestiltskin glanced back and saw her disapproving look staring at a customer with coin in his hand. Rumplestiltskin excused himself and went back to the man.

"We were just talking. I'm Merlin. I knew his aunts."

"Milah," she said shortly.

"So, Milah, are you from Longbourne?"

"No. I'm from the same village as Rumplestiltskin."

"Ah."

"And would I know your father?"

"You might. He's the cheesemonger."

Cheesemonger's daughter. He recalled the man had many children that he put to work for him.

"It must be a very different life for you then," said Merlin.

"Of course. I am married."

"Such different work. Not as taxing."

"I do my share."

"Oh. Why don't you show me which wool you spun?"

"I'm afraid I'm still learning. My hands aren't as skilled as Rumplestiltskin's."

Merlin smiled. "Oh, darling, you're not fooling me."

"Excuse me?"

Merlin leaned in closer. "He is not your end game, is he? He was just the first road out for you."

"I don't like-"

"Don't waste both our time with denying it," he hissed. "I'm usually right about these things. Actually, I am definitely right about this thing, but you are not his end game, either."

Milah looked at him in a way that clearly betrayed she didn't believe that.

"Yet," Merlin said considering, "you may yet serve a purpose."


Now

The story of Dreamy and Nova had always been a favorite of Beatrice's, regardless of the Belle cameo. It had made her sad. In fourth grade, they had all been assigned to make their own fairy tale book. Beatrice had been surprised to hear that nobody knew the story of the dwarf who fell in love with the fairy, nor did they understand why it needed a sequel.

Then again, she had once failed a reading comprehension quiz in the second grade when it had revolved around the story of Snow White and Prince Charming. Beatrice had not bothered to read the story given in her primer and instead moved on to the test relying on the book August had given her. It had been open-ended with questions like "Who is the Evil Queen?" To which Beatrice naturally answered, "Regina, the daughter of Prince Henry and the Queen of Hearts, who was worse." Another question asked "Why did Snow White bite the apple?" Beatrice had answered that it was of course to save her True Love, the Big Bad Wolf, her grandmother and the Seven Dwarves. The last question on the quiz had been "What happens to the Evil Queen?" The answer to that had taken an additional page and had caused her teacher to send Beatrice to the school psychiatrist and bring Belle in for a parent-teacher conference to discuss why Beatrice was so fixated on the Evil Queen ripping her father's heart out. When they asked her, the answer "It was the thing she loved the most" had gotten her sent back to the school counselor for a session a week until the end of the year despite Belle's explanations.

With a sequel to the tale of Nova and Dreamy in mind, Beatrice made her way to the convent. There was the church, the house where the nuns lived, the school and then the community center.

"Hi," she said. "Sister Astrid?"

Astrid looked up in shock.

"We haven't met yet. I'm Beatrice French. Or Gold. It's definitely one of those."

"Yes, I know who you are," the woman said meekly.

"Well, Jamie told me that you are having a food drive for the Thanksgiving dinner," said Beatrice.

"We are," said Astrid in surprise. "Jamie told you?"

Jamie actually hadn't. She had been talking about it in English class, not acknowledging Beatrice's existence, intending to blow off the whole project.

"Anyway, here's the deal, my high school resume is looking a little thin lately since I moved here and there's now a big gap in my transcript from when I was stuck in the other realm. I could really use another community service project. I've done this before, in New York."

"Well," said Astrid, "our donations have been rather light. We still need most of the supplies for our Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless."

Astrid motion at the donation box which was at the moment four jars of beet borscht, a can of sardines and one can of pumpkin pie filling.

"Storybrooke has homeless?," asked Beatrice.

"They used to be trolls," said Astrid.

"Oh."

Astrid moved closer to Beatrice. "Do you really think you can get people to donate to you?"

Beatrice nodded. "Yeah. I've found the trick is all in who you ask first."


Regina opened her front door to find Beatrice.

"I'm confused," said Regina.

As she would be, but Beatrice had practiced this strategy before among the well to do mothers of her school. Start with the one who has the most to prove. In this case, it was Regina.

"I was going to say hi first," said Beatrice.

"Does your father know you're here?"

"Not so much. Anyway, I have an idea that I think can help the both of us and hopefully some other people. Are you aware of Storybrooke's homeless problem?"

"I created it."

"Yeah, I was planning on not mentioning that, anyway, Sister Astrid is in charge of the food drive for Thanksgiving dinner at the soup kitchen and I was thinking you could make a donation."

Regina narrowed her gaze at Beatrice. "Why?"

"See, I have several donation stations set up at my dad's shop, at the library, the grocery store and Granny's."

"And why would I care about feeding a bunch of ex-trolls?"

"Because if you came into Granny's while it was particularly crowded and made a sizeable donation, I think it would show Henry and the rest how committed you are to changing."

"But I'm only doing it to toy with them?," she asked.

Beatrice shrugged. "Not toy exactly. Does it really matter why someone donates to a food drive?"

"What's in it for you? You're Rumplestiltskin's daughter. There must be something."

"If you donate first and you donate a lot, when I go around and ask other people, I can tell them 'Well, Regina donated.'"

"And you use me to shame them?"

"And you have the moral high ground over everyone who doesn't donate."

Regina nodded, finally appreciating the thought process. "That is clever."

"Just nothing to do with apples. People are still kind of leery about that."

"Why are you really doing this?"

"Would you believe me if I told you it's all part of an elaborate plan to get a dwarf and a fairy together?"

"No."

"Never mind then."


Then

Rumplestiltskin sat alone in his magical carriage.

At least he thought he was alone.

"Is this really fun for you?," Merlin asked.

Rumplestiltskin looked to see the wizard sitting across from him.

"What precisely is it you see in Cora? I mean, for one thing, she's heartless. Literally heartless as in remember that time she ripped her heart out?"

"What do you want, Merlin?," he growled.

"I was just checking up on you," said Merlin. "Big events are on the horizon."

"I would take a closer look at your plans."

"Yes, yes, time of the Curse approaching. We all know. Well, actually, we all don't know. You and I know."

"And yet you haven't done anything about it."

"Back to my question, what is it you see in Cora? Is it the sneaking around her idiot husband? Oh, by the way, even though he is an idiot, you're probably not fooling him."

"What do you care?"

"I'm curious."

"We have things in common."

Merlin laughed.

"What?," Rumplestiltskin asked in offense.

"You two have nothing in common with the exception of some very strange personal habits. That woman ripped her own heart out for the opportunity of being fifth in line to be queen of a third tier -at best- kingdom."

"We were both looked down upon by the nobles."

"Some princess tripped her, they tried to draft your son into the Ogres War. Those are two very different things."

"I need her."

"No, you need her daughter. I can only guess at Cora as being a result of your very twisted issues with women."

"I'm tiring of this conversation."

"Did you ever think through running off with Cora? What would have happened if you had been the father of her first born?"

Rumplestiltskin was silent.

"You would have been the thing she loved the most and she would have had to rip out the heart of the thing she loved the most and that would have been your heart and well, it's no use going to a Land Without Magic you haven't got a heart when what's left of you gets there. It won't be easy to find your son then and what were you going to do? Be cruel to one child to find another? What would Baelfire say?"

Merlin rolled his eyes as Rumplestiltskin pretended to ignore him and glanced out the window of the magical carriage.

"Have you ever thought of having more children?," asked Merlin. "You know, other than that one time."

"No."

"Perhaps you should think on it."

"I can't replace my son," Rumplestiltskin seethed.

"Of course not, but perhaps things will be different. You may have a daughter. You may not have a woman who uses you to her own end."


Now

Saturday morning. Beatrice sat at Granny's with her mother, Mary Margaret and Henry. Belle and Mary Margaret were working out the details of Thanksgiving dinner, word of which was not supposed to reach Gold or David until about the time one of them started looking for the meal itself. Both women thought it would work better this way and with things starting to settle, conversation drifted towards Beatrice's project.

"I think it's so great that you're taking on this food drive," said Mary Margaret.

Beatrice shrugged. "It's not a big deal."

Belle shook her head. "She's too modest. She did things like this all the time in New York."

"Because people left me with it," said Beatrice. That was the truth. She was the unpopular girl who could be counted upon to finish a project while the popular girls texted and took the credit.

"She has gotten McDonald's Grocer to donate all the turkeys," said Belle. "Not to mention Mr. Drury is donating fresh bread and pies."

"It wasn't like it was hard," said Beatrice. "I just asked while Dad stood in the corner and glared."

To be honest, that had been the bulk of her strategy.

Mary Margaret smiled. "I don't remember Mr. McDonald donating anything, ever. I think it's about time you got out there and let people see who you really are."

"Mom!," said Henry.

They looked up to see Regina entering the diner carrying two heavy grocery bags. A hush fell over the diner, one that Beatrice realized was not dissimilar to when she arrived somewhere.

"Henry," said Regina, all smiles as the boy hugged her around the waist.

"What are you doing here?," asked Henry.

"I was just coming to get coffee and drop these off," said Regina, placing the grocery bags in the donation bin.

"You're donating?," Henry asked in surprise, a surprise shared by the rest of the diner.

"Of course I am," said Regina. "Why don't I buy you a hot chocolate and you tell me how things have been?"

"Okay," Henry said happily as he and Regina sat at the counter.

Mary Margaret turned back to Beatrice in astonishment. "How did you do that?"

"I just asked," said Beatrice.

"Wow. I guess she really is trying to change," said Mary Margaret.


"Hello, sunshine," said Merlin, entering the pawn shop.

"You're late," said Gold.

"Yes, well, we're both immortal, I think we'll cope with the loss."

Gold put the book on the counter and laid his hand on it. "What is this for?"

Merlin motioned at it. "I gave that to Beatrice. Why doesn't she have it?"

"Because she used it to paint her toenails."

Merlin shrugged. "Well, teenage girls, what are you going to do?"

"I want to know what this book is. What it does and what it is for."

"I've already said. The book is her future."

"It hardly has anything."

"Because the future is unwritten and no one can write Beatrice's fate but Beatrice and I hope you have not been playing with it, sunshine."

Rumplestiltskin leaned forward. "Do you think I am going to allow my child to be hurt by this? I don't care about your vision, my loyalty is with her."

Merlin leaned towards him. "Have you had a chance to think? What the blue tart did, actually, everything the blue tart has ever done, it wasn't about you, it was about Beatrice."

"And what about Beatrice would scare her?"

"Obsolescence, of course."


Beatrice opened the hatch of her car. It was practically lowered from all the groceries she had collected in it over the past few days. Her Regina strategy had worked well and all of a sudden, people were hurrying to donate. The dwarves were following with the other donations, Mr. Drury's donations would come in the morning before the meal was served. She started moving the groceries onto the curb and after several times, looked up to see Mother Superior.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm bringing the donations for the food drive," said Beatrice.

"We don't need your help."

Beatrice frowned and took out another bag. "I think you kind of do."

Mother Superior shook her head. "I won't allow it. Take these things away."

Beatrice sighed. "Look, I don't get all of this, but I know my dad's the Dark One and you frown on that. You had to trade my mom for a tree for Emma, okay. Maybe that was the right thing. I wasn't there. The tooth thing was weird... Do we need this whole bitchy thing, though? I can be civil."

Mother Superior looked at her in what she supposed was amusement. "They haven't told you."

"They haven't told me what?"

"I never gave you your gift," said Mother Superior.

"My gift?"

"When you were born. When a child is born, all fairies bestow a blessing."

Beatrice frowned. "Yeah, I think I'm good."

"No, I insist," she said, taking out her wand. "I bless you with the gift of humility."

"Uh, okay..." Beatrice said frowning.

"Beatrice!," Belle shouted.

She looked back. She hadn't noticed her mother's car pulling up. Belle quickly parked and ran out of the car, putting herself between Beatrice and Mother Superior.

"What are you doing here?," asked Beatrice.

Belle ignored her. She looked back at Mother Superior. "What did you do to her?!," she demanded.

"I gave her a gift," said Mother Superior, starting off.

Belle followed, grabbing the woman by her shoulder and spinning her around.

"What gift?!," Belle shouted. "If you cursed her-"

"I don't curse people. Perhaps Rumplestiltskin could tell you more about that."

Mother Superior walked away. Belle rushed back to Beatrice.

"What did she say?," said Belle. "What did she do? Was there fairy dust?"

Beatrice shook her head. "I don't know. I have to get this stuff inside."

Belle got out her cell phone to call Gold as Beatrice walked over to the groceries on the sidewalk, then froze.

"Beatrice?," Belle asked in concern.

"I don't know what to take in first..." she said, not sounding like herself.

"What?" Belle walked over. "Beatrice, tell me what's wrong."

Chapter Text

 


Now

Belle rushed into the shop, dragging Beatrice every step of the way.

"Mom, I-"

"Rumple!"

Gold was out of the back in no time. "What is it?"

"Mother Superior has done something," said Belle. "I don't know what."

Gold turned to Beatrice with concern. "What is it, sweetheart?"

"I don't know..."

"You don't know?"

"I'm not sure?"

"What do you mean you're not sure?," asked Gold.

"That. Whatever that is," said Belle. "She's been doing that."

Beatrice frowned in concern. "Doing what?"

Gold put his hands on either side of her face and his expression dropped. "Beatrice, what did she say?"

Merlin entered. "I came as soon as I could put that bloody Goldie Loxley in a state of suspended animation before she unshelved every book in the library trying to find one that was just bloody right. What's happened?"

"You did what?," asked Belle.

"She'll be fine," said Merlin. "Well, assuming she didn't have dinner plans. Now, what's happened?"

He walked over to Beatrice. It didn't take him any effort to decide something had happened.

"What's the winged tart done now?," he asked.

"I..."

"She's changed something within you. Something in your essence."

Beatrice shook her head. "She just said she never gave me my gift."

"What gift?," asked Gold.

Merlin grimaced. "Don't you know your fairy rules, Rumplestiltskin? The gift that she ought to have gotten when she was born. You know, from her fairy godmother? But you know, that fairy met with a sudden end..."

"The Gold Fairy? What happened to her?," asked Belle.

"On to Beatrice," said Gold. "What gift did she give you, Beatrice?"

"It was the blessing of humility, I think..." Beatrice managed.

"Oh, I'm going to give her back wings just to pluck them from her..." muttered Merlin.

"What does that mean?," asked Belle. "Humility? Is that bad?"

"Humility is not a bad blessing in and of itself," said Merlin. "The trouble comes in choosing the appropriate blessing for the princess. For instance, giving you the gift of beauty would have been overly redundant so the Gold Fairy chose to give you the gift of love in your heart. Now, for Beatrice, someone who is plagued with self-doubt and low self-esteem it's a blessing that's designed to break her spirit."

Aghast, Belle pulled Beatrice closer to her.

Gold had a different reaction.

"I'm killing her."

"Rumple!," said Belle.

"I said I wouldn't, but that was before this. She's dead."

"And how are you proposing to kill her, sunshine?," asked Merlin.

"I'm going to find the last of my squid ink and stab her in the throat."

Merlin nodded. "That's actually not a bad plan."

"Rumple, that won't help..." said Belle.

"She's right. The curse only becomes stronger with her well-earned death."

"She will stop at nothing, Belle," said Gold. "Don't you understand that? She tried to kill her in your womb!"

"Yes, I remember, I was there!," Belle snapped back.

"She what?," asked Beatrice.

Merlin shot the couple a look and they suddenly remembered that when the Curse had first broken, they had agreed Beatrice did not need to know that Mother Superior had tried to murder her.

"I mean, she must have had a reason..." said Beatrice.

Merlin turned to her. "The reason is she is a vicious, jealous and vain trollop."

"Is that why she called me a monster?," asked Beatrice.

"Beatrice!," Belle exclaimed. "Not another thought like that!"

"Your mother's right," said Merlin. "Not another thought like that. In fact, don't think."

"Don't think?," asked Beatrice.

"Yes, I realize it's going to be difficult for you," said Merlin. "Take her home, do not let her think, every negative thought will make the Blue Fairy's magic that much more difficult to undo."

Belle looked from Beatrice back to Merlin. "Everything she does is thinking. Everything she's ever done is thinking."

"I don't know. Isn't there a Kardashians marathon on somewhere?"


A Long Time Ago In The Enchanted Forest

"What happened to your frog, sister?"

Catherine tried to hide the twinge of regret she felt. Well, it was more than a twinge. Every day since she had sent Alec home she had thought of him, torturing herself by imagining a life she could never have.

Because her life was here.

In the ice.

"Don't call me 'sister', Ailie," Catherine warned. "We haven't been anything near that in a very long time."

"Why do you insist upon being so uncivilized?," asked Ailie.

"Because you insist upon being a brat who's more interested in a tiara than the blood of her people. Now, what do you want?"

"Why? Do you have a new book to read?"

"Books make better companions than my present company," said Catherine. "Now, state your business."

Ailie approached. "I have an agreement to put to you," she said, taking a parchment from beneath her heavy cape. "It regards my new partnership with Prince Xavier."

"Prince Xavier?," Catherine asked. "What could he possibly want with you?"

Catherine took the parchment and then something went very wrong.

She was frozen. She tried to use magic to free herself but it was as if she had been cut off from magic, suffocating without it.

Ailee smiled.

"What have you done?," Catherine demanded.

"I consulted with the Blue Fairy. Oh, I know she's not our fairy godmother, but she was surprisingly receptive to my request for aid. She said we couldn't let you continue or one day this whole realm would be ruled by a Dark Princess."

"What are you talking about?"

"Didn't Merlin tell you? You and the frog were meant to have a daughter, then she would have a daughter and then she would have a daughter, the Dark Princess." Ailiee seemed to take pleasure in taunting her with the future that was impossible.

"And why would the Blue Fairy help you?"

"Because my first sad, sad duty as the sole ruler of our land will be to see to your execution."

"Ailee, without my magic the ice will melt and the ogres will come. If I die with no one to take my power, there will be no stopping them."

"We will fight them."

"Do you know how many will die? Don't you remember the Ogres War of the Frontlands? It was only the power of the Dark One that could stop it."

Ailee's soldiers joined them.

"Take her away and lock her in the dungeon," said Ailee.


Now

The nuns were awoken with a start as the door to the convent house blew down.

Merlin strode in as the frantic women gathered in the hall.

"Viviane!," called Merlin.

Mother Superior entered, cutting a path through her subordinate fairies.

"Go back to your rooms," she instructed.

"Oh, no, no, I think we ought to have everyone stay," said Merlin. "I'm certain everyone would love to hear you defend yourself after your latest act of cruelty."

"I gave a blessing."

"You gave the wrong blessing to the wrong bloody girl."

"I'm surprised at you, Merlin. I thought you would want your monster to have an air of humility about her."

Merlin shook his head with gritted teeth. "That girl has been struggling with who she is since she was born and that's your fault."

"My fault? I never created the Dark Curse."

Merlin looked at the fairies. "I will have you know that this blue tart right here, she created a ruse to draw Belle home to where she believed her father was dying. Once there, she informed Sir Maurice- the fat-headed bigoted oaf that he is- that his daughter was pregnant with the child of the Dark One and advised him to take action, then watched as Belle was tied down and poison poured down her throat and clerics tried to cleanse her."

The nuns had a mix of reactions, but the main one was horror.

"To stop a monster."

"Pray tell what prophecy says that she is a monster." Merlin motioned at the other fairies. "I believe we're all waiting."

"The Book of the Dark Princess," Mother Superior said smugly.

"Nice try, but you've never read it."

"She's the daughter of the Dark One. Isn't that enough for you?"

"What do we know of children born of True Love?," Merlin asked turning to the nuns.

Mother Superior rolled her eyes. "This grows tiresome, Merlin."

"We know that they always have magic and we know that they can never be monsters, so please tell me how the product of fourteen generations of True Love can be a monster."

"The Dark One corrupts everything, even your line of True Love."

"Oh, is that why you tried to stop that line before the Dark One was in it? As when you sided with Ailie the Summer Princess? When you tried to imprison Amelia the Weather Witch? Or when you gave a young boy called Baelfire a magical bean to take his father to a Land Without Magic?"

"Leave."

"What's the difference? Rumplestiltskin ought to have this place burned down by dawn. I believe he's planning on using your femurs for kindling."

Mother Superior stepped up to him. "I have won. Game. Set. Match."

"All you have done is bully a teenage girl," said Merlin. "Do you remember what it was like to be that young? When the world was new and frightening and you had no idea what to do or where you belonged? Remember?"

She gave away nothing.

Merlin leaned in and whispered, "Remember, I am the only one who knows who you really are and I will ruin you and take great pleasure in it. I will rip your wings off and give them to Rumplestiltskin as a Christmas present."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Oh, don't test me, he is very difficult to shop for."

Merlin walked out, leaving Mother Superior to face the nuns.


It had been months since he had heard her scream.

It had been his fault. On Beatrice's first night at home, he had stopped by the guest room just to look at her. She had been conked out in an antique bed that had never had a guest before and had fallen asleep with an ancient television he didn't remember having on.

So he had turned it off.

Maybe twenty minutes later, he and Belle had been talking when her scream broke through their reunion.

The room was different now. The TV was a large flat screen he had bought her first to try to make up for turning the other one off. The walls were covered in posters for British television shows, the bed was still an antique but now it was covered with a teal ruffled bedspread and pillows, the shelves had her trinkets and school things. The room was hers now.

It was the screams that didn't belong.

He hadn't slept so he beat Belle to the room and to Beatrice's side.

"Beatrice?," he said getting in the bed beside her. "Come on, Beatrice, waken up, sweetheart."

He took her into his arms, just as she stirred.

"There we are, sweetheart," he cooed like he had when he'd rocked an infant Bae to sleep. "There we are."

Enough time had passed for Belle to join them sitting on the bed. "Beatrice, what was it?," she asked.

"Was it the Netherworld?," Gold asked.

"No," she said. "Just bad."

Gold held her tighter against his chest. "What bad?"

"I couldn't save anyone."

Belle took Beatrice's hands in hers. "It was just a dream, right?"

"No, it was all Hunger Games, everyone was there and then Sherlock fell and the Doctor got shot..."

Gold looked at Belle. "Why do you let her watch these things?"

"As opposed to what? My normal life?," she muttered weakly.

Belle ignored Gold and touched Beatrice's cheek. "It was just a bad dream."

"Except for Sherlock..."

"We've been over this, he's not really dead," said Belle. "You said yourself that writer just likes to make people suffer."

Gold kissed the top of Beatrice's head. "I'm going to get you a snack."

"Don't bother," she muttered.


Belle followed Gold back down to the kitchen.

"What does it mean?," she asked as he began getting together cookies and milk.

"It means that the Blue Fairy's curse has begun to eat at her soul. As Merlin said, it's designed to break the spirit." He finished pouring the milk. "It also means I have a fairy to kill."

"Rumple, that won't solve anything," Belle pleaded.

"No, see you're wrong actually. It will mean that she can no longer hurt Beatrice. What she did to you will be avenged and I will feel better. All in all, I would say her death will solve a great many things."

"Is that what you want your children to see?," asked Belle.

"I wasn't planning on doing it in front of them."

"If you care about your daughter, you won't make things worse for her," said Belle.

"I won't let this stand, Belle. This is too far."


Then

It was two weeks of hard riding from Padua to the Far North Kingdom. Alec made the journey alone, stopping only to rest his horse, his thoughts consumed every step of the way with Catherine. Lovely Catherine.

He was here now and the land seemed warmer than he had remembered it. He made his way to the village just a stone's throw away from Catherine's Ice Palace and found a gathering in the square.

He tied up his horse and walked over.

The village crier was speaking. "It is announced that the wicked Ice Princess Catherine has been captured and her magic made impotent so that summer may once again come to these lands!"

The people cheered.

Alec looked at them in dismay.

"Princess Ailie shall now rule this kingdom, today and forever! Three cheers for Princess Ailie!"

The villagers cheered. Before the crier could speak again, Alec spoke up.

"Sorry, don't you know about the Ogres?"

All eyes turned to him.

"What Ogres do you speak of?," asked the Crier.

"The ones just over the glaciers. They come over when they melt in the summer. They'll slaughter you all," said Alec.

"Nonsense!," said the Crier. He returned to his announcement. "Princess Ailie announces feast days-"

"It's not nonsense," said Alec. "I've seen them myself. You can just look over with a telescope."

Some of the villagers seemed worried by this.

"And who are you, sir?," asked the Crier.

"I'm Alec, the Duke of Padua."

"You're a long way from your kingdom."

Alec turned around to see Prince Xavier. "You are as well, Your Highness."

"You should leave, Your Grace."

"I have business here. And what is your business here?"

"I'm getting married."

"Is that so? Who's the woman of dubious luck?"

"Princess Ailie."

Alec let that hang.

"Well, isn't that a coincidence?"

Xaxier raised his hand. "Guards! Take him to the dungeon!"

Guards came out of the crowd and grabbed Alec.

"What do you say now, Your Grace?," asked Xavier as the guards dragged Alec away.

Alec thought on it.

"I never liked you!," Alec shouted back. "And you're a cheat at billiards!"


Now

After a sleepless night, Gold worked in the kitchen at the Thanksgiving meal. He stopped when he heard the doorbell ring, expecting to find Bae and Tamara. Instead, he found the Charmings complete with Emma and Henry, all holding covered dishes.

"Did you evict the nuns?," asked David.

Mary Margaret shot him a look.

"As ever, your tact is impeccable," said Gold.

For reasons Gold didn't understand, Mary Margaret appeared to be allowing herself in as she balanced a casserole dish.

"Mother Superior came to us this morning and said Dove had already been by to serve notice," said Mary Margaret. "That wasn't in our arrangement."

"Are you trying to lecture me on a contract, dearie?," asked Gold.

"I've never known you to go back on one."

"I said they could remain so long as they did not bother me or my family," said Gold.

"Did they do something?," asked Emma.

"Can I put this down?," Henry asked holding up a pie dish.

"What is it?," asked Gold.

"Pumpkin pie."

"Why is it here?"

"Belle!," called Mary Margaret.

"Go put it in the kitchen, kid," said Emma. She looked back at Gold as Henry hurried off. "What was it, Gold?"

"Mother Superior has bestowed Beatrice with the blessing of humility," Gold said, his voice dripping with contempt as Belle arrived.

"Yeah, I'm missing something," said Emma.

"As you often do."

"Rumple," Belle warned as she arrived.

"But Beatrice is so unsure of herself as it is," said Mary Margaret.

"Thank you for joining me at my point, your highness," said Gold.

"Beatrice? Unsure?," asked Emma. "She was pretty decisive when she torched my car."

"She's scared, Emma," said Mary Margaret. She looked at Belle. "Is it bad?"

"It's terrible," said Belle. "She can't put a thought together without second guessing it."

"Can't you undo it?," asked Emma.

"Fairy magic doesn't mix well with mine," said Gold.

"Gold, if you're planning something-" said David.

"If I'm planning something, what?"

"No matter what she's done, you can't go killing her," said David.

"If I was planning on killing her, how would you stop me?"

It was at that moment Neal and Tamara arrived.

"Yeah, I can see Thanksgiving's going well already..." said Neal. "They haven't even taken their coats off and you're threatening people."

"Mother Superior's done something to Beatrice," said Emma.

"What's wrong with her?," asked Neal.

"She's cursed her," said Belle.

"Cursed her?," asked Tamara, sounding skeptical.

"Hey, Dad!," said Henry, running over for a hug.

"Hey," said Neal, returning the gesture.

"Fairies curse people?," asked Tamara.

"Who cursed who?," asked Henry.

"Hey, kid, put this up," said Emma passing him her dish.

"What's going on?," asked Henry.

"Hey, do what your mom says," said Neal.

Henry grumbled silently and went to the kitchen.

"What kind of curse?," asked Neal.

"Crippling self doubt," said Gold.

"I'll go check on her," said Neal.

"Emma, go with him," said Mary Margaret.

"What? Why do I have to go with him?"

"You're her friend." Mary Margaret looked at David. "Come on. Let's go help in the kitchen."

They left and Tamara went with them. Gold turned to Belle.

"Why are all these people in my house?"

"Surprise?"

"Belle..." he grumbled.

"It was the only way to keep Henry from being shuttled around all day and for you to have Thanksgiving with Neal. Not to mention it would have been awkward for Tamara to have dinner at Mary Margaret and David's-"

"What do I care if it's awkward for Tamara?"

Belle narrowed the distance between them. "You need to start making her feel more welcome. She's going to marry your son," said Belle quietly. "What about when they have kids? Don't you want to be included in your grandchildren's lives?"

"It's never going to work," said Gold.

"Just try," said Belle.


Emma followed Neal into Beatrice's room. She had never been all the way in before and looked around at the collection of stuff.

"Hey, Bea," said Neal.

Emma looked to the bed. Beatrice was curled up in the fetal position hugging a pillow. Neal sat next to her.

"What's wrong?," he asked.

"The Blue Fairy tried to kill me..."

"What? Just now?," asked Emma.

"No. Before I was born."

"What?," asked Neal.

"Yeah, I'm evil or something."

"Oh, come on!," said Emma. "You are not evil. You're a bad driver and an arsonist, but come on."

"You just organized a food drive. What evil person does that?," asked Neal.

"Me, I guess."

"Come on, get up. Everyone's downstairs," said Neal.

"No, thank you," said Beatrice, turning away.

"I'm going to go talk to my dad," said Neal, getting up.

Emma nodded and sat down next to Beatrice. That's when she spotted the ever-present police box tucked under a night table.

"Do you have a fridge?," Emma asked, opening the door to find assorted sodas and candy.

"Yeah."

She looked over to the shelf. "Is that a Keurig?"

"Yeah..."

"This room is cool," said Emma, taking a soda. "I would have loved a room like this, but seriously, I would have loved a room."

"Might as well take it. You're the special one."

"Hey," said Emma. "Whatever Mother Superior said to you, it's crap. You decide who you are."


Then

The guards threw Alec in a cell and locked him away.

"Is this meant to be a rescue?"

Alec smiled. He would have recognized that judgmental tone anywhere and looked up to see Catherine's lovely glare in the next cell.

"Because it's rubbish."

"Your Highness."

She scoffed. "Not much longer. Can't wear a crown when your head is chopped off."

"Oh," said Alec, nodding. "I don't suppose you've given any thought to reconsidering my proposal then?"

She glared at him.

"I admit being Duchess of Padua is a step down from being the Ice Princess, but it's certainly a step up from being executed."

"It depends on who the Duke of Padua is, I suppose and whether he is also sitting in a cell."

"They'll have to let me out."

"Is that so?"

"Yes! I'm the Duke of Padua!"

Catherine paused in consideration. "So, you've brought an army then?"

"Not exactly..."

"A regiment?"

"Well..."

"Some children with rocks?"

"I may not have thought out my entire strategy," Alec admitted.

"You don't say."

Alec stood. "I didn't think. I just rode."

"You just rode?," she asked with contempt. "It's two weeks journey from Padua. You didn't think?"

"My thoughts were only of you."

"I told you..."

Alec shook his head. "I care not. We will find a way to stop the Ogres, rid this kingdom of your sister and save your people. Then we shall marry and begin our life together." He quickly added. "If that's alright with you, Your Highness."

"Well, that is quite a plan," said Catherine. "I only have one question about it."

"Only one? That is an improvement."

Catherine nodded. "How do you propose we get out of these cells?"

"Yes," said Alec, looking back at the iron bars, "that is a worry."


Now

Gold opened the door to find Regina.

He was really hating opening the door.

"What are you doing here?"

"Henry invited me. Belle said it was fine."

"Belle!," said Gold.

Belle entered and spotted Regina, immediately realizing what the problem was. Gold bored holes into her.

"Regina," said Belle. "Welcome."

"Thank you," said Regina, stepping inside. She cast a look at Gold. "It's nice to see someone in this family has some manners."

"Henry is out back, playing football," said Belle.

Regina left.

"Why did you invite her?," asked Gold.

"Because I didn't like how upset your grandson was at the prospect of his adoptive mother spending Thanksgiving alone."

"Need I remind you that Her Majesty locked you in her dungeon, then an asylum and sent you away with the intention that you would be killed."

"No, you don't, but I have no interest in holding a grudge against Regina," said Belle. "Neither should you."

Emma came downstairs. "Is that Regina's car?"

"Yes," said Belle, stalking back into the kitchen.

"Uh, okay," said Emma, sensing any argument would be futile.

"Can I interest you in a drink, Sheriff?," asked Gold.

"Yeah," said Emma, following him to an antique drinks cart. "Great way to kick off a family Thanksgiving."

Gold chuckled. "I believe it may be the only way."


The time for dinner finally rolled around and Beatrice dragged herself down. The huge mahogany table that usually only had one occupied end was full tonight. Beatrice ended up taking a seat between Regina and Merlin, opposite the Charmings. Her parents were together at one end. Tamara, Neal and Aurora filled the other.

"I hear the Blue Fairy cursed you," said Regina.

"No more cursed than I already was," Beatrice muttered.

"Which will all be rectified in good time," said Merlin.

"Before we get started, I thought we could all say what we're thankful for," said Mary Margaret.

Regina rolled her eyes.

"Oh, God, she's one of those," muttered Beatrice.

"She's the poster child for one of those," Regina quietly agreed.

"I'll start," said Mary Margaret.

"Of course you will," muttered Regina.

"I am thankful to be back with my family," Mary Margaret said, smiling at David and Emma.

"Because we wouldn't have guessed that," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice," Belle implored quietly.

"Beatrice, I know you're upset right now-" said Mary Margaret.

Beatrice laughed. "Upset? Upset doesn't begin to describe it. Let's look at my life. I was a social pariah until I got the brilliant idea to go to Maine where oh my God I am an even bigger social pariah, only now I have fairies taking my teeth and cursing me and people throwing me into hats-"

"What is she talking about?," Tamara asked Neal quietly.

"Would you try to keep up?! We're all getting sick of explaining things to you!," Beatrice snapped at her. "And this is all because apparently they think I'm all four horsemen of the apocalypse or something. I brought it all on myself! Which must make me the biggest moron to ever walk the Earth! So, yeah, let's all be thankful."

"Okay," said Emma, hoping to bail Beatrice out of this. "Merlin, could you pass me the corn?"

"Oh, forget this," said Beatrice, getting up and walking out.

"Beatrice!," Belle called, chasing after her.


Then

It seemed that hours had passed in the dungeon. Finally, Ailie arrived.

"Well, is this your frog?," asked Ailie. She looked Alec up and down. "What a fine specimen."

"Eyes on your own man," said Catherine.

Ailie grimaced. "You never did like sharing, did you?"

"Why don't you go back to your betrothed?," asked Catherine. "Or have you tired of the scent of pomade and cologne?"

"It is rather harsh, isn't it?," asked Alec.

"You can smell it from two kingdoms over," said Catherine. "Mind you, not that you smell all that much better with two weeks of horseback on you."

"I was trying to get to you."

"Well, could you have gotten to me with a bath?"

"I didn't want to stop."

"Yes, because it's a good thing you were on time to be locked up in a dungeon."

"Are you two quite finished?," asked Ailie.

"No," said Catherine.

"Your execution has been scheduled," said Ailie. "But there's something I want first."

"I'm not giving you grandmother's necklace."

"Not that," said Ailie. "Though I do want that."

"There is a lot of history I'm not getting here," said Alec.

"Indeed," said Ailie. "I want your magic, sister."

"And I want a never-ending chocolate river, but it's not happening," said Catherine.

"Things are different now. You finally have something to lose," said Ailie.

They both turned their eyes to Alec.

He looked behind him, saw nothing and back at the sisters.

"Oh, blast..." he muttered.

Ailie opened the cell door and reached inside Alec's chest to take his heart. Catherine gasped. As she did, Ailie was knocked back by a wave of magic.

Alec stared at her on the ground.

"What was that?," he asked Catherine.

"True Love," said Catherine. "Now open the cell unless you had other plans."


Now

Dinner disbanded. Merlin disappeared. Neal, Tamara, David and Henry went back to the backyard to play football. The women gathered in the living room. Regina walked up to Gold at the drinks cart.

"So, that was less spectacular than I had hoped, Gold," said Regina.

"Sorry to disappoint you, dearie," said Gold, pouring another drink.

"I'm being serious. Besides being with my son, the only thing I was looking forward to about this dinner was Beatrice's sniping, though even depressed she managed to get a few good ones in."

"You can imagine I have bigger concerns."

"Yes, I can. What are you planning?"

"Why would you be interested?"

"I'm not exactly friends with the fairies."

"Really, dearie? I hadn't noticed."

Regina spoke in a low voice, glancing at the other women. "Killing her won't help. It will only make her curse stronger."

"Oh, I know the rules better than you, dearie."

"So you have to undo her curse and then I assume you'll want her dead."

"Is life without magic getting so boring that you have to live vicariously through me?," asked Gold.

Regina shot him a dirty look as Merlin entered.

"Is this the Plotting Society?," asked Merlin, siding up to them. "Why didn't anyone invite me?"

"Unless you have a solution to offer-" Gold began.

"Calm down, sunshine," said Merlin, holding up a book with gilded pages. "I have solved everything."

"The fairy rule book?," snorted Regina.

"You have?," Belle asked, her attention suddenly piqued.

"Have you?," Gold asked with contempt.

"I have," said Merlin. "It's all in the book. See, the Blue Fairy loves rules. She's got this egomaniacal need to control absolutely bloody everything."

"What's the solution?," asked Belle, trying to hurry him along.

"See, you can't fight fairy magic with dark magic. They don't mix. You can only fight fairy magic with fairy magic."

"Do you need fairy dust?," asked Mary Margaret.

"No, we need fairies," said Merlin.

"I'll go get some," said Gold.

"What do you mean?," asked Belle.

"See, the Blue Fairy gave Beatrice the so-called blessing she ought to have gotten when she was born."

"What?," asked Emma.

Mary Margaret turned to Emma. "In the Enchanted Forest, all children got a blessing from a fairy when they were born."

"Then there's the princesses," said Merlin.

"What? Like Sleeping Beauty?," asked Emma.

"Precisely, only this book gives different rules for princesses and ordinary children," said Merlin. "Princesses are entitled to blessings from all the fairies."

"How does that help us?," asked Belle.

Merlin turned to Belle. "The title of the Ice Princess passes mother to daughter. Catherine to Reinette to you to Beatrice."

"But my grandmother wasn't Ice Princess for years before my mother was born."

"She had to surrender her powers, she never gave up her title entirely. You have always technically been the Ice Princess. According to this, you should have had a Blessing Ceremony for Beatrice when she was born and invited all the fairies."

Regina scoffed. "Yes, Rumple, you should have invited all the fairies to the Dark Castle. That would have gone over well."

"But we were cursed..." said Belle.

"Yes, this book has an exception. If the Blessing Ceremony cannot be conducted because of a curse or imprisonment in a tower..."

"This book is awfully technical," said Emma.

"A conclave of five princesses can approve a delayed ceremony."

"Five princesses," said Mary Margaret, eagerly latching on the plan. "That's me, Belle, Aurora, oh, and Emma..."

Emma frowned. "I'm not a-"

She looked up as everyone in the room stared at her as if she was stupid.

"Oh. Right," said Emma. "Yeah, count me in I guess."

"We still need a fifth," said Aurora. "Does anyone know someone?"

"Oh, I can think of someone," said Merlin. He looked back at Regina.

"You're not serious," said Regina.

"As I recall, you were born Princess Regina."

"I never had a Fairy Blessing Ceremony," said Regina.

"Your mother ripped hearts out for fun," said Merlin. "It put people off."

"Regina, please," said Belle.

"I have better things to do than be part of some idiotic princess ceremony," said Regina.

Gold scoffed. "Do you now?"

"Yeah, I don't see you doing a lot of mayor-ing lately," said Merlin.

"Fine, I'll help," said Regina. "I don't know what good it will do. You'll still have to find a fairy to show up and not curse her more."

"Trust me. They're not going to curse her more with a known fairy killer in the room," said Merlin, casting a glance at Gold.

"Fairy killer?," asked Aurora.

Chapter Text

 


Now

Beatrice stared incredulously at her mother, Mary Margaret, Emma, Aurora and Regina as they stood in her room.

"Did the Enchanted Forest have meth labs?," she asked.

She drew blank looks from Mary Margaret, Aurora and Belle.

"Because the only way that I can think you came up with that plan is you all started using crystal meth after I left."

"Unfortunately, no," said Regina, peering on the shelves at a collection of Doctor Who figurines. She picked up a Dalek. "What the hell is this?"

"It's a Dalek," said Belle. She turned back to Beatrice. "Merlin came up with this plan."

"Why does it have a whisk and a plunger?," asked Regina.

"Regina, put the robot away," said Emma.

"It's not a robot," said Beatrice.

"Could we focus?," asked Mary Margaret.

"It's a cyborg," said Beatrice. "There's a difference."

"Regina, put up the cyborg," said Mary Margaret. "Now, Beatrice, you have to believe this will work."

"Why? Because my life has worked out great so far?"

"All fairies are not alike," said Belle. "We'll find one to undo this."

"Even if they don't think I'm evil, none of them are going to stick their necks out for me," said Beatrice.

"You don't know that," said Mary Margaret. "People can surprise you."

"Yes, like they suddenly curse you for no apparent reason."

"What's crystal meth?," asked Aurora.


Then

Belle had been with Rumplestiltskin in the Island Kingdom for a week.

Frankly, she was done with it.

It was hot. And sticky. The women wore hardly anything and stayed separate from the men most of the time, making it so Rumple hardly brought her anywhere. There were no books and she had tired of the ones she brought.

She was hot.

The insects were enormous and she had just barely avoided being eaten by a huge snake no less than five times. She was fairly convinced the snake was out to get her.

Also, it was hot.

She once again tugged at the bodice top of her hunting outfit. Rumplestiltskin looked across at her from the hut they had been given.

"Perhaps you should change your clothes," he suggested for not the first time.

"If I change into anything else, the insects will eat me alive."

"I can concoct another potion."

"That hasn't worked yet," said Belle. "These creatures are immune to your magic."

Rumplestiltskin turned back.

"How much longer will it be?"

"It's a very rare parchment I'm after, Belle. Any spell written on it is said to be the most powerful of all."

"What do you need something like that for?"

Rumplestiltskin gave away nothing. "It's good to have these things on hand."

Belle nodded.

He turned back. "What say we go on a hike to Pele?"

"The volcano?," asked Belle.

"Yes," said Rumplestiltskin. "It's perfectly safe."

Belle gave him a hesitant look. "Okay."

Anything was better than sitting here.


Now

Belle looked through the rack of dresses as Mary Margaret stood next to her, looking through another.

"What about this one?," asked Mary Margaret, holding up a yellow dress.

Belle shook her head. "She won't wear yellow, she says it's my thing."

Mary Margaret considered this and put the dress back on the rack. "Well, what's her thing?"

"Purple, I think, but I'm not seeing anything that says Fairy Blessing."

"Maybe white?," asked Mary Margaret.

Now Belle shot her a look.

"Okay, I understand how that sounds coming from me, but she would have been a baby if you had this when it should have been."

"If we had this when it should have been, Rumple would have locked up the Dark Castle and never let a fairy near it," said Belle.

They moved to a rack of white dresses and started sorting through them.

"I remember when your mother used to help us pick our ball gowns," said Mary Margaret. "She had such a good eye."

Belle smiled. "I used to think it so tiresome. It's a wonder she had any patience for me."

"She adored you," said Mary Margaret. "What about this one?"

Belle looked up at the white tulle dress with gold embellishments. "Oh, yes."

"Is it her size?," asked Mary Margaret.

Belle looked at the label. "It might be a little big, but Rumple can alter it."

Mary Margaret shook her head. "I still can't believe he does that."


They paid and Belle carried the garment bag out onto the street where they immediately ran into Sister Astrid.

"Sister Astrid," said Mary Margaret.

The woman froze.

"How are you?," asked Belle.

"Fine. Thank you."

"How was the Thanksgiving dinner?," asked Belle, feeling a little pushy as Mary Margaret cast a glance at her. "I'm sorry Beatrice wasn't in good enough spirits to come."

"It was quite a success. The homeless really appreciated everything she did."

"I'm glad," said Belle. "We'll see you at the ceremony then."

Sister Astrid nodded nervously and walked away.

"What if no one comes?," asked Belle.

"You can't give up hope. There has to be one good fairy out there."


Beatrice opened the front door of the pink house. It was supposed to be Mushu's delivery and instead, it was Duncan.

"I was just dropping off the bill for the paper."

Beatrice snatched the envelope from his hand. "Yeah, thanks."

"You haven't been at school."

"Yeah, my parents have this thing about me going places that are soul crushing right now."

Duncan pretended to understand. "Look, I never got to say I was sorry about the whole Cupid thing..."

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "Yeah, save it."

"No, it's just you're cool and all, you're just not my type."

"Your type..." It was less of an inquiry, more of a resignation.

"Yeah, I'm just more into girls like-"

"I'm interrupting something."

Regina's voice cut through the air and Duncan turned. She came up the steps.

"No, just Duncan was about to explain to me how I'm not pretty or something..." Beatrice shrugged. "No surprise there."

"No, I wasn't-"

Regina turned her glare towards Duncan. "Do you know this girl's mother was known as the Beauty of Avonlea? She had men from all across the realm begging to court her. So she is far better than some farmhand could dare aspire to. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Madame Mayor, uh, Your Majesty-"

Regina pointed down the steps to the sidewalk. "Go!"

Duncan did as he was ordered. Regina followed Beatrice in the house.

"Pay no attention to him, dear. He's not worth your time."

"Whatever."

Regina eyed her. "Do you really think you're not pretty?"

"I know I'm not."

"That's absurd."

"Please don't tell me that. Now I have to be worried about apples."

"You look like your mother."

"Yeah, people keep saying that, but I'm not, so here we are."

Gold emerged, glanced at Regina. "What's happened?"

"Nothing, here's the bill for the paper," said Beatrice, handing him the envelope. She went up the stairs. "Call me when there's Chinese food."

Gold looked to Regina. "What did you do?"

"I did nothing. If you want to blame someone, blame the paper boy you let her go out with."

"Well, we can't all find suitors the way your mother did. What are you doing here?"

"I came under the pretense of finalizing the guest list for the Fairy Blessing."

"And without the pretense?"

"I had an idea."

"Oh, we all know what happens when you get an idea..."

"Not as much as when you do. I'm trying to help. Do you know who has the Black Fairy's wand?"

"Not in your vault?"

"Not in your shop?"

They were both silent.

"What are you proposing, dearie?"

"I think we know who the one other person in Storybrooke who is likely to have it is."

"Mother Superior."

"It's as powerful as hers. Of course she would have it locked away."

"You are just itching to do some magic, aren't you, dearie?"

"I'll admit I miss it, but I made Henry a promise." She smiled. "There's nothing to stop you from getting it, though."


Then

Belle had once wished for adventure in the great wide somewhere.

She now wondered what the hell she had been thinking. She didn't want to be back in Avonlea, that was for certain, but perhaps somewhere cooler and doing something more interesting than following Rumple up a path to a volcano.

Though following Rumple up a path did provide a nice view.

The greenery thinned out and there began to be the most noxious fumes as the ground beneath them became the deepest black.

Then she stopped in her tracks, thinking she must have heard something.

Rumplestiltskin turned to look at her.

"What's wrong?"

"I thought I heard something."

"Heard what?"

"Growling. Like a bear?"

"Belle, there are no bears on this island," he said, turning and resuming his walk.

"Rumple, is it much farther?," she asked. She felt she was becoming woozy, waving the air in front of her to catch a clean breath.

"The lava from this volcano is said to have magical powers," said Rumplestiltskin, not noticing her distress.

Belle stood and held her hands at her ribcage, trying to take deep breaths as if she had a corset that was too tight. Rumplestiltskin didn't seem to be stopping.

"Rumple?," she called. He continued on. "Rumplestiltskin!"

Belle didn't think she could follow one more step once she had stopped.

That's when a new fountain of lava sprang from just beside her feet, splashing onto her leg.


Now

"Rumple," said Belle, coming into the cellar. "What are you doing down here?"

"Ah, I was just about to come get you," said Gold.

"I just got in," said Belle.

"I've been working on something on the off chance that ceremony your father was so keen to suggest doesn't work," said Gold. "I need your hair."

"My hair?"

"Just one will do."

"For what?"

"True Love."

Belle sighed and took a hair from her head, handing it over. Thanking her, Gold placed it in a bottle.

"So what? You just put some hairs in a bottle?"

"I put our hair together. Don't worry. I did this with Snow White and Prince Charming. One drop of a True Love potion made from her parents' hair ought to break any fairy's curse."

He shook the bottle and it burst into light, then exploded, breaking the bottle, leaving them staring at shards of glass.

"I take it that wasn't supposed to happen?"

"No."

"And you wanted to give that to our daughter?," Belle accused, pointing at the glass.

"I don't understand."

"I went to the dress shop," said Belle. "I got one for Beatrice, I know you'll want to look at it. It's in the hall closet."

"You chose it without Beatrice?"

"Rumple, a teenage girl who is having confidence issues and dress shopping do not mix."

"Then perhaps we shouldn't put her on display," he said following her up into the house.

"Well, I don't have a better plan and I just saw yours."


Gold went into one of the spare rooms. Belle was hard asleep and Beatrice hadn't made a sound for a change. He had some non-magical tools locked away in here that the cursed Mr. Gold had found quite useful for getting into places that he needed to be.

Like wherever Mother Superior was keeping the Black Fairy's wand locked away.

He was about to leave when he heard Beatrice crying in her sleep. He put the toolkit down and hurried into Beatrice's bedroom.

"Beatrice, waken up, sweetheart."

Beatrice again found herself in her father's arms.

"There we are..."

She looked up. "Were you going somewhere?"

"No," he said. "Not anymore."

"Why?"

Gold frowned. "Because you need me."

Beatrice sat up. Without thinking about it, she rested her head on Gold's shoulder.

"Do you think this stupid ceremony will work?"

Gold was silent.

"That's a no, then."

"Any curse can be broken."

"Yeah, True Love's Kiss. I heard about that happening once to this girl and this beast and it didn't go so well."

"That was mostly down to the beast in that instance."

"Well, at least I don't have that guy working for me on this."

"If it doesn't work, I will find something that does," said Gold. "I don't give up easily."


Beatrice came down the stairs in the white dress with gold embroidery and her pendant.

"You look lovely," Belle said with excitement. She had on her own gold lace dress. "Rumple?"

"Very lovely," he confirmed.

"Yeah, well, you people have to say that, don't you?," asked Beatrice.

"We don't say it because we have to, we say it because it's true," said Belle.

"Okay, maybe you have some sort of evolutionary blinders on, same difference. Let's get this freak show on the road," said Beatrice, grabbing her coat.


Then

Belle howled in pain, struggling to stay upright so that she didn't fall into something more unsafe. Pain and burning, she couldn't fathom anything else until she felt Rumplestiltskin's hands around her and they vanished into a puff of smoke.

"There we are, Belle," he said softly, lying her on the floor of some hut he must have just conjured. He struggled to remove her boot, it was seared to her leg and the attempt made her cry more.

With a wave of his hand, the boot disappeared, along with the rest of the outfit. Belle found herself in a simple white linen shift as Rumplestiltskin again waved his hand healing the blistered skin.

Once healed, he rubbed his hand over the leg in circles.

"You foolish girl."

Belle sat up. "I'm foolish?!"

"You should have stayed with me where it was safe."

"Perhaps I shouldn't have followed you up the volcano in the first place!"

"I only took you because you've been pouting all week when you don't get to go somewhere!"

"Well, what was the point in bringing me if all you wanted me to do was sit in a hut and get ill from the heat!"

"Because you wore that stupid leather!"

"Look who's talking!"

"You're infuriating," he said, turning away as one of the Island Kingdom's signature rainstorms broke out.

"You're infuriating," said Belle. "You have been dragging me place to place and not telling me why. I know it's something."

"You don't need to know."

"I'm not a child and I'm certainly not your child!," said Belle.

He spun around and was in her face with unbelievable speed. "Even if it was to go to a Land Without Magic?"

"Where Baelfire is?," she asked softly. "Is that what this has all been for? Why didn't you just say so?"

He grimaced. "Because you could never want to go."

"Of course I would go with you. I want to help you find your son."

"And then when I'm powerless?"

"You'd be free from your curse," said Belle. She smiled. "I could kiss you."

"Oh, you silly, lustful girl..."

"I'm not silly! I love you and I will go anywhere with you." She leaned forward, closing her eyes as she rested her cheek against his. "This is one of those times I wish I could kiss you."

"Oh, Belle," he breathed softly as she shoved his coat off his shoulders. "Belle, what are you doing?"

"Making the best of being stuck in the rain," she said. "Unless I'm being too silly and lustful..."

"I got more than I bargained for with you..." he murmured quietly as she started on his vest.


Now

Emma walked into the banquet hall where the Fairy Blessing was to be held.

Aurora spotted her first. "Are you wearing that?"

Emma looked down at her usual boots and jeans. "What?"

"It's a fairy blessing, not a hunting party. Where's your tiara?"

"I don't have a tiara."

Aurora looked horrified. "Mary Margaret! We have a problem!"

"You're wearing that?"

Emma spun right to see Regina in a shimmering grey cocktail dress.

"I didn't know there was a dress code for this. Besides, I didn't think you cared."

"I don't, but I won't have people thinking I've done something poorly even if I don't really care."

"Emma, what are you wearing?," asked Mary Margaret.

Emma looked at her mother wearing a white tea length gown and oh, yeah, a tiara.

"Did we discuss this?," she asked.

"You still have time to go home and change," said Mary Margaret.

Emma couldn't believe the request. "Really? Go home and change?"

Mary Margaret gave her a look. "Emma..."

"Fine, I'm going..."

Emma walked out running straight into Gold, Belle and Beatrice.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm changing," said Emma, she said continuing out.

"Oh, Beatrice, you look beautiful," said Mary Margaret.

"Yeah, sure," said Beatrice, walking over and sitting down at a table.

"She has a serious problem taking a compliment," said Regina.

"Can we just get the fairy clock ticking?," asked Beatrice. "You know, so no one can show up, so I can go home and then live a miserable life and die?"


The guests arrived. A small gathering including the dwarves. Neal and Tamara, who kept asking questions. Henry and David. The offerings for the fairies were laid out next to rose and white myrtle flower arrangements.

There was just one thing missing from the Fairy Blessing Ceremony.

A fairy.

Regina sat down across from Beatrice.

"You know, I think I understand you," said Regina.

She snorted. "Really?"

Emma came in. "Okay, what did I miss?"

Regina looked up to see Emma in a tight pink dress and heels she struggled in.

"That is not acceptable," Regina said, pointing at the garment. "We are at a Fairy Blessing, not in the club, Miss Swan."

"Give me a break, okay? This was all I had."

"Is that a price tag?," asked Beatrice.

"Yeah, I sort of bought it for a job," said Emma. "I was going to return it."

"A job?," Regina asked with an arched eyebrow. "Finally the truth comes out."

"Not like that! It was this date-"

"Whatever you want to call it," said Regina, walking off.

"Oh, come on, Regina. You know I'm not a hooker!," Emma shouted.

"Well, that's the first time that was ever heard at a Fairy Blessing," said Merlin.

Emma shot him a look and headed towards Regina.

"Well, quite a turnout," Gold said, walking up to him.

"Give it time," Merlin insisted.

Gold looked at Beatrice as she idly stared at her iPhone. "She's not much for parties where no one shows up for her."

"I don't think it's quite as hopeless as you. Unless you have a better idea."

"I did. I tried to make a True Love potion fashioned from our hair."

Merlin smiled. "How did that go, sunshine?"

"It blew up. Don't suppose you could tell me why?"

"Belle gets that from my side of the family. I wouldn't try that again. Face it, sunshine. You got more than you bargained for with her."

Belle sat next to Beatrice.

"How are you holding up?," she asked.

"Well, I suppose I'm technically no worse off than I was when we started this stupid ceremony..."

Belle shook her head as Gold joined them. "Why is it so difficult for you to believe how beautiful you are?"

Beatrice groaned. "Because I'm not..."

Belle looked at Gold.

"I've told you before you're as lovely as your mother."

"This is about Beatrice, Rumple." Belle sighed and rested her head on Beatrice's shoulder. "The most beautiful girl I have ever laid eyes on."

"The worst thing to ever happen to you..." Beatrice muttered.

"And what would make you say that?," Gold asked in disbelief.

Beatrice shrugged. "Easy. If I hadn't existed, Mom wouldn't have been held prisoner, put in a sleeping curse, you might have avoided your whole crazy period, she never would have been in an asylum-"

"Stop," Belle demanded. She pulled Beatrice against her and kissed the top of her head. "Stop right now."

The door opened. Everyone looked up as Sister Astrid stumbled in.

"I... I'm sorry, did I miss it?"

"No, no, you didn't miss it," said Mary Margaret, leaping forward as Belle joined her.

"Would you like something to eat or drink?," Belle asked, pointing at the table of offerings. "Anything?"

"Gold made from straw?," Beatrice muttered.

That earned a look from Gold.

"No, thank you," said Sister Astrid. She turned to Beatrice. "Beatrice, you have been good and kind-"

"You don't know me that well," said Beatrice.

"Quiet," Gold said in a low voice.

Astrid took out her wand. "Princess Beatrice, my gift shall be-"

The door opened and Mother Superior arrived, using her wand to snatch Astrid's from her hand.

"Oh, come on," groaned Emma.

"Well, that figures..." Beatrice muttered. She went back to her phone.

"And the Blue Trollop arrives once again to ruin another perfectly good gathering," said Merlin.

Belle was the one to stalk up to Mother Superior. "You get one gift to give to Beatrice and you gave it. You can give Astrid her wand and leave."

Mother Superior gave Belle a smug look. "You can't command me, Dark Mistress."

"Well, don't tempt me, dearie," said Gold.

Mary Margaret joined them. "This has gone too far. Undo the blessing you gave Beatrice. She doesn't deserve it."

"Even if she's a Dark Princess?"

"Her name is Beatrice," said Belle. "You have hated her for longer than she's been alive."

"Then you've chosen the darkness over good again."

"I have chosen my daughter."

"Then you're a fool like your mother."

Mother Superior walked off.

"Belle?," asked Gold.

"Mom?," asked Beatrice, her attention taken away from the iPhone.

Belle didn't answer, she hurried out after Mother Superior.

"Belle!," Gold called, hurrying after her.

Beatrice ran out, then Mary Margaret and David, the rest of the party eventually following them.

Except for Emma, who teetered on her impossible heels.

"Mom! Come on!," Henry said excitedly.

She grunted and balanced on one foot at a time while she took off her shoes, then held them in her hand as she ran to join the rest in bare feet.


"Mom!," Beatrice called, catching up to Belle. She put her arms around Belle. "Please don't get hurt because of me again."

Belle looked at Beatrice. "I protect you. You don't protect me," she said placing Beatrice's hand in Gold's.

"Belle, sweetheart-" Gold began.

"No! She can answer me now! Why did you say that about my mother?!"

The party goers watched as Mother Superior turned.

"What are you asking?"

"My mother got ill very suddenly. She was never sickly and no one else had whatever illness she had."

Merlin was now intrigued. "Answer her."

"What are you accusing me of?"

Belle got closer. "You killed her because she was going to make certain I found my True Love."

"Because she was going to lead you into the path of the Dark One."

There was an audible gasp. Mary Margaret covered her mouth.

"You evil tart..." said Merlin.

Belle was stunned beyond belief. She wanted to scream and leapt at Mother Superior. The fairy took out her wand and before anyone knew what had happened, Beatrice had freed herself from Gold's grasp and jumped in front of her mother, taking the brunt of the fairy magic.

Then something else happened.

As Belle screamed for her daughter, a pulse of magic burst forth, knocking Mother Superior back. She grabbed Beatrice.

"Beatrice?," Belle asked urgently. "Beatrice?"

"Sweetheart, say something," Gold implored her.

Beatrice looked at Belle. "What did you do?"

Belle shook her head. "I didn't do anything. Are you alright?"

"She's powerless," Regina said suddenly, looking at Mother Superior. She followed the nun's gaze to Belle. "Belle took her power away."

"Belle does magic?," asked Henry.

"Family secret," said Merlin. He looked at Mother Superior. "She's vanquished your power with True Love."

"Okay, that's new..." said Beatrice.

"That's impossible," said Mother Superior.

"Oh, I think it's possible, dearie," said Gold.

"I don't understand," said Belle. "I'm not-"

Beatrice looked up at Belle. "I kind of think you are."

Mother Superior started running.

"Well, that's undignified," said Merlin.

"Emma, go after her," said Mary Margaret.

"Oh, come on," Emma grunted, putting her heels back on, teetering after the nun. "Mother Superior! Mother Superior!"

"Can you undo the curse now?," Belle asked, looking at Astrid.

Astrid eyed Beatrice, then took her face by the chin. "I think you just did."

"True Love can break any curse," said Gold.


Then

Belle smiled as she nuzzled against Rumplestiltskin's chest.

"I trust that will stop all the whining," said Rumplestiltskin.

"Yes, I think I found something to do," said Belle.

"You have a filthy mind."

Belle smiled. "The rain stopped."

"Yes."

She looked up at him. "Could we maybe look at the stars?"

He eyed her and waved his hand, the thatched roof vanishing. "Poor Belle with her head in the stars."

"See the blue one? Someone told me it was a wishing star."

"And what have I told you about wishes?"

"We don't want wishes," Belle said, mocking his tone. "What about one wish? Has anybody ever gone very wrong with one wish?"

"Ask the Evil Queen's mirror some time."

Belle raised an eyebrow. "Ask her mirror?"

"Oh, Belle, it's a long tale that he really ought to have seen coming."

"He?"

"Long tale."

Belle looked back at the sky. "When I was a little girl, I got a book once and someone had inscribed it with the incantation for wishing upon a star."

"An incantation?," he asked, vaguely intrigued.

Belle nodded.

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will comes to you. If you heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star as dreamers do. Fate is kind, she brings to those who love, the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing. Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through, when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true."

Rumplestiltskin sighed. "Well, you might as well make your wish since you already said it. Try to keep it small and don't say I didn't warn you."

Belle smiled. "I don't need anything," she said, looking back at the spot of blue in the sky.

Belle did have everything she wanted. A man she loved who valued her, listened to her. She might hope for the day to come when his curse broke, but never until he had his son.

If she had to be honest, there was only one other thing she would wish, a wish that she had since she was a little girl that she had never said aloud to anyone except that stranger she met the night before the Ogres came.

A little girl.

Not all sweetness and light like everyone thought little girls ought to be. She ought to be clever and curious. She could be kind, but strong and funny.

She could have Rumple's eyes. His real eyes that he had only seen briefly. Rumplestiltskin would adore her and she would be loved by both her parents.

She would have the kind of life where she decided her own fate.

"Belle, I think that's Venus."

"Oh," said Belle with a frown. "Never mind, I suppose."


"You lost her," Gold said to Emma.

"I'll find her," said Emma as Belle looked on. "She's in the woods. There's only so many places she can go without crossing the town line."

"She should cross the town line," said Belle.

"She can't hurt us now, Belle," said Gold.

Emma eyed Gold. "What are you planning on doing to her if you find her?"

"Less than she deserves."

"You know I can't let you kill her."

"People keep telling me that."

"I'm going to go check on Beatrice," said Belle, going upstairs.

Emma looked back at Gold. "Should I be worried about you?"

"I suppose that depends on you, dearie."

Emma narrowed the distance between them. "How about this? You don't go hunting down Mother Superior. I'll find her and we'll lock her up."

"And why would I agree to that?"

"Because if she comes after you first, you can do what you want and we don't have a problem."

"How very pragmatic of you. I suppose those terms are amenable," said Gold.


 

Belle came in Beatrice's room.

"Oh, come on," said Beatrice. "You saved me, now can I please sleep alone?"

"We need to clarify something," said Belle, taking Beatrice in her arms. "You said you were the worst thing to ever happen to us."

"Eh," Beatrice shrugged.

"You are the best thing that ever happened to us and whatever pain I went through, I would do it again if it meant I got to have you."

"I'm sorry about your mom," said Beatrice.

"Hey, that's not your fault," said Belle. "My mother told me that one day when I had a daughter I would understand why I was all she ever worried about. She was right. I'm not happy that she died, but I understand it because she would do anything for me, just like I would do anything for you."

It was Beatrice who squeezed Belle this time. "Don't do anything for me, just stay."

Belle shook her head. "I'm not going anywhere."

Chapter Text

 


Now

It was another unsuccessful day of fairy hunting. Even without the help of magic, Mother Superior somehow managed to elude them again.

"I'm sorry, Emma. I don't know what happened," said Ruby.

Emma shrugged as they entered the sheriff's station. "Hey, I guess we just have to keep looking."

"I can't believe Mother Superior did all that," said Ruby.

"Oh, believe it my dear lupine girl, you have so much to learn."

Emma and Ruby looked up to see Merlin sitting at one of the desks in the sheriff's station.

"Hey, Merlin," Emma said cautiously. "What are you doing here?"

"Visiting with our friendly local pirate here," said Merlin, motioning at Hook in his cell.

Hook nodded. "Yes, I have enjoyed my conversation with the wizard here. His company is superior to that of Gaston's, but no match for your lovely presence, Swan."

Emma frowned.

"I should get back to the diner before the dinner rush," Ruby said excusing herself.

"Why is Gaston sleeping?"

"Because he was boring me," said Merlin. "He'll wake up. Though that's not why I'm here. I want to volunteer."

"Volunteer?," asked Emma.

"For the posse to hunt down the blue trollop."

Emma sat down on the desk and eyed Merlin. "Did Gold tell you about the deal I made with him?"

"Yes, he did, which is why I'm here."

"She killed Belle's mother. You can't tell me you're not angry about that."

"Indeed I am quite angry, but she and I have been adversaries for so long that I have had to learn to take these things in stride."

"And why should I believe you?"

"Listen, Rumplestiltskin will not break your deal, but he is also very clever. He will find a way to make that tart come after him and then he will kill her because frankly he's wanted to for several centuries and while I may share the sentiment, it which would not help me."

"Why not?"

"Because I need some information from her."

"What kind of information?"

"That's my business."

"And making sure I don't get double-crossed is my business."

"Long ago, she cast someone from the Enchanted Forest and I believe to this land. I've never been able to find him."

"Who is he?"

"Beatrice's True Love."

Emma arched her eyebrow. "You're serious?"

"Would I jest about that?"

"Where's your sense of romance, Swan?," asked Hook.

"Nobody was talking to you, Hook. I don't know. True Love and... she's just a kid!"

"I'm not marrying her off," said Merlin. "Beatrice is the product of fourteen generations of True Love. Her future happiness will depend on having it herself. The sparkling winged trollop cast this person away as a boy with the obvious intent that even if Beatrice was born, she would be miserable."

"Did you tell Gold this?"

"Alas, he is quite protective of his princess. Fathers rarely wish that their daughters have their own loves. So I decided not to tell him." He shrugged. "Until the day when I inevitably have to in order to save the boy's life."

"Aye, that day will come as sure as the north star..." said Hook.

"Do you mind?," asked Emma. She turned back to Merlin. "Says the guy that let his daughter marry Rumplestiltskin."

"You think they're married?"

"Okay, this is more information than I need..."

"Who would perform the ceremony? Who could they even find to print the invitations?," asked Merlin.

"Who would be there to receive the invitations since he's driven away or killed everyone he's ever cared about?," asked Hook.

"You did steal his wife," said Merlin. "You do remember that, don't you? And please don't wax poetic about Milah yet again."

Emma rolled her eyes. "Okay, I guess you can help. It's not like anything else is working."


Then

The topic of the day's fairy meeting was inevitably Rumplestiltskin and how the Dark One seemed determined to go on a rampage.

"This can all stop, you know," said the Gold Fairy, once the others had gone.

Blue turned. "And what do you know about it?"

"Rumplestiltskin is hurt, he's mourning the loss of his True Love and I think we both know he need not be."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Have some sense, Blue. The revolt in Avonlea rages. How much more suffering must there be for this land because you are terrified of an infant?"

"That infant is a monster."

"Perhaps. Then again perhaps not. Either way, I have a solution."

Blue watched as Gold opened her hand.

"A magic bean?," asked Blue. "Where did you get it?"

"From a gentle giant who knows all too well the pain of being alone."

"And what do I do with that?"

"You go to Rumplestiltskin, you tell him where to find Belle and how to awaken her and you give him this so they can go to the Land Without Magic and find his son."

Blue scoffed. "He would never give up his power."

"He only needs it to find his son. That's what this has been about. That's what this has all been about. Give him the chance to have his True Love and his children and he will take it."

"You don't know him."

"I think I do." Gold handed her the bean. "I have to go. The hour has finally arrived for Cinderella's ball."


Now

"Good Morning, Storybrooke!"

"Good morning!"

"I'm Goldie Loxley."

"And I'm Hart Archer."

"We'll have the weather report as well as the big happenings in Storybrooke for this holiday season and a gift-giving guide to find one that's just right for everyone on your list!"

"Looking forward to that, Goldie, but first the big story that everyone is still talking about. Fairy Hunt '12."

"Oh, God, they made a graphic," said Beatrice motioning at the TV as Gold handed her a plate of pancakes.

"It's Day Twelve and Mother Superior a.k.a. the Blue Fairy has been evading Sheriff Swan by hiding in the woods. We went to Sheriff Swan for comment."

The broadcast went to a video of Emma. "What? Are you guys serious? No comment. You're worse than Sidney."

"We'll go back to the Sheriff's Office for more developments as they occur," Goldie promised.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "If the outside world could see this, do you think they'd figure it out or just think this town was the biggest cosplay ever?"

"What's a cosplay?," asked Gold.

Beatrice shook her head. "Never mind."

Belle entered. "Rumple, turn the TV off. I don't even know why you got one for the kitchen," she said, sitting next to Beatrice at the counter.

Gold motioned at Beatrice. "Because if I want to see her face while BBC America plays Doctor Who for five days, this is apparently what I must do."

Belle looked at Beatrice. "Off."

"Ah, but what if we miss Fairy Hunt '12?"

Belle grimaced. "I don't even want you thinking about that terrible woman."

"Um, I kind of have to," said Beatrice. "Since we're arch enemies or something."

"You needn't have arch enemies, sweetheart," said Gold. "You have me."

"Yeah, what's your plan?," ssked Beatrice.

"Emma is going to find her," said Belle. "Besides, she's powerless. She can't hurt us. Right, Rumple?"

Gold nodded as he sipped his coffee. "Quite right." He tapped his watch. "Eat up."


Beatrice really wondered why she came to Granny's.

Oh, right. Because she lived in Storybrooke and Granny's was the only place she could come and play on her iPad while she drank coffee, ate pie and not be accosted by someone who had sold their first-born or feared "The Dark Princess," whatever that was. Granny and Ruby didn't stand for it, even if they weren't Gold's biggest fans.

Granny and Ruby were not here today. They were at Fairy Hunt '12.

That left Ashley Boyd.

Ashley was also known as Cinderella. The girl who Beatrice had realized at the age of three was an idiot for not reading that contract. She had not gotten an order of Beatrice's correct since her arrival. Beatrice had naturally attributed this to her intelligence or perhaps forgetfulness. One time she had given Gold a grilled cheese instead of a cheeseburger and he had been certain to mention it.

Contract law for him also extended to the dining experience.

So the order mistakes had never happened with him again. They didn't happen with Belle. They didn't happen when Granny or Ruby were in the diner. It had taken Beatrice this long to put together the pattern that they only occurred when Ashley was in charge and Beatrice was alone.

She had tried to give the benefit of the doubt, she didn't want to give Ashley a hard time for picking on her if it was just idiocy.

Days on end of Fairy Hunt '12 had given her significant doubts. Emma needed Granny and Ruby for the search and that meant more often than not Ashley was in charge.

Beatrice stared at her empty mug and the empty space where her cheeseburger and fries should have been. She looked back up at Ashley as she talked on her phone to her husband.

"Ashley?," she asked as she noticed the meatloaf that Archie and Marco ordered after hers arrived.

"One second," she said dismissively. "No, I miss you... No, I miss you more."

"Ashley?"

Ashley gave a dismissive look and turned away.

"Ashley, do we have an ETA on that cheeseburger?"

She didn't answer, only giggling as she spoke to her husband.

"Right," said Beatrice.

Ashley giggled again. Beatrice picked up her mug and stood as the restaurant patrons began to stare, save for Ashley.

She marched over and put her mug on the counter. She picked up the order pad and wrote her order down pushing the slip across the pass to a very confused cook. She then took the pot of coffee and refilled her mug as the others stared at her.

"Does anyone else need a refill?," asked Beatrice. It was only now that Ashley turned. She held the pot out. "Archie? Marco?"

"No, thank you," said Archie.

"I'm fine," said Marco.

"Right. Awesome," said Beatrice. She looked at Hart Archer sitting at the counter. "Your iced tea looks low. Let me top that off for you."

She took the glass from a befuddled Hart and Ashley quickly excused herself from the phone.

"What are you doing?," she asked.

"I am waitress-ing." She refilled the tea and gave it back to Hart. "Here you go."

"Do you have any Splenda?," asked Hart.

Beatrice passed him the caddy of sweeteners.

"Get out from behind the counter," said Ashley.

"No, no, no," said Beatrice. "You're busy on the phone. I've got this."

The door opened. Leroy entered with two of the other dwarfs.

"Hey, guys," said Beatrice. "Welcome to Granny's. Go ahead, sit anywhere you want."

"Why are you doing this?," asked Ashley.

"You can figure that out yourself," said Beatrice. She took the pad and walked to the dwarves' table. "So, guys, do you need a few minutes with the menu or do you know what you want?"

"What's going on?," asked Tom, just before he sneezed.

"Yeah, do you work here now?," asked Walter.

"Doesn't Gold give you an allowance, sister?," asked Leroy.

"You can't do this, you can't take orders!," said Ashley.

"It seems to be going quicker this way," said Beatrice. She looked back at the dwarves. "Guys, what about drinks?"

"Coffee, please," said Walter.

"Coffee."

"Coffee, sister."

"She is not a waitress!," Ashley protested.

"Three coffees coming up," said Beatrice.

Archie threw his mediator hat into the ring as Beatrice got mugs of coffee. "Now, Ashley, I did hear Beatrice ask about her food a few times before she got up. Maybe you didn't hear her?"

"I wasn't on the phone that long," said Ashley.

"Yes, because time is a relative construct," said Beatrice, giving the dwarves their coffee.

"You got any cream, sister?"

Ashley scowled as Beatrice's comment went over her head. She looked back to Archie. "I was asking about the baby. The one your father tried to steal."

Beatrice handed Leroy his creamer as the tension in the restaurant grew thick.

"And here we go," said Beatrice. "How long did you make it in that argument before you played the baby card? A whole two minutes?"

"Seemed like less," said Tom, sneezing again.

"Now, Beatrice, Ashley does have some reasonable anger," said Archie. "Even if it is misdirected."

"Misdirected?," Ashley sneered. "Mother Superior is a fugitive because of her."

"Or because she tried to kill me or because she cursed me or because she killed my grandmother. Or because now she's powerless and totally scared," said Beatrice, shrugging. She looked back at the dwarves. "Guys, how are we coming with those menus?"

"What's the vegetarian special?," asked Walter.

"That would be the FLT with faux bacon, lettuce and tomato on a sourdough bun," said Beatrice. "I would order it with avocado because the faux bacon usually leaves me wanting."

"How did you know that?," asked Ashley.

"It's on the chalkboard, it's not nuclear launch codes," said Beatrice.

"I'll have the hamburger," said Leroy.

"And how would you like that done?"

"Ashley, you can't blame the sins of the father on the child," said Marco.

"He's a monster," said Ashley.

"That was three minutes for her to play the monster card," said Beatrice. "Tom? Walter?"

"I want the FLT with the avocado like you said," said Tom.

"I'll have that, too," said Walter.

"What? You guys are gonna be vegetarian now?," asked Leroy.

Beatrice took the ticket to the pass. "Next order!"

Ashley took her argument back to Archie and Marco. "What? The daughter of the Dark One isn't a monster?"

"Wow, didn't even hit four minutes," said Beatrice.

"Look, Ashley," said Leroy, "I'm not the guy's biggest fan, but Mother Superior isn't all she's cracked up to be. Besides, if Gold's good enough for Belle, there's got to be more to him, it's not really our business anyway."

"Everyone always thought Belle was strange," said Ashley.

"Yeah, I know," said Beatrice. "It's crazy how she does things like reading, which I know some princesses have serious trouble with like if it's a contract."

"Cheeseburger's up!," called the cook, breaking into the silence.

"Beatrice, Ashley knows she made a mistake-" said Archie.

"He tricked me!," said Ashley.

"Yeah, really owning up to that," said Beatrice.

"Could we just get our check?," another customer asked from the corner.

Beatrice went back and collected her cheeseburger from the pass as Ashley threw her apron down, took her coat and stomped out, almost slamming into Doctor Whale as he entered.

"Ashley-" Archie called after her.

"Did she just quit?," asked Beatrice, eating a fry.

"Uh, check?," asked another customer.


"Uh, what's the point of this?," asked Emma, following Merlin into the woods as he carried a statue into the woods.

"Concordia."

"Yeah, still no clue," said Emma.

"Not much for Classics?"

"What? Like Casablanca?"

"Tragic ending, that, but much older." Merlin put the statue down and waved his hand. "Viviane, I speak to you under the auspice of Concordia."

The statue lit up and beamed a bright light into the trees.

"Wait, that statue is magical?," asked Emma.

"With it, we are kept from doing each other harm. Isn't that right, Viviane?"

There was a sigh and Mother Superior's voice echoed. "What do you want, Merlin?"

"I believe the Savior wishes to speak with you."

Emma awkwardly stepped forward. "We need to talk about your surrender."

"For what?"

"You confessed to killing Belle's mother. We can't let that go," said Emma. "You have to know that."

"There are issues at play you couldn't possibly understand."

"Okay," said Emma. "So, I'm not fully versed on fairy tale rivalries. I do know bail bonds, though, and I know about being on the run and I know that the longer you wait, the worse it always is. So, come in with me now and I promise nothing will happen to you."

There was a long pause.

"And why do you want to help her, Merlin?"

"I'm in a generous mood."

"What do you want?"

"I want to know about the boy. Where did you send him?"

The light vanished from the statue.

"So, I guess she doesn't want to help you," said Emma.

"No, I suppose not."


"Hey," said Belle, walking into the shop. "Did you get it?"

"Did I get what?"

"Rumple, please don't torture me."

Gold smiled and put a box on the top of the case. He took off the lid and Belle peered inside.

"You got it," she gasped.

"Much Ado About Nothing from a 1632 folio, remarkable condition."

"Do I want to know how much it cost?," asked Belle.

"A bargain at six thousand dollars."

Belle gasped. "You never said it would be that much!"

"You asked me to get the oldest edition of Much Ado About Nothing I could find. The perfect gift for our daughter, though I thought you would want one she could read without you worrying about nail polish."

"She's read it, she knows the whole thing." When Gold looked surprised, Belle shrugged. "David Tennant and Catherine Tate did a production on the West End. She has the download and everything."

"Well, she'll appreciate this," said Gold, taking it out.

"Shouldn't you have gloves or something?," asked Belle. "At the library, we always kept things like this in the archives."

"I've enchanted it," said Gold. "It will never age, it can't be damaged."

With obvious delight, Belle took the book in her hands. "It's so beautiful," she said. "We need a box she can keep it in."

Gold nodded.

"What is it?," Belle asked, detecting a note of unhappiness. "Was it really too much?"

"No."

"Then what?"

Gold motioned at the book as he put it back in the box for safekeeping. "It's simply that you are getting our daughter a Christmas gift that celebrates her namesake and lets her know how special she is in your eyes and I've managed to secure a talking TARDIS cookie jar."

"Rumple..."

"No, no..."

"You love her. It's not about the gifts. Besides, you just got her a car."

"A token from a man that doesn't know her that well."

"Why don't you share the book with me?"

"No, it's yours."

"I never would have gotten it without your help. Perhaps it's too big anyway, we should save it for something like high school graduation."

Gold frowned. "High school graduation?"

"Well, it's not so soon, Rumple-"

"Two and a half years."

Belle smiled. "Then you ought to take advantage of them. Christmas break is coming up. You can spend more time together."

"Doing what?"

Belle took a breath. "I know it's a sensitive subject..."

"Belle, no."

"Merlin says you haven't taught her anything since you returned from our land and that's been months."

"Magic is a dangerous path-"

"But if it's her path to follow, Rumple, she needs to understand it and you can help her."

Leroy entered the shop.

Gold sighed. "And what can I do for you, dearie?"

"I just thought you would want to know Beatrice is waiting tables at Granny's."

"She's what?," asked Gold, acting more like he had been told she was pole dancing.

Belle shook her head. "Beatrice doesn't work at Granny's."

"Uh, I'd check again, sister."


Gold and Belle walked into Granny's. The place was busy as the lone waitress hurried to and fro. It took them both a minute to notice that the waitress was in fact their daughter and only took Gold a second longer to notice Whale watching her, giving a little too much appreciation to Beatrice's black tights and tartan miniskirt.

Gold gripped the doctor's shoulder and Whale straightened up, immediately guessing whose hand was on him.

"Leave now or I will rip out your arteries with my teeth," said Gold.

"Rumple..." said Belle.

Gold turned back to her, fully expecting to hear an impassioned argument about why he shouldn't threaten to rip out the doctor's arteries and instead all she said was, "Make sure he pays his check."

"I only have a twenty," said Whale.

"Leave it," hissed Gold.

Whale put the money down and left, just as Beatrice turned to see the twenty.

"Did Whale leave that?," she asked, picking up the bill. "He only got coffee."

"It's a tip," said Belle.

"Sweetheart, what is going on?," asked Gold.

"Well," said Beatrice, "I was just trying to get a cheeseburger when Ashley Boyd wouldn't stop talking on the phone..."

"Could I get some ketchup?"

Beatrice took the customer the ketchup. "Anyway, so I took some initiative which led to the inevitable 'your dad tried to steal my baby, your mom is weird and you're probably evil' line of argument..." She picked up Mrs. Schuman's check and payment as she led her children out. "Hey! Did you seriously mean to leave a three dollar tip on a party of ten?!"

Mrs. Schuman hurried her children out.

"Beatrice, what do you mean the inevitable-" Belle began.

"Uh, the usual, inevitable? Not to mention I think Ashley had intentionally gotten every order of mine wrong since the Curse broke. Then you know, I accused her of not reading..."

"A fair point," said Gold, eliciting a look from Belle.

"And then she stomped out and quit at which point there was no waitress, so I felt kind of bad, so I kept waiting tables and I tried to call in the other waitresses, but I get the feeling they don't answer the phone on their days off. Also, I have made almost fifty dollars in tips. That TARDIS cookie jar is so mine."

Gold looked at Belle. "Oh, sweetheart, don't spend your money on that," he said futilely.

"I've been waiting on my vegetarian lasagna forever!," another customer complained.

"I told you that item is made to order," said Beatrice, cleaning up the Schuman table. "Why do we not have a busboy?"

Beatrice walked away. Belle turned to Gold.

"I have the feeling we should be angry," said Belle.

Gold scoffed. "I don't."

"Well, maybe not so angry..."

"Let's take her home."

"This restaurant is full, Rumple," said Belle. "Granny and Ruby are out there hunting for Mother Superior. I hate to have them lose out on this much business."

Before Gold could figure out what she was hinting at, she took her coat off and went behind the counter.

"Belle..."

"You can work the register," said Belle.


Then

It was unlike Blue to have a pang of conscience. She had gotten rid of it long ago. There was that which was necessary for the good and there was that which was not necessary. All else was superfluous.

Yet the Gold Fairy's death elicited that attack of conscience. Perhaps there was a way to dispense with Rumplestiltskin.

So Blue visited the Sage, told the old woman of the proposed plan and asked if it would work.

She waited hours for an answer as the Sage consulted crystal balls and incense.

"Yes," said the Sage, her eyes obscured so that she might more clearly see the future, "yes, that might well work. If you embark on this course of action, things will go as you wish. The Dark One will leave and the child will be born into the Land Without Magic."

"Thank you," said Blue.

"Save for one."

"Who?"

"One of the first ones."

Blue felt relief. "Merlin is not a factor."

"No, it is not Merlin's wrath you should fear. This anger comes from a power above him."

"Above him?"

"Directly above him." The sage turned to Blue. "And you know the things she will do to make certain one of her daughters has her True Love."

"True Love? The Dark Princess has a True Love?"

"He is a but a boy now, but someday they will meet and he will know her for what she is."

"Where?"

"It's unclear. A darkness clouds the vision and two realms will intersect."

"Who is he?," Blue demanded.


Now

It was two hours after Gold and Belle arrived when the restaurant finally thinned out. Granny, Ruby, Emma and Merlin entered, completely befuddled by Belle and Beatrice waiting tables while Gold sat by the register.

"Ah, finally," said Gold, not wasting a minute leaving the register behind. "This adventure in the food service industry is at an end. Belle, Beatrice, we're leaving."

"What happened?," Granny asked.

"Mostly Ashley walked out," said Beatrice, untying the apron she had confiscated. "I may have criticized her never putting my cheeseburger order in and her talking on the phone and then from there it went where it usually goes when I talk to people."

"So, what?," asked Ruby. "You ran the diner?"

"She had a little help," said Belle.

"No dark magic, I hope?," asked Granny.

"Well, if your busboy hadn't called out, there wouldn't have been," said Beatrice.

"We don't have a busboy," said Ruby.

"I stand by my decisions."

"Let me guess," said Gold, gathering his coat as he walked towards Emma and Merlin. "No sign of Mother Superior?"

"I'll find her," said Emma.

"Well, let's hold out hope," Gold said with a smirk.


"What about a tie?," asked Belle as she put the returned books on a cart.

Beatrice scowled from her spot behind the circulation desk as she did her homework.

"What?," Belle asked.

"Sixteen years and you think my first Christmas present to the guy should be a tie? How predictable is that?"

Belle had to remind herself to not laugh out loud at her daughter. How she couldn't wait for Christmas Day to come so she could tell the two of them how alike they were.

"Beatrice, you're over-thinking this. Your papa will be thrilled with whatever you get him." Which was the truth and she knew it.

"Great, mediocrity can be the hallmark of our relationship."

"Well, think about what he likes."

"Right. Spinning wheels. Gold. First-born children..."

Belle smiled. That was when Ashley Boyd came in pushing her daughter in a stroller. Beatrice hid her face. Belle collected herself to be friendly to the woman.

"I was just returning these," said Ashley, holding out a selection of children's books.

Belle smiled as she took them. "And how did Alexandra like these?"

"Fine."

"Beatrice just did a wonderful Christmas display in the children's section," said Belle.

"No, thank you," she said crisply.

"We're having a Christmas party next week," said Belle.

"I don't think we can come," she said, looking at Beatrice.

"Perhaps Sean could bring Alexandra."

"What?"

"Because I would hate for her to miss out because her mother insisted upon acting like a petulant child."

Beatrice looked up. Ashley was in shock.

"Excuse me?," said Ashley.

"My daughter has done nothing, but some people in this town like yourself seem to insist that she be treated like the worst kind of criminal and I am really not in a mood to tolerate it anymore."

"Then maybe you should have thought about that when you made your deal with that imp."

Belle put the books down. Beatrice knew it was getting serious.

"My deal with Rumplestiltskin- which is his name by the way - was to save my land from Ogres, not to get to a ball to meet a prince."

"And we know how you got out of that."

Belle scoffed. "If you think sex could get me out of eternal servitude to the Dark One, you obviously don't know him that well."

"Oh, ew..." said Beatrice.

"Well, now we all know what you really did," said Ashley, she said pointing her eyes in Beatrice's direction.

"Is your worldview so dim that you think that I would carelessly trade away a child for comfort just because you did?"

"How else do you explain it?"

"My daughter is the product of True Love, not a deal, not a demon, not any of the hundred other things stupid people have said since we arrived," said Belle. "So, why don't you go gossip about that?"

Ashley shoved the stroller around and left in as much of a huff as she could manage.

Belle turned back to Beatrice.

"So, where did that come from?," asked Beatrice.

"It's what I should have done all along," said Belle. "You have nothing to be ashamed of and you don't need to take any more abuse from morons. Is that clear?"

"Clear," said Beatrice.


Then

Blue hovered outside the cottage. It was comfortable.

They weren't poor. They weren't desperate. The parents were both scholars, even the mother most unusually. Three sons and it was the youngest she had to look at.

So she had to try to reason with the parents.

She hated trying to reason with people. Of course the parents would be the only people in the Enchanted Forest dependent on reason.

"I just want to make certain that I have this right," said the man, glancing over at his wife. "There is a Dark Princess who has not yet been born and our youngest son is to be her True Love?"

"Yes."

"So, you think we should send our youngest son through a portal to another realm because..." The mother just shook her head. "Do people just normally do whatever you say when you show up?"

"She will be a terrible darkness."

"Do you have any more specifics on that terrible darkness?"

The Blue Fairy did not.

"Well, thank you for coming..."

The boy had one downfall that the Blue Fairy easily discovered.

He was terribly curious.

So if a portal opened he just had to see where it led to.


Now

"How do you two know each other?," asked Emma.

"Pardon?"

"You heard me," said Emma as she and Merlin trudged through the woods. "You and Mother Superior. The Blue Fairy, whatever. Beatrice thought once she was your ex and Henry's book has this story about you and an evil fairy you have to keep your daughter safe from. The daughter sounded an awful lot like Belle."

"Well, savior, you've used your miraculous truth telling powers to discern that I slept with her. No wonder they made you sheriff."

"I get the idea it was more complicated than that."

"Things always were more complicated in our circle."

"Your circle?"

"Yes, the blue tart and I are part of a very exclusive club. We were there at the beginning."

"The beginning of what?"

Emma didn't get an answer out of Merlin because Ruby shouted out.

"I've got her!," Ruby shouted.

They hurried up to where Ruby and Granny stood frozen.

"What? Why aren't you guys going after her?," asked Emma.

"We can't."

Emma and Merlin's gaze went down to the demarcated town line.

"She saw it," said Ruby. "She saw it and just went over."

"What are you talking about?," the clipped tone of Mother Superior came from across the line.

Emma hurried over, grabbing the nun.

"Sheriff Swan, what is going on?," she asked. "What are we doing out here in the woods?"

"Come on," said Emma, taking her by the arm. "You're going back to the station."

"You evil soul," said Merlin.

"Do I know you?," Mother Superior asked in shock.

Emma took Mother Superior.

Merlin turned to Granny and Ruby. "Did she say anything before she went across?"

"It didn't make sense," said Granny. "Game, set, match?"

"Not by a long shot, Blue," said Merlin. "Not by a long shot."

Chapter Text

 


The crowd at Granny's usually tried not to look when Mr. Gold came in and he usually didn't make too much of a spectacle of himself.

This was different.

Gold came in and let the cold wind slam the door shut. Granny and Ruby looked up first.

He had that look on his face. That look that said someone was going to die.

"Has anyone seen my daughter?"

No one answered.

"You see, that was not a rhetorical question," Gold said. "I would never ask any of you a rhetorical question because I don't have a month."

Gold took his cane and lifted it to where it could be swung. Fearing broken glass and property damage, Ruby spoke up.

"She came in, but she didn't stay," said Ruby. "She didn't even order."

Gold put his cane back in its usual position and looked at Ruby. "Was that so hard to answer? Now, what do you mean she didn't order?"

"I don't know," said Ruby. "She walked in the door, looked in and left."

Gold grimaced and left, making more noise in his exit than anyone would have previously thought humanly possible. Ruby looked at Granny.

"Better call the sheriff," said Granny. "If anything happened to that girl, there's gonna be hell and someone's gonna pay it."


In the library, three very angry women had grown quiet.

Belle was fuming. "Who exactly does she think she is?," she asked.

Mary Margaret nodded. "She had no right to say those things to you."

Regina had her arms crossed and the definite look that someone was going to die. "If she thinks she can take my son, she does not know who she's dealing with."

"Regina, Tamara was just talking about joint custody," said Mary Margaret.

"Out of town," said Regina. "In New York and she doesn't think she has to run it by us when she wants to abduct a boy from his family?"

"Look, I'm not happy about it, either," said Mary Margaret. "But maybe this is between Emma and Neal."

"Excuse me?," asked Regina. "Some stepmother walks in and gets more say than me? The woman who raised him, more say than you his grandmother and you, his sort of grandmother?"

Belle frowned at Regina.

"Don't give me the dirty look," said Regina. "I wasn't the one who walked in here and practically called you Rumplestiltskin's concubine. I'm one of the few people that understands you actually love the twisted little sociopath."

Belle tried to take a deep breath as the door opened.

Regina motioned. "And here he is. Do you know what your son and his potential bride are up to?"

"I called," said Gold, looking at Belle.

"Sorry, we were in the middle of something," said Belle.

"Is Beatrice not here?"

"No, she hasn't been by all morning," said Belle, her face dropping. "What's wrong?"

"I sent her to Granny's to get lunch and she never returned."

"Have you tried calling her?," asked Mary Margaret.

"No, because I am an idiot," said Gold, shooting her a glare.

"What about her car?," asked Regina. "She didn't drive off to Waterville for Starbucks again and not tell you, did she?"

"Her car is still parked outside the shop. Again. Not an idiot."

"I'll call David and Emma," said Mary Margaret.

"I'll go ask around," said Regina.

"You're helping?," Gold asked with a sneer.

"Doctor Hopper told me to find different outlets for my anger and I think yelling at some of the town morons to look for Beatrice would be a great outlet," said Regina, picking up her coat.

Mary Margaret shook her head. "I'm not sure that's what Archie meant."

Regina stalked out as Mary Margaret followed.


Beatrice awoke in the woods.

It was cold. Like really cold.

She sat up and looked around. Yeah, the woods. Though she could have sworn it was almost dark when she came out here and now it was light. She couldn't have just fallen asleep in the woods, could she? Surely there would be a search party by now and her father threatening people.

Suddenly Beatrice found that she did not remember why she had walked into the woods.

She stood up and found that she had clothes on she didn't remember: high black boots, a deep blue dress and a cloak.

A cloak. That was new.

She did see a red leather messenger bag on the ground, though and looked inside in search of her iPhone.

No iPhone. No iPad. Just books.

Beatrice considered this. She was in the woods, knocked out and robbed? That was an answer. Still, she wondered about the cloak. She put the messenger bag over her shoulder and started walking.

She walked down the path where she encountered a man in brown clothes with two boys in similar garb.

"Hi!," she said hurrying over.

The man's eyes widened in shock at her and he fell to his knees. He quickly signalled his boys to do the same.

Okay, that was weird.

"Hi, sorry, didn't mean to bother you, but could I borrow your cell phone?"

"My cell phone, your highness?," he asked, sounding it out.

"Yeah, do you have a cell phone? I am just kind of lost out here and I was hoping to call my dad."

The boys looked up at her in terror.

"Or my mom..."

"Please, Princess. That's not necessary."

Beatrice looked around. "It's a little necessary. I'm kind of lost."

"If you just go up the path, you can see your home from there."

Beatrice frowned. "Really?" She couldn't remember her house being by anything heavily wooded.

"Please don't summon the Dark One."

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "Oh, we're gonna do that whole thing again? Fine. Whatever."

Beatrice continued up the path and she did not see the pink Victorian.

She saw the Dark Castle.

"Right..." she said. "This is about to be the weirdest dream ever."


It had grown dark. And cold. They had split up the search party. Emma was set up at the side of the road with Merlin, Neal and Ruby. David and Mary Margaret had taken the dwarves to another location. Belle was pacing, but Emma kept looking at Gold. The guy was a hair's edge on this side of sanity.

"Tell me why your blood magic thing doesn't work again," said Emma, glaring at Merlin.

"Because I spent a great deal of time making certain that Beatrice could not be traced by blood magic," said Merlin.

Emma frowned as she flipped through the maps. "And why the hell would you do that?"

"Everyone has relatives they don't like," said Merlin.

Belle walked back and joined them. "She's still not answering. She always answers."

"Well, her phone's off but the last known location was out here," said Emma.

"It hasn't been off since she got it," said Belle.

"We'll find her," said Merlin. "Try not to worry."

"We've got half the town out here," said Emma. "And Regina's back checking on Moe and the knights."

"The usual suspects," Belle said with a grimace.

"If there is anything for Her Majesty to discover, I'm certain she will," said Merlin. "She's not had a chance to shout abuse at people lately."

Belle chewed her lip nervously as she tried Beatrice's phone again. Emma caught sight of Gold staring at something.

"Gold?," asked Emma, walking over. "Did you find something?"

Gold rubbed his hand over the burned tree trunks. "She was here."

"Beatrice starts forest fires now?"

"What are you teaching her, Pop?," Neal asked.

"How to defend herself," Gold said sharply. "Which she obviously needs."

"How do you know it was her?,"asked Belle.

Merlin waved his hand over the tree. "Magic is like everything else in the universe. It always leaves fingerprints."

Emma looked closer. "Okay, so let's look at this like a crime scene. Whoever Beatrice was... doing the fire-ball at was right here. Neal, you stand here."

Neal did.

Merlin nodded. "I see. Belle, go over there."

"What?"

"You're her height," said Emma. "It'll help."

"And what does this reenactment prove?," Gold sneered as the others went into position.

"Well," said Emma, "Beatrice came out here for a reason. Like she was following someone. Whoever that was made her think she needed a fire-ball and judging by the usual level of Beatrice's magic she needed it pretty bad. So she had to have a reason, right? She didn't just run."

Merlin and Emma started looking at the ground.

"What are you looking for?," asked Belle.

"Cause for defense," said Merlin, moving further down towards the tree. He picked up something metal and held it up for Emma. "Will this do, Savior?"

"Shell casing," said Emma. "Someone fired a gun at her."

"Perhaps our lupine search party ought to look from here," said Merlin.


On the way to the Dark Castle, she decided that was it. She was having an incredibly lucid dream. That always happened with Midol PM. Usually it was just episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock that didn't make sense and then when she woke up, she realized it was because her subconscious just did crappy writing. Dreaming about the Enchanted Forest, that was new, but maybe it was the Christmas break magic lessons? There would be time to dissect this all later and eventually in the office of the psychiatrist she was going to desperately need someday.

She went through the gardens and opened the door, finding herself back in the Great Hall.

Though it wasn't as dark as when she saw it. The torches were lit, there were candles and roses on the tables.

"Beatrice, where have you been?"

She turned to see her mother emerging from the side door, dressed in some sort of garnet gown with gold accents.

"Oh, like the Christmas video, nice."

"What?," asked Belle. She looked Beatrice up and down. "Your cloak is soaking. You're ice cold."

"Oh," said Beatrice. She did feel quite cold. "I think I passed out in the snow."

Belle's eyes widened. "You did what? Go upstairs and get yourself in a hot bath."

"Right..." said Beatrice. "So, where is that?"


Gold paced up and down the strip of road that Ruby had begun searching from.

"Rumple?," asked Belle.

"I am pointless."

"What?"

"I couldn't protect her. I'm not even helping. I can't even find her," he seethed.

"We will find her," said Belle.

"I didn't raise her. I can't teach her. Exactly what have I done for her since the moment I sired her?"

"Rumple, don't speak like that. You love her and she loves you. She's so excited you're teaching her, even if she doesn't show it."

"I've got her!," Ruby shouted.

Emma and Neal ran down, Gold followed cursing his cane. Belle tried to help him and he shook his head, urging her on.

He was the last to arrive, watching as the others huddled around her. Belle held her.

"Beatrice? Beatrice?" She looked up at Gold. "She's ice cold."

"Here," said Gold, taking off his coat, helping Belle wrap her in it.

"Rumple, just fix her," said Belle.

Gold waved his hand.

Nothing happened. He looked over at Merlin who shared his expression of dread.

"Rumple?," asked Belle.

"Get her in the car. Now," said Gold.


It was with some relief that Beatrice got escorted into her own room. Dream Belle had fussed over her, hadn't even left the bathroom while Beatrice soaked in the hot bath. She then handed her a silk nightgown and a velvet robe trimmed in fur.

The room seemed like something she might like. It did have her lamb on the bed. It was purple with tapestries, silk sheets and a roaring fire. There were books and journals with her handwriting. She took the one at her bedside.

"A History of Magical Intervention in the Far North Kingdom." She shrugged. "Okay, I guess that makes sense."

She started to hear her mother's voice as her worry carried down the hall. "I don't know, Rumple, she's not acting like herself. I'm afraid she's hurt her head or something."

"No need to worry yourself, sweetheart. I'll soon have it taken care of." The door opened. "Well, well, I was summoned to attend to a beautiful princess..."

Beatrice flipped through the book, finding that it had an account of her great-grandmother, Catherine the Ice Princess. "Yeah, laying it on a little thick, aren't you?"

She looked up and froze.

Okay. It was definitely her father. There were some changes, though. Like the greasy hair and the weird gray, gold, green skin. What color was that? Oh, the creepy nails. And the eyes. And...

Oh, God, what was with the teeth?

She just needed to breathe.

Seriously, the teeth.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?," he asked.

"Um..."

"Beatrice, why are you looking at your papa like that?," asked Belle.

Rumplestiltskin cupped her face with his hands. "Something is terribly wrong."

"Yeah, have you not seen a dermatologist for that?," asked Beatrice.

"A what?," asked Belle.

"Someone's cast a terrible spell on you."

"No, I'm pretty sure this is just a dream."

Belle looked at Rumplestiltskin. "What sort of spell?"

Beatrice now moved to the clothing. "What are you wearing? Were you at a steampunk convention?"

"Nothing she has said since she got home makes sense," said Belle.

"Yeah, but you're kind of used to that, right?," asked Beatrice.

Rumplestiltskin smiled. "Well, you sound like yourself at least. What do you last remember?"

"Waking up in the snow."

"Before that?"

Beatrice searched her memory. "We were at your shop."

"My shop?" He seemed amused.

"Yeah, you were showing me how to conjure something."

"Conjure?"

"Yeah, then you sent me to get lunch. I went to Granny's and I thought I saw..."

"Saw who, sweetheart?"

"Owen."

"Who's Owen?"

Beatrice motioned at Belle. "They had Thai food once."

Rumplestiltskin turned to Belle. "Who is Owen?"

"Rumple, I have no idea."

Beatrice was distracted. "Now, what was it about Tamara? Did I see Tamara?"

"Beatrice, where was this shop of mine?," Rumplestiltskin asked, sounding rather skeptical.

"In Storybrooke."

"And where is Storybrooke?"

"Maine."

"Maine?"

"The United States. You know of America? The Earth? The Solar System?" Beatrice snapped. "The Land Without Magic. That's it, right? The Land Without Magic!"

"And what do you know of the Land Without Magic, Beatrice?," asked Rumplestiltskin. "What were we doing there?"

"Um, you know Regina cast the Dark Curse?"

Beatrice watched as their expressions turned grave.

"Beatrice, who told you about the Dark Curse?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"It's not really a secret." She watched as they exchanged glances. "Is it?"

"Rumple, what does that mean?," asked Belle.

"That evil soul." He looked at Belle. "Well, isn't it obvious? Finally, the Evil Queen has come to seek her revenge for me not allowing her to enact her glorious curse!"

"After so long?," Belle asked in disbelief. "Rumple, I don't think Regina has that in her anymore."

"Which was obviously part of her plan."

"So," said Beatrice, "just to clarify, you think Regina's cast a spell that has made me remember a whole other world and that's a lie?"

"Yes."

"Doctor Who is not a lie."

"I'll have to pay the Her Majesty a visit..." Rumplestiltskin seethed.

"Rumple, you can't," said Belle.

"Don't worry yourself, Belle."

"It's Emma's ball," she protested.

"It's Emma's what?," asked Beatrice.

Belle followed Rumplestiltskin. "Beatrice has been waiting for this for months. She's her best friend."

"Whoa, Emma's my best friend?," asked Beatrice.

"I don't really concern myself with Emma throwing herself in front of suitors," said Rumplestiltskin.

Beatrice snorted. Her parents looked at her.

"Sorry, it's just that's pretty funny from where I'm sitting."

Rumplestiltskin grimaced. "Fine. You may go to the ball, but I will accompany you lest the Evil Queen accelerate her plans."

Belle smiled. "I know it's the right decision."

Rumplestiltskin looked at her. "I'm going to get you something to eat."

Belle looked at Beatrice. "This must be so confusing for you, sweetheart."

"No," said Beatrice. "See eventually the Doctor or Sherlock will pop up and I'll know what's what."

Belle frowned. "Who's the Doctor?"

"Oh, you know he's a Time Lord."

She looked at her curiously. "A Time Lord? From what land?"

"Gallifrey."


It was the quickest anyone in Storybrooke had ever seen the Cadillac go as it hurried towards the hospital. They were soon met in the ambulance bay as Neal and Merlin got Beatrice out and helped the nurses get her on the stretcher.

Doctor Whale was out first. "What happened to her?," he asked, shining a light in her eyes.

Neal shook his head. "We don't know. We found her passed out in the woods."

They tried to hurry her into a trauma room. Belle wasn't far back, pushing open the doors with Gold a step behind her.

"Family's not allowed," said a nurse.

"Really?," asked Gold. "How do you propose to keep us out, dearie?"

With the threat of the Dark One issued, the nurse backed down.

Belle stood at the foot of the gurney as the doctors and nurses flew around Beatrice, bringing out blankets and hanging bags of warm saline. Gold took her hand.


Mary Margaret looked nervously at the door to the trauma room.

She looked back at Emma. "And Gold couldn't just fix it?"

Emma shrugged. "He warmed her up in the car. He couldn't do much else."

Mary Margaret shook her head. "That is so not good."

"I don't understand," said David. "Everyone who would want to hurt Beatrice is locked up. Who could have that much magic?"

"Maybe," said Emma. "Or maybe she just ran into something. Or maybe it's not magic at all."

The door opened to the waiting room. Regina and Henry entered.

"What are you guys doing here?," asked Emma.

"He was worried about Beatrice," said Regina. "We heard you found her."

"Yeah," said Emma.

"Is she going to be okay?," asked Henry.

"The doctors are with her right now to make sure of just that," Mary Margaret said with a reassuring smile.

"Where are Gold and Belle?," asked Regina.

"They're with her," said David.

"You see, Henry?," said Regina. "She's with her parents and the doctors. I'm sure she'll be just fine."

"Here, Henry, let's get a snack," said David, leading him away.

Regina looked at Emma. "How is she really?"

"We don't know," said Emma.

"Well, Gold hasn't fixed her. That's not a good sign. Where's Merlin?"

Emma looked around. "He was around here somewhere."

Regina looked over at Neal pacing. "Where is that woman? Shouldn't she be here?," she asked, her voice dripping with contempt.

"Tamara?," Emma asked. "He said she was out for a long run, he couldn't reach her."

Just then, Tamara entered.

"Oh, good," said Regina. She looked at Emma. "Did your mother tell you what happened?"

"Now is so not appropriate, Regina," said Mary Margaret.

Tamara and Neal shared a hug and whispered. The door to the trauma room opened and the gurney went out. They crowded towards the door as Belle and Gold came out.

"How is she?," asked Neal.

Belle shrugged. "They don't know. She's getting an MRI. I can't go in."

"Do you want to get something to eat?," Mary Margaret asked.

Belle shook her head. "I'm going to follow her as long as I can."

"I'm so sorry Mr. and Mrs. Gold," said Tamara.

Gold glared as Belle pulled him away.


Beatrice came downstairs and into the Great Hall. "So, the Enchanted Clock told me to meet you here?"

Belle nodded. "I told your tutors not to expect you. I don't want you walking all on your own under these circumstances."

"Yeah," said Beatrice. "Not great."

"Besides, I have some tutelage of my own to give," Belle said with a smile.

"Oh?"

"Your first ball, remember?," asked Belle. "You have to learn to dance."

Beatrice rolled her eyes. "Come on."

"I am serious. I won't have people up there saying the Dark Princess is so uncivilized she can't dance."

"Since when do you care what people think?"

Belle laughed. "Alright, you caught me. I want you to enjoy yourself and I know you will be all to eager to play the wallflower." She held her arms out.

Beatrice took her arms. "Dancing with my mom. This isn't pathetic at all."

"Now hands," said Belle, "your partner's above your waist. If he doesn't do that, correct him and if he goes lower again, try to excuse yourself before Papa can turn him into something."

"So, no pressure there," said Beatrice.

"I'll lead," said Belle. She then started Beatrice on a series of simple steps, during which they both kept fouling up.

"We're both clumsy, this is never going to work," said Beatrice.

"She's right, you know," said Rumplestiltskin.

"I am trying, Rumple," said Belle. "Don't break my concentration."

"Perhaps she needs to see it done properly," he said. He turned to Beatrice. "May I cut in?"

"Go for it," said Beatrice, stepping back.

Rumplestiltskin waved his hand and music came from nowhere. He bowed and she curtsied with smirks on their faces.

They took each other's hands and began to dance.

Then Beatrice realized what was happening.

Beauty was dancing with the Beast in Beast's Castle.

Then she might have started singing.

"Tale as old as time... song as old as rhyme... ever just the same, ever a surprise, finding you can change, learning you were wrong..."

"Beatrice, what is that?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"That's just this thing..."

"A thing?"

"If you're so quick to mock, you should practice with your papa," said Belle, handing her off.

"What? No."

Before she realized it, she was dancing with Rumplestiltskin.

"Chin up," said Rumplestiltskin. "Remember who you are."

Beatrice suddenly had a vision of herself in this same room, only she was younger. Rumplestiltskin was playfully dancing with her before he picked her up and let her swing around in the air as she squealed with delight.

"Beatrice, what is it?"

"I'm having a flashback."

"A flashback?"

"Beatrice?," asked Belle.

Beatrice stopped dancing. "That never happened."

She started getting more. Her mother reading to her in the gardens out front. Her father playing tea party with her, dolls as guests with the teapot and cups flying in the air?

The chipped cup.

She looked over to a pedestal. The chipped cup sat on it. She walked over.

"Beatrice?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"You keep that thing in your shop, behind a lock and a spell. I've seen it once. I've never even touched it."

"Of course you've touched it," said Belle.

"Here," said Rumplestiltskin, taking it off the pedestal, placing it in her hands.

Beatrice frowned. "I've never held it. How do I know what it feels like?"

"What do you mean?"

"In a dream, you can only do anything with information you already have so how do I know what the cup feels like?"

Belle and Rumplestiltskin exchanged their umpteenth look of concern.

"How am I having flashbacks to things that never happened? We never played tea party."

"Of course you did," said Belle.

"You knew about that?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"Well, don't worry, I haven't told anyone the Dark One liked to play tea party."

"I wouldn't say I liked it."

"No, no, no..." said Beatrice. "Why is this as real as that was?"

"Beatrice," said Belle, "this other world the Queen's put in your head. What happened in it?"

"Long or short?," asked Beatrice.

"Long, I should think," said Rumplestiltskin.

"The Dark Curse was cast, but you thought she was dead. She was really in Regina's dungeon, only thirteen years later Regina found out Mom was pregnant with me and sent her out of town. Fifteen years later, we came back and I met you for the first time."

"For the first time?," asked Rumplestiltskin. "You mean I didn't raise you?"

"No, I actually thought you were kind of creepy..."

"Creepy?"

She looked down to the distinct lack of a cane. "That seems so real."

"Beatrice," said Belle, smiling as she took her hands. "You were born here. We've always lived here together and your papa and I have raised you together."

"I know," said Beatrice. "Wait. How do I know that?"

"We should eat and depart for the Winter Castle," said Rumplestiltskin. He looked at her in concern. "Beatrice?"


Beatrice screamed, bolting up.

She was blinded by fluorescent lights and found herself connected to tubes that she tried to claw at.

"Beatrice, it's alright." She realized her mother was at her side, trying to keep her from taking out an I.V. She wasn't in her gown, though, just a fairly ordinary dress. She looked towards the door. "Rumple!"

"Mom?"

"Yes."

She looked around. "I'm in the hospital."

"Yes, we found you in the woods, what were you doing out there?"

The door opened. Gold rushed in with Neal and Emma.

"Oh, sweetheart..." said Gold, hugging her.

"Your skin's normal."

"What?," asked Emma.

"It was weird in my dream," said Beatrice. "Like this weird green gray with gold?"

Gold looked at her in shock.

"Bea, how did you know that?," asked Neal.

"Wait, your skin used to be a different color?," asked Emma.

Gold looked at Belle. "Did you-"

"No, I never said anything."

"Beatrice, why were you in the woods?," asked Emma.

She looked up at Gold. "I was going to tell you something. Wait, no, I already told you."

"What was it, sweetheart?," asked Gold.

Suddenly, a bolt of pain raged through Beatrice and she screamed.

Then it went black.

"Beatrice?," Belle asked frantically. "Beatrice?"

Emma ran to the door and shouted for Doctor Whale.

Whale and a nurse rushed in, pushing Belle to the side. She threw herself in Gold's arms.

"What is wrong with her?!," Belle demanded.

Whale shook his head. "I don't know. Her MRI came back clean. There's no cause for this."

Emma had heard words like those before when Henry had been in the hospital. "Like magic."

She caught Gold's glance as he seethed.

It was definitely his 'Someone is about to die' face, not that she could blame him.

"Gold?," she asked as if that could stop the upcoming homicide.

"Pop?," asked Neal. "What are you thinking?"

Merlin entered. "Emma."


Beatrice awoke on the floor of the Great Hall.

"There we are, sweetheart," said Rumplestiltskin.

"I was back, for a minute. I was in the hospital."

"The other world?," asked Belle. She looked at Rumplestiltskin. "What does that mean?"

Rumplestiltskin shook his head. "It must be part of the Queen's curse, trying to make that world seem more real."

"No, pretty sure it was real." She paused. "Or maybe not."


Emma followed him out and down the hall. "She was awake for a second. She said she was going to tell Gold something."

"I have someone I think you should meet."

"Where are we going?," asked Emma.

"I did some investigating, you know. I'm a big Law & Order fan."

They walked into the ICU.

"Should we be in here?," asked Emma.

Merlin pulled open a curtain revealing nurses working around a man whose head was wrapped in gauze.

"Burn victim?," asked Emma.

"Now, either, this total stranger with no connection to Storybrooke had the misfortune to have his car catch fire on the exact same day..."

"Or we just found who Beatrice was throwing a fire-ball at." She looked at Merlin. "And who she had to tell Gold about."

Merlin nodded.

"What's his name?"

"Greg Mendel."

Chapter Text

 


Then

Rumplestiltskin awoke with a start on the floor of his cottage.

He wasn't supposed to wake up.

He looked up to see Merlin sitting at his table, eating an apple.

"Good morning, sunshine."

"Merlin..."

"Good. You remember me."

"I haven't seen you in years."

"Did I miss anything?," he asked, taking a bite.

"Well, I am the Dark One now. I've lost my son, my wife-"

"To be fair, you did rip her heart out and crush it," said Merlin. He shrugged. "I'm just saying you may want to think about your life choices before you lament your tragedies."

"What do you want?"

"Obviously, to drag you out of your stupor," said Merlin. "Look at yourself. While you've been off in some kind of fantasy land, in the real world you've been lying in your own sick."

"I can't die."

"Yeah, well. I'm going to have to suggest doing something other than escaping your life."

"What the hell do you care?"

"Because I have plans for you, Rumplestiltskin and those plans do not involve you spending an eternity in a purple haze."

"The only thing I want is my son and I can't get to him. I had one chance and the pirate took that."

Merlin sat back. "I am so disappointed in you."

Though he wouldn't say it, Rumplestiltskin couldn't help but agree.

"You've said it yourself, but here's the proof before me. Without your son, you will turn to dust. Unfortunately, I can't have that." Merlin reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the Dark One's dagger.

"What are you doing with that?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"I'm going to eat a steak. What do you think? I'm controlling the Dark One." He saw Rumplestiltskin's glare. "Yeah, sunshine, not your best hiding place."

"And what do you bid me do?," asked Rumplestiltskin, his voice dripping with contempt.

"Oh, don't worry, sunshine. I'll give it back to you."

"When will you do that?"

"After I find you something to do for the next three hundred years."


Now

Emma looked at Merlin. "So, what's your plan?"

"You may not like it."

"I don't know if there's any of this that I like," said Emma.

Merlin walked into Greg's room. Emma followed.

"You can't be in here," the nurse protested.

"Do you know who I am?," asked Merlin.

"Yes."

"Then save yourself the trouble," he said, motioning for her to leave.

The nurse left. He turned to Greg.

"Now, do you know who I am?"

Greg moaned.

Merlin waved his hand.

"What? What just happened?," he asked.

"I have healed you," said Merlin. "Now, tell me who you are."

"What? I'm Greg Mendel."

"I'm not worried about your name," said Merlin. "Who are you and who are you working for?"

"I don't know-"

Merlin waved his hand again and Greg screamed.

"What did you do?," asked Emma.

"I un-healed him." He looked at Greg. "What I give, I can take away. Understand?"

Merlin waved his hand again. "Now, what did you do?"

Emma found his bag on a nearby table and started going through it. "There's a shipping receipt for an address here in Storybrooke."

Merlin looked at Greg. "Setting up shop, are we?" He leaned in. "Tell you what, why don't I have a look around and then maybe you'll be more likely to tell me what you really want."


Beatrice sat in her guest room at the Winter Castle and looked through the trunks the servants had brought up. There were dresses galore and books and jewels.

Without warning, the door opened and a sixteen year old Emma strode in, wearing a long blue dress with dirt at the hem. Her hair was a wreck and she looked as if she would rather be anywhere else as she flopped onto Beatrice's bed.

"You look different," said Beatrice.

She grimaced. "My mother says I have to learn to walk like a lady, whatever that means. She is such a hypocrite. When she was my age, she was living in the forest, fighting Black Knights."

Beatrice frowned. "Yeah, I think that mostly has to do with the Evil Queen that was trying to kill her."

"Whatever," said Emma. "My father is worse. He won't even let me go anywhere with the knights. What is the point in being a princess if all I get to do is be locked in a castle learning to dance?"

"I think that's pretty much in the princess job description," said Beatrice.

"Not for you," Emma whined. "You get to do magic and have actual tutors."

"I can't help the magic part, really."

"Yeah," Emma snorted. She laughed. "Remember that time we were five and you made it rain for a week so we could have a moat?"

"No..."

Emma leaned up on her elbows. "Yeah, I heard our mothers talking. She said there was some spell, giving you memory problems."

"Yeah, that's one opinion."

"What? You've got another theory?"

"I think I'm in a coma."

"A what?"

"God, you guys don't really know anything here."

"Sorry, we can't all be as gifted scholars as you, Princess Beatrice." She turned on her side. "Speaking of which, I tried to invite your boy."

"My boy?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, he's not your boy, whatever. It seems that whatever he's doing at the university is too important to be interrupted, but he's sending his brother in his place. Sherrinford, not the other one."

Beatrice tried to process. "Sorry, I have a college-aged boyfriend?"

Emma eyed her. "Wow. That spell must be really bad. Do you remember Alexandra?"

"Alexandra?" Beatrice searched her mind. She only knew one. "Cinderella's kid?"

"So you do. Bad luck there. Anyway, my mom made me invite her so you can look forward to the part of the evening where her mom and your mom get into their usual thing. Still, if we didn't the party would be completely boring."

"Anyone else coming?," asked Beatrice.

"Princess Melody. Briar Rose, though, she's just been weird since her mom ran off with that warrior chick-"

"Sorry, who is Briar Rose?"

"Wow, you're missing that, too? Queen Aurora? Ran off with Mulan? All everybody in the whole realm talked about for months?"

"Whoa, Aurora did what?"

"Ran off!" Emma smiled. "Though I did hear your mom had an adventure with Mulan once."

"Eww," said Beatrice, recalling the story in her book. "It was totally not like that, though, if it was so what? Lots of people have experimental phases."

"Come on, your mom's whole life is an experimental phase."

"Hey!"

"I admire her. I could use an experimental phase myself. End up with a guy everybody hates and nobody tells you what to do ever again."

"Emma, this whole conversation is getting so beyond weird you have no idea..."

Emma sat all the way up. "In this other world Regina put in your head, who am I?"

"Who are you?"

"Yeah. Tell me. For fun."

"You're the Savior."

"Are we still best friends?"

"Not really." Emma looked concerned and Beatrice shrugged. "It would be weird. You're thirteen years older than me. You have a kid."

"I have a kid?," Emma asked with a sneer. "How old was I?"

"Eighteen. You kind of had him in jail."

"I was in jail?!," Emma squealed almost gleefully.

"Then you sort of reformed and became a bail bonds person, then sheriff."

"What? Like the Huntsman?" She leaned in. "Is it just me or does that guy have a really great butt?"

The door opened and Rumplestiltskin came in.

"You don't knock?," asked Emma.

"I don't need to knock, dearie. I know Beatrice isn't up to anything. I can't say the same for you."

Emma bounced up and gave Rumplestiltskin a hug he seemed to reciprocate.

"Oh, my God I need my iPhone," said Beatrice.

"Your what?," asked Emma.

"You know our Beatrice isn't feeling well," said Rumplestiltskin. "I came to make certain she was resting and instead I found you. Gossiping I take it? Or some chat about boys you're far too young for?"

"We're sixteen," said Emma.

"Get ready for bed," said Rumplestiltskin.

"It's barely eight," Emma moaned.

"Seriously, is that it?," asked Beatrice. "Time without TV is slow."

"I'll get in my night-clothes, I won't keep her up, I promise," said Emma.

"Fine," he relented. "I'll have the servants bring your supper up here."

He left.


Belle came out of the room.

"Any change?," asked Tamara.

"No." Belle looked at Neal. "Would you mind sitting with Rumple?"

"Sure," said Neal.

Neal got up and went inside.

"Are you getting something?," asked Regina. "Do you want me to go with you?"

"No, thank you," said Belle. "I'm just going to the restroom."

"I could sit with Beatrice for a while if you wanted to go home or get a nap," said Tamara.

"No, thank you, I'm fine," said Belle, walking off.

"It is painfully obvious you don't have children."

Tamara rolled her eyes. "Is there a reason you hate me?"

"I wouldn't say hate. I don't know you well enough." Regina put her paper down and eyed Tamara. "Belle is one of the few people I would trust with my son and that's why. You aren't even on the list."

"And why's that?"

"You underestimate that woman. She was a prisoner in my castle and she never played her trump card."

Tamara rolled her eyes. "And what was her trump card?"

"She was pregnant with that girl. If she had told me, I would have gladly handed over anything for Rumplestiltskin's child. Most people would do anything to get out of my dungeon. Some have made worse bargains for less. She never did. She angered me at first, but when I became a mother, I finally understood. I respect her for it. So don't think you're going to be able to smooth over what you said to her earlier with some pathetic offer to help."

"It must be a sick world you come from."

"And what sort of world do you come from where you think you can take my son?"

"And you wonder why Neal and I want to get away from all this crap. You're threatened by me."

Regina smirked. "I would laugh if that wasn't so pathetic." She leaned forward. "You don't want to try me, dear."


Then

"What are we doing here?," Rumplestiltskin demanded as he and Merlin materialized.

Merlin glanced back at him as they approached the manor house. "On occasion, people ask for my help. The trouble is, I don't really do house calls."

"Oh, you don't?"

"Not for the general public, my help is reserved for a special few."

"And what did I do to become so special?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"It's not what you've done, it's what you're going to do."

Rumplestiltskin followed Merlin to the entrance of the home. A servant let them in and went to get the master.

"The lord here is a baronet," said Merlin. "He would like to be a higher rank, even married one incredibly stupid girl to get her dowry to buy a title. I mean, really stupid. She asked her servants for lizard's milk. Not once, not twice but every bloody morning."

"And why are you telling me this?"

Merlin eyed him. "You haven't been around the nobles much, have you? I mean, the only time you've stepped in a castle is to burn it down and I can't imagine you spent a lot of time chatting."

"Your point?"

"The art of the deal involves knowing what your adversary wants. Once you know what they want, you can predict what they're going to do. How many deals do you think you'll have to make to get to the Land Without Magic?"

"And what does this baronet have to do with getting to the Land Without Magic?"

"Nothing, but I'm the one holding the dagger, sunshine."

"My Lord Merlin," said the baronet as he entered.

"Ah, Lord Melchett," said Merlin.

Melchett looked at Rumplestiltskin. "And your friend?"

"Don't mind him," said Merlin. "He's the Dark One."

"Oh."

"Now, I've explained to the Dark One a bit about your problem and he is going to help you."

"I am?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"Yes, our baronet needs a new rank..." said Merlin. "It's too bad there's not some nobleman out there in need of being removed. Yes, just too bad, some Duke perhaps..."

"I don't want anyone to die," said Melchett.

"Look, did you come to play or not?," asked Merlin. "Because I am trying to do something here and I really can't have people wasting my time."

"What about my time?," asked Rumplestiltskin.

"You have three hundred years, sunshine. I don't really care what you do between now and then so long as you keep yourself off dangerous conscious altering roots."

"What happens in three hundred years?"

"Not telling," said Merlin. He paused. "Though I do need you to get a nicer house."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, it's a step up from your hut, but it's too small and in a bad neighborhood. I know a nice quiet place in the mountains."

"I'm not moving."

"I have the dagger, remember?," asked Merlin. "Besides, the fresh air will be good for you. So, why don't you think of a title you would like to obtain?"

"The Duke of the Frontlands," said Rumplestiltskin.

"Oh, look he hasn't completely rotted his brain," said Merlin. He looked back at Melchett. "You can be Duke of the Frontlands."

"I don't know how to repay you-"

"Well, the price is for the Dark One to think of." Merlin turned. "Try to think of something."

"Gold?"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Use your imagination. I find it's often a good idea to ask for what someone would least like to give."

"His firstborn child."

Merlin paused. "Well, that got dark quickly, then again, you are the Dark One. Alright, Melchett, your firstborn child for a dukedom. What say you?"

Melchett paused and Rumplestiltskin found his contempt for the man grew unimaginably in a matter of seconds.

Even more when he agreed.

"Alright then," said Merlin after they left. "Dark One, I command thee to make Melchett the Duke of the Frontlands and then buy a nice castle in the mountains."

"And how am I to do that?"

"You're clever. You'll figure something out."

"Anything else?," Rumplestiltskin sneered.

"Yes, why don't you go spin straw into gold?"


Now

Beatrice awoke in her bed.

In the castle.

In the Enchanted Forest.

If this was a dream, she really wished it would sort itself out.

She got into her trunk and put on one of the outfits that didn't require two people to help her get into. She went into the hall where she ran smack into Snow White.

Looking a little older and a lot more pregnant.

"Beatrice," she said with a smile. "I hope Emma didn't keep you up all night. Your father wanted you to get some rest."

Emma had kept her up almost until sunrise. It turned out Enchanted Forest teenage Emma could go on forever about boys and had even regaled Beatrice with a somewhat traumatic tale about how she had made out with Pinocchio.

"I was wondering if you could help me," said Snow White. "We've had some cancellations for the ball and I wondered if you knew anyone. Your mother mentioned you knew a Time Lord? He might be interesting."

"Oh, right, that would be the Doctor from the Land of Gallifrey. Yeah, definitely invite him and you know, Lord and Lady Grantham and Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil. Oh, don't forget Matthew Crawley. Amelia Pond. Rory. Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson. Yeah, you should definitely invite all those people."

"Anyone else?"

"You know what? Martha Jones and Mickey Smith because those two don't get enough appreciation."

"Hating on them?," asked Snow White.

"Yeah, so invite all those people and maybe I can get this sorted out."

Snow White eyed her. "Are you certain you got enough rest?"

Beatrice didn't get a chance to answer because twin boys came barreling down the hall with wooden swords, crashing into them.

"Boys!," Snow White shouted, chasing after them. "What have I told you?"

Beatrice shook her head. "This is so weird..."

She walked out to the gardens in an attempt to get away from the screaming children.

"Beatrice?," asked Rumplestiltskin. "What are you doing out here without your cloak?"

He waved his hands and a white fur cloak appeared. He draped it over her shoulders.

"Something's wrong," said Beatrice.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?," asked Rumplestiltskin. "Tell me what it is and I'll fix it for you."

"I'm not sure you can."

"I'll try."

"It's this weird hallucination thing."

"The Queen's Curse?"

"Yeah, sure, if that's what you want to call it... anyway, so if this is all my subconscious, what's with all the weird stuff going on? Like why am I at Emma's ball? Why is Snow White pregnant-"

"That's more a question for your mother."

"No, no, no, we're not even having that discussion," said Beatrice. "I mean, why are there all these weird subplots? Also, there should have been a Dalek or a Cyberman in here by now."

"This is not a dream, Beatrice."

"Yeah, but like am I going to be a police officer in the seventies? Or what if I've been dead since the plane crashed? Is that even what happened? Because I sort of gave up in the middle of that show and the internet confused me."

Rumplestiltskin stared at her.

She knew that look.

"What has Regina put in your head?," he asked.

"That's the other thing," said Beatrice. "See, the Regina I know, doesn't have a really great imagination. Her whole idea for revenge was to just have everyone hang out in Maine. Okay, they were unhappy, but lots of people are unhappy. I would have had people doing crazy stuff, like have Mary Margaret robbing liquor stores and have Archie be a compulsive gambler or something. So how could she have come up with the sixteen years worth of stuff stuck in my brain?"

"The Queen can be resourceful when she wants to be."

"Okay, let's try the fractured universe theory."

"The what?"

"Hey, what I know is already consistent with the chaotic inflation theory," said Beatrice.

"The what?"

"See, the multiverse is stretching, but in some places it stops stretching and there's a bubble universe. Different bubbles have spontaneous breaking resulting in different physical constants, which is why that whole Land Without Color even exists."

Rumplestiltskin motioned at a bench. "I'm going to sit down."

"So, everything that happens in the universe is the result of a choice. Every choice creates a different time line. Now, the only thing is whether your doppelgänger is somewhere in Hilbert space or actually occupying different physical space. So somehow I am in some universe where the Dark Curse never happened, but where's sideways me? Is she back in my universe? Has she crashed my car? Does she even know how to use my iPad? Oh, God, she doesn't know the lock screen code. What if everything gets deleted?"

Belle walked up to them with a smile. "What are you two doing out here? Rumple, she could have frozen to death two days ago, why are you letting her stay out here?"

"Beatrice was just telling me some things..."

Beatrice's jaw dropped. "That stupid Sideways Beatrice! What if she breaks my sonic screwdriver remote?"

Belle looked at Rumplestiltskin. "Sideways Beatrice?"

Rumplestiltskin shook his head.

"We should go inside," said Belle. "What about a nice cup of tea?"

"Tea? I don't like tea." She paused. "I haven't had any coffee today or yesterday or the day before that."

"What's coffee?," asked Belle.

"So, where's the caffeine withdrawal headache that should have me writhing on the ground by now? I'm not really here. Sorry, one second."

Beatrice walked off.

"Rumple..." Belle implored as she followed.

Belle and Rumplestiltskin found Beatrice just as she punched her hand through one of the castle's smaller windows.

"Ow! That was not a good idea!"

She blinked.

"Beatrice!," Belle shouted,

Blinking, Beatrice awoke again to the hospital room's fluorescent lights as Belle held her arms.

"Beatrice," said Belle, her eyes full of water.

Then the pain started again, making her cry out.

"It hurts..." she couldn't help but whine.

"Well, of course it hurts," she heard, blinking again to see Rumplestiltskin. "You put your hand through a window!"

Beatrice turned to see Gold.

"What hurts, sweetheart?," asked Gold.

It wasn't just the hand, which really was not a good idea, but it was everything. Everything.

"I know, baby, hang on," said Belle, kissing her on the forehead.

"Wow, it must be bad," said Beatrice.

"Why?," she heard the echo of two Belles say.

"You only call me baby when it's bad..." she said, half-conscious as she slumped against her mother.

"Nothing I can't fix," said Rumplestiltskin.

She felt herself slipping away.

"No, Beatrice, hang on!," said Belle. "Beatrice!"

She blinked again to see herself in the garden, Rumplestiltskin doing some magic over the hand she had not brilliantly stuck through a window.

"Why did you do that to yourself?," asked Belle.

She looked at Belle and Rumplestiltskin's befuddled expressions.

"It totally would have worked on Doctor Who."


"Well, who is he?," asked Mary Margaret as they arrived outside the abandoned cannery.

"That's what we're trying to find out," said Emma.

David picked up the bolt cutters and walked to the door.

"Big lock for someone who just drove into town," he remarked.

David opened the lock and they went inside. Emma flipped on the light to see all manner of electronics and a table with straps and wires.

"What the hell is this place?," asked Emma.

"Someone's idea of fun," said Merlin.

"Someone's building a torture chamber in Storybrooke?," asked Mary Margaret.

"It would appear so," said David.

"This guy just got to town," said Emma, heading to a counter with a laptop. "Someone else must have been here, getting this place set up."

"Well, how long has Storybrooke been watched?," asked Mary Margaret.

Emma opened the laptop and put her spyware tool in. "Whoa..."

"What is it?," asked David.

Mary Margaret and David looked over her shoulder.

"There's files on all of us," said Emma.

"Is there one on Beatrice?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Yeah," said Emma.

She opened the file and pages of information opened up. Emma scrolled back.

"Hers goes really far back," said Emma. "To when she was in New York. God, her report cards are in there, pictures, her birth certificate. And the weather report? Someone's been stalking her."

"This is crazy," said Mary Margaret.

"Merlin, you should look at this," said Emma.

"I'm looking for something else," said Merlin. He waved his hand and opened a metal case. He pulled out a Ziploc with a syringe inside.

"What is that?," asked David.

"Well, I'm guessing it's whatever's in Beatrice."

"You think she was poisoned?," asked Mary Margaret.

He opened the Ziploc.

"How do you know it's what's in her?," asked Emma.

Merlin sniffed. "Because her blood is the only reason to keep the syringe."

"Yeah, you're going to have to explain that blood magic thing to me again," said Emma, getting up to walk over.

He opened the syringe and took a sniff. "Very interesting."

"What is?"

"I know where she is," said Merlin.

"What do you mean where she is?," asked David. "She's in the hospital."

"Her body is, but her soul is in a netherworld."

"Like from the Sleeping Curse?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Not quite. This netherworld was originally designed to be a curse world for one's enemies, to expose weaknesses, to learn secrets."

"Originally?," asked David.

"Someone took ownership of it, made it his own personal paradise or purgatory depending on his mood. The herb in this syringe transports one's mind there."

"So how do we wake her?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Excuse me."


Then

Rumplestiltskin nailed the curtains into the wall of his new castle.

"I think your interior design needs some work," said Merlin.

He grimaced. "Is that to be your next command, Master? To redecorate?"

Merlin looked around at the empty hall. "Well, I think you have time for that."

"Three hundred years," said Rumplestiltskin.

"I trust you shall find a way to pass the time. How did you come out with Melchett's firstborn?"

"I found a farmer and his wife who longed for a child. She'll be better off, I don't even think the Duchess noticed I had taken her."

"As I said, not very smart. I've brought you something."

Rumplestiltskin turned to see the dagger.

"All yours," said Merlin putting it down on the table.

"You think I have a reason to stay here?," he asked as he came down off the ladder.

"I think some time away from that world has allowed you to realize what you knew all along: it was a lie. You are too smart to be truly happy in it."

Rumplestiltskin snorted. "Well, aren't I lucky?"

"Now, would you like to know where to find the Seer who told you your future back during the Ogres' War?," asked Merlin. "Perhaps you would like to know what else she has seen."

"Where is she?"

"Everything has a price, Rumplestiltskin and my price for this is that you not return to your little world."

"And why would I want to do that?"

"Because there are better things planned."


Now

Gold's phone rang. Belle looked up at him.

"It's Merlin."

"Well, answer it."

Gold picked up the phone. "Yes?"

"So, sunshine, remember that little world I had to drag you out of?"

"I'm afraid I don't."

"You know, the happy little one you made for yourself to wallow in after you murdered your tramp wife?"

Gold walked away from Belle into the waiting room. "And why bring this up now?"

"Well, I happen to be staring at the empty syringe of your favorite consciousness-altering plant that someone must have injected into Beatrice."

"Did you make a counter-potion?," asked Gold.

"I don't have a counter-potion. I don't have the counter agents because they were in the part of the realm you helped destroy. You know the only way to get out of there. The question is, do you still have a way to get in, sunshine?"

"The deal?"

"Deal rescinded. Obviously, as I suspect you may have broken it anyway."

Gold hung up wordlessly.

"Sweetheart, there is something I must do."

Belle looked back "What is it?"

He waved one hand over the other and a vial of sparkling purple potion appeared in his hand.

"Rumple, why do you have that?," Belle asked in alarm, getting up from the bed. "You told me that was dangerous."

"It is."

"Then what are you doing with it?"

"This potion is made from a plant, it sends you to a netherworld."

"Like the one from the sleeping curse?"

"Not quite. This world is far more pleasant and far more deceptive."

"What do you mean deceptive?"

"It's a place I went when I didn't want to think about the things I had lost. I took all the things I held most precious and left them there."

"You mean Bae?"

"And you and the life I robbed you of. I fear Beatrice is wandering among my imaginings."

"So, are you going to use that to make a potion to get Beatrice back?"

"There's no counter potion, Belle. There's only one way out and I need to go show her."

Belle shook her head. "Rumple, no-"

"It's the only way, sweetheart." He kissed her. "Try not to worry. I'll have her back to you soon."

He sat down and drank from the vial.


The ball finally arrived. Beatrice sat in her room, getting ready with her mother's help.

"Sweetheart?," asked Belle, standing behind her at the vanity. "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah, just great."

"What's wrong?"

"You know, I'm just a little bummed about my entire life being a lie, but mostly Doctor Who," said Beatrice. "What if Doctor Who's still real and I miss an episode? Next year's the fiftieth anniversary."

"I am sure Papa will set everything right and you'll feel differently once he has."

Beatrice turned around. "Am I still a complete social outcast?"

Belle hesitated. "I wouldn't say complete."

"Right, if I had friends, I would know it wasn't real."

"No one understands you yet, that's all. Papa and I haven't raised you as most people think daughters should be raised in this land."

"Also, there's that whole Dark Princess thing. So glad I got to hang on to that."

Belle helped her stand up and look at herself in the mirror. The dress was elaborate, a delicate lavender with gold trim she suspected was the same gold string she was used to. The skirt seemed to be layer after layer of tulle. She had on her usual pendant and Belle had fixed her hair down, though it usually wasn't the way she said, but Beatrice wasn't a usual girl.

"You are going to be the most beautiful girl at the ball," said Belle.

"Ladies," said Rumplestiltskin, entering, "may I escort you?"

They made their way downstairs. Beatrice spotted Cinderella and a not baby Alexandra with her. She caught a glare off the elder princess as she walked past.

"Oh, get a grip, I've already had this argument with you," Beatrice snapped. "So over it."

Rumplestiltskin smirked as they walked over to Snow White.

"Beatrice, you look beautiful," said Snow White, giving her a hug. "I'm so sorry, though, I couldn't find any of the people you mentioned for the guest list."

"That is disappointing," said Beatrice.

"It's almost your turn," Belle said excitedly.

"My turn? For what?"

"To be introduced," said Belle. She gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You will be wonderful."

She looked at Rumplestiltskin. "You guys aren't coming?"

"I trust you can walk down stairs by yourself?," he asked.

"Well, I don't," said Beatrice. "Have you seen this dress? And the shoes?"

Then it was too late. The page called out her name.

"Princess Beatrice, Heiress to the Far North Kingdom."

Beatrice looked down the grand staircase as the menagerie of royal guests turned. There were the looks of fear, but they were mixed with admiration, wonder and even a couple of smiles. Regardless, all eyes were on her.

"Don't fall," she muttered under her breath. "Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall."

She stopped her incantation as she finally arrived at the ballroom floor.

A man approached her. He was a little awkward, very tall. "Princess Beatrice?"

"Yeah?"

He frowned at her. "Has it been that long? Sherrinford."

"Right, Sherrinford," she said, recalling Emma mentioning the name. "You're the guy who is brothers with the other guy."

"I suppose I am. My brothers are sorry they couldn't attend. They know full well it was you that suggested Princess Emma invite them and they didn't come anyway. As usual."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure they're busy..."

"You know how they are."

"Not really. Would you mind elaborating?"

He looked at her curiously. Before he could formulate an answer, the trumpets sounded and the guests once again turned their attention to the grand staircase as Charming led Emma down as they applauded. It was then that Beatrice noticed Belle and Rumplestiltskin had disappeared from her view.

The orchestra began to play music as Charming and Emma began to dance. That was quickly interrupted by a scream, followed by another. Remembering an episode in the second series of Doctor Who, Beatrice briefly held out hope the party was about to be invaded by Cybermen.

Then it was pirates.

And Hook.

"Oh, come on. Are you serious?!," Beatrice said, involuntarily stomping her foot as the other guests ran.

"Guards!," shouted Charming.

The guards entered and began sword fighting Hook's gang of pirates. Charming stepped forward and began fighting. Emma dropped back which Beatrice thought was odd, but maybe Sideways Emma was weird like that.

Beatrice felt someone grab her.

Then a hook.

"Are you serious?!," she shouted at Hook. "You can't be serious! He is so going to rip your heart out! And I don't know what else! None of it's good!"


Gold shook his head, looking down to see a dragon skin coat, reptilian skin and claws.

"Rumple, are you alright?"

He looked up to see Belle in a gold gown, staring at him with worried eyes, not unlike the ones he had just left.

"Rumple?"

"Belle..." He squeezed her hand. "I'm fine, sweetheart. Where's Beatrice?"

"She's at the ball, Rumple. Are you sure you're alright?"

He tried to draw on the borrowed memories of this world to get up to speed. They had led her to the staircase and watched her walk down. Then he had excused himself with a headache, the result of his real self replacing the self he left in this world.

"Yes," he said. "I need to speak to her."

"It's her very first ball, Rumple. Can't you let her have a bit of fun? Those dance lessons will all be for nought."

"Dance lessons?," he asked.

They heard the music stop, then a commotion and screams.

"That's the ball, Rumple," she said in concern.

Gold flew out the door, Belle wasn't far behind as they met a pregnant Snow White leading a herd of children out of the chaos.

"Boys, help your sisters."

"What's happened?," asked Gold.

"Pirates," she said, grabbing a sword.

"Where's Beatrice?," asked Belle.

"I'm sorry, I'm not sure, it was so chaotic-"

Gold ignored her, tearing back down the hall. Belle was close behind him, carrying a sword.

"Belle, stay behind, sweetheart."

"I'm not just going to stand here while my daughter's in danger!"

Why was it even his imaginary Belle liked to argue with him?

"You're the clumsiest woman alive! You shouldn't run with a sword!"

"Dad!," Beatrice screamed. "Dad!"

Gold tried to hurry, but it was difficult with the crowd of party guests running against them. They arrived at the balcony just as the pirates were leaving.

"Beatrice!"

They arrived at the ballroom. Charming's arm was bleeding. Belle raced for some table linens to help him.

"Who was it?," Gold demanded. "Where did they go?"

"I don't know," he said, shaking his head. "Some pirate in black leather with a hook."

"That cur..." Gold seethed. "I thought I had killed him here."

Charming looked around. "Emma? Emma!"

"We have to find them," said Belle.

"No," said Gold. "I have to find her."

He stalked out and saw Belle following him.

"You're still following me."

"Has our daughter still been kidnapped by a pirate who hates you? Yes, I'm still following you."


Emma and Merlin walked in the hospital room.

"Gold, wake up," said Emma.

"He can't," said Neal.

"What do you mean he can't?," asked Emma.

"He's gone after her," Belle said quietly.

Emma looked at Merlin.

"To the netherworld," he added as he went to hold Belle's hand.

Emma nodded. "That world. It belongs to Gold, doesn't it?"

"Indeed it does."

Emma stepped closer. "I'm sorry, Belle, but I have to ask you about something."

"What?"

She opened the folder of the things she had printed out. "The man we think attacked Beatrice, he had an address he shipped to here in Storybrooke. We found all of this and a lot more on the computer there."

Belle took it, hesitating to have her hand leave Beatrice's arm.

"This is all about her..." Belle said, thumbing through. "This is her whole life. Whoever this was, spied on us, her whole life?"

"Yeah," said Emma. "I've got a picture of the man. Do you maybe recognize him?"

Belle looked at the driver's license photo and gasped. "That's Owen."

"You got a last name?"

"Owen Flynn," said Belle. "We went to dinner once while I was still cursed. He asked me all sorts of questions about Beatrice's father..."

"The one Beatrice threw zombie powder on," said Neal.

Emma looked at Neal. "What?"

"She was with August. The guy tried to get her to come with him using some B.S. story about how Belle was in the hospital. August fought the guy, but Beatrice froze him with this zombie powder."

"Zombie powder? You're serious?," asked Emma.

"It's from a kingdom in our land," said Belle. "It just freezes an enemy for months or years even if it's strong enough. Why didn't she ever say anything?"

Neal shrugged. "You didn't really believe her back then."

Belle shook her head. "She didn't trust him. I thought she was overreacting. Oh, gods, what did I do?"

"Hey, Belle, don't beat yourself up. You didn't know," said Neal.


Emma finished up and left, running into Regina.

"Are you still here?," asked Emma.

"I came back," said Regina. "Did anything turn up with that man?"

"Yeah," said Emma. "Belle knows him by another name. Owen Flynn. They went to dinner once."

Emma watched Regina's face fell.

"What?," asked Emma. "Do you know him?"

Regina looked around at the waiting room. "This is not an appropriate venue."

"Then let's go somewhere that is."

Regina nodded. They walked and ran into Tamara.

"Oh, hey, Emma," said Tamara. "Could we talk?"

"Now is not a good time," said Emma.

"Do you know when would be?"

"Yeah, when I'm not running an investigation and Neal's baby sister is not in the hospital. That would be a good time."

Regina smiled icily at Tamara as she and Emma left.

Chapter Text

 


Not Long Ago...

Gold carefully cracked the door open to peer into the guest room. Beatrice was asleep on the bed, looking decidedly more placid as she slept. Without her glasses, she looked so like Belle and he wished she had let him fix her eyes. It still stung that she didn't trust him.

There was a TV on the dresser. It hadn't been in this room before, it had sat unplugged in one of the other rooms. He supposed children of this world weren't used to going without these things but he didn't think it should be on while she slept. Making light use of his cane, he went in and shut it off.

Gold made his way to his own bedroom. Belle was sitting on the bed, heels off, not having gotten out of her clothes.

He had ideas for that.

She smiled at him and motioned for him to join her. Sitting at the edge of the bed she cupped his face in her hands.

"Rumplestiltskin," she breathed and leaned up to kiss him. She giggled.

"What?"

Her grin threatened to cover her face. "I still can't believe I can do that."

Gold shook his head. "You strange girl."

"Well, I'm hardly a girl anymore," said Belle. "I have a girl who is almost the age I was when I met you."

Gold nodded.

"We have a girl," said Belle, sensing his discomfort. She held his hand. "This is the land Baelfire is in, yes?"

"Yes."

"Do you know where he is?"

"No, I suppose I'll have to look."

"It's a big world out there, Rumple. You have no idea. It makes our realm seem tiny."

"You've seen it then?"

"A bit," said Belle. "There's no way to see all of it."

"Ah." Here he was so close to what he wanted and still so far away.

"We can help you look," said Belle, squeezing his hand. "We'll find him."

"What is she like?" He looked up at Belle. "I can tell she's smart."

She nodded, realizing what he was asking. "Yes, she's so smart, Rumple. She always has been. She started reading when she was three."

"Well, is that a surprise considering her mother?"

Belle smiled. "She's not just good with books. She likes physics and astronomy. She's very good at math. She speaks French, started taking Spanish, last summer she did an extra session to start learning Japanese."

"All things you're good at."

"She's a hard worker," said Belle. "She's always helping with these donation drives and things at her school."

"You said she doesn't have friends."

Belle nodded. "She's introverted. She has some classmates she works well with, I think, but she's at this age where the girls all care about boys and who wore what outfit. It's hard for her to tolerate them, I think."

"She doesn't care for boys and clothes?"

"Oh, no, she likes clothes," said Belle. "When you see her closet, you'll understand. She has about a hundred nail polishes. They're not the only thing for her, though."

"And boys?"

Belle frowned. "What are you asking?"

"What am I asking?"

"Are you asking if she's a lesbian?"

"No, I- is she?" Far too much was happening for Gold at this point.

Belle shook her head. "I don't think so. I've never seen her have a crush on a girl. She has her crushes from television."

"From television?," asked Gold.

Belle nodded. "It's not unusual for girls in this land."

Gold shook his head. "I wouldn't know if it's usual or not, I've barely had contact with anyone who was too young to owe me rent for twenty-eight years. The habits of young girls are somewhat beyond my scope of knowledge."

Belle grinned and hugged him. "Well, you have time to learn."

Suddenly, a scream broke through their happy haze. Belle leapt to her feet and was down the hall. Gold struggled to follow.

"Beatrice?," she said, racing in the guest room and flipping on the light. "Beatrice, it's okay."

Belle sat on the bed and tried to stir Beatrice, pulling her into her arms.

Gold got a closer look at Beatrice. She was shaking, covered in sweat. She struggled to find her glasses on the night table.

"It's okay, baby," Belle said softly. "Mommy's here. You're not there."

Beatrice relaxed, seeming to understand. She sat up and looked to the television.

"Why is it off?," she asked.

Gold frowned. "You were asleep."

She turned her glare towards him. "You turned it off?"

"Hey, Beatrice, Papa didn't know, okay?"

"I'm sorry," said Gold.

Belle looked up at him. "She's terrified of the dark."

"I'm sorry," Gold said again. "Can I get you anything?"

"No," said Beatrice.

Gold left the room as Belle soothed Beatrice, feeling like an idiot and a failure.


Now

It was cold and dark and Beatrice began to remember some of why she didn't like the Enchanted Forest. Hook dragged Beatrice out and into the getaway pirate wagon because apparently that was a thing. He parted ways with the others and took Beatrice with him.

"Try not to panic, Princess," said Hook.

"Oh, don't panic?! Really?!" Beatrice elbowed Hook in the gut which got him far enough away to hold her hand out.

"Beatrice, no-"

She shoved her hand forward, not entirely certain which power would come out, but got the one where Hook went flying into a tree.

"Killian!"

Beatrice turned to see Emma running towards her, the princess dress having been ditched for leather pants, boots, a tunic and a sword. She ran towards Hook.

"Beatrice, what did you do that for?"

"Did I just wake up in crazy town again?!," she demanded. "He kidnapped me."

"Yeah, I know, he shouldn't have done that, but it was all part of my escape plan!"

"Your escape plan?!"

"Yeah, I told you all about it."

Beatrice shook her head. "Uh-uh. Sideways Beatrice may not know how to use an iPad, but I know there's no way she went along with a plan to get kidnapped by pirates!"

"Wow, you didn't fall for that for a second," said Emma, helping Hook up as he moaned.

"What is going on?!," asked Beatrice.

"Killian and I are running away together," said Emma. "You were just a distraction."

"What? The distraction that ensures my dad comes after you?! What kind of stupid plan is this?"

"It's not stupid," said Emma. "Killian helped me come up with it."

"Oh, then if it came from the guy hellbent on killing the immortal guy, it must be a good one," Beatrice snapped. "Did your mother drop you on your head, Hook?!"

Hook rolled his eyes.

Emma spoke. "Look, I don't have what you have. Nothing exciting is ever going to happen to me, so Killian and I are going to go sail the realms."

"Oh, yeah, great idea," said Beatrice.

"Look, love," said Hook, "you don't have to come with us."

"That's a good thing because I'm not."

"We need your help," said Emma. "Just sort of distract the search for a while."

"I do not want to distract the search," said Beatrice.

"Well, you're going to," said Hook.

Beatrice waved her hand and revealed a fireball. "Do I look like I have to do anything I don't want to do?"

"When did you learn to do that?," asked Emma.

Beatrice felt the memories of the other world creeping back in. Gold had taken her to his cabin in front of the lake. He said it was the kind of thing you didn't want going wrong with an audience. It had taken her the better part of the morning to get any flames going, it was just before lunch when they formed something golf ball sized. Refocusing after a meal and warming up for a while she got the hang of it and there was only one small fire they had to put out before Gold finally said it was time to go home.

"Does it matter?! I am going back now. Enjoy your pirates life. Yo ho-hum and a bottle of rum!"

"We could hold her for ransom," suggested Hook.

"Yeah, then her dad's really gonna kill you," said Emma.

"He hasn't yet, love."

"Yeah, last time Belle stopped him because it was the middle of Beatrice's birthday party. It's not her birthday now."

Hook looked over at Beatrice. "I thought you were leaving, love."

She pointed over at something she recognized from her storybook at least, dappled by early morning sunlight. "That's Regina's castle."

"Yeah," said Emma.

"Well, first thought, it seems like a mistake for you people to live so close together. Second thought, if she's really cursed me, maybe I can talk to her."

"The Evil Queen isn't much for conversation," said Hook.

She looked back at Emma. "Is Cora around?"

"Your dad killed her," said Emma.

"Good. Then I don't have that psycho around, just the one," said Beatrice. "Excuse me."

"Beatrice, no," said Emma.

"Look, I am going and getting some answers. Don't try to stop me."

"Wouldn't dream of it," said Hook.

Emma shot him a glare. "Killian, we can't just let her go alone."

"And what about you? I believe the Evil Queen once tried to kill you because you're the only thing that could break her Dark Curse."

"Actually, judging by your billion brothers and sisters, you're not the only thing," said Beatrice. "Also, is her father dead?"

"Yeah..." said Emma.

"Does anyone know where his heart went?" Beatrice waved them off. "Never mind. Going."

"Beatrice, wait, I'm coming with you," said Emma.

"Then I suppose I am as well," said Hook.

"Regina is still mad at Rumplestiltskin. You have no idea," said Emma.

"Yeah, what would I know about a world where Regina is mad at my dad?"


"I've told her once and now I've told you," said Regina, glaring at Merlin. They had been shut in Emma's office almost an hour now. "How many more times do you want me to say it?"

"You killed the man's father and buried him in the woods. Now my granddaughter lies in a hospital bed. I'm a bit angry about that," said Merlin.

"How was I supposed to know?"

"Well, here's a tip, in the Land Without Magic, when loved ones disappear, people tend to want to know why!," said Merlin.

Emma sighed. "Look, I'm not exactly thrilled here, guys, but I don't think there's anything we can do about it," said Emma. "Unless you two.."

Merlin glared at her. "Well, do you have a shovel?"

"A shovel?"

"Yes, if you dig out his remains, I can make his skeleton move. I usually try to save it for Halloween, but Christmas is coming up, maybe he can dance to the tune of Jingle Bells."

"Sarcasm won't help anything."

"I find it helps me immensely when I have to not throttle people for stupid suggestions," said Merlin. He turned to Regina. "Or stupid things they did in the past."

"Are you still mad at me about the Curse?"

"Has it really taken you this long to put that one together?"

"This isn't helping," Emma interjected. "Who could have been spying on the town? Has anyone seen any strangers?"

"Beatrice seems to keep inviting people to town," said Regina.

"Oh, yes," said Merlin. "I'm sure the UPS driver has been using the twenty minutes he's in Storybrooke every other week to conduct massive surveillance on the town and construct a headquarters. He must be changing faces all the time as well."

Regina rolled her eyes.

"Merlin's right," said Emma. "The only people to even come to town since the Curse broke are Neal and Tamara."

"Tamara," said Regina.

She looked across at Merlin. The two powerful sorcerers shared a look of understanding.

"Tamara," he repeated.

"Guys," said Emma, "what makes you think Tamara?"

"The process of deduction, Savior," said Merlin.

"We need evidence."

Merlin and Regina didn't answer and began walking out.

"Guys?," asked Emma. "Evidence?"


Then

Gold stood on the front path as Belle chatted with her uncle, Ian. He was a music teacher in this land, but at home he had been the Duke of Padua. Gold had met him exactly once before today, never even having had to argue with him over rent. The movers were bringing the boxes from New York today and Belle was using the good weather to chat with her uncle, catching up on which family member had done what and where they were. It was trying Gold's patience, but he supposed it was better than Moe French on his front lawn. Belle's mother's family had never been a problem and Ian had come to say hello as soon as word spread that Belle was alive and with him.

He watched as Beatrice joined them.

"Is my stuff here?," asked Beatrice.

"Right there," said Belle, pointing at a collection of boxes.

"Hello, Beatrice," said Ian.

"Hi," she said offhandedly.

Gold couldn't help but be a little pleased that he wasn't the only one getting a cold reception. He watched as Beatrice looked over the stack of boxes, then went to look in the back of the truck.

"Is something the matter?," asked Gold.

"Um, where's my bed? And my desk? My DVD cabinet?"

"Beatrice, you know there wasn't a lot of reason to keep the furniture from the apartment," said Belle.

"Except my stuff."

"You see, Susan's daughter just turned ten and she needed a bigger bed, one for a young woman-"

"You gave my stuff away!"

"You don't need it," said Belle.

"I can sleep in my bed," said Beatrice. "It doesn't have freakish claws on the end and my desk, I can think at my desk. And where am I supposed to keep my DVDs?!"

"Beatrice, it was just IKEA-"

"I like IKEA! Nothing is haunted or creepy there and they have frozen yogurt!" She walked over to the boxes and picked one up.

"Beatrice, let the movers handle that," Gold pleaded.

"No, I have to inventory this to make sure Susan's brat daughter didn't need a complete Doctor Who DVD set," she said, marching up.

Gold followed and approached her door. He heard muffled crying.

He knew the look on her face. He had seen enough people reach the end of a deal, finding out what their end of the bargain would be. She had wanted to find her father, expecting a prince and instead she got him. A crippled old man. A villain. She had been ripped from everything she had ever known to live in a creepy house with a strange man.

He knocked on the door.

"Beatrice? May I come in?"

She sighed. "Yes."

Gold entered after giving her another moment. He chose to ignore her puffy eyes and red nose. "Have you found your things?"

"I think so."

"Good. Do you want any help unpacking them?"

"I can get it."

"I gave some thought to what you said outside-"

"Forget it."

"No, no, you were right."

She looked up in shock. "I was?"

"You're a young woman and you have your own tastes. This is your room, you ought to have things you want in it."

Beatrice shook her head. "It's fine."

"No, I insist. At the very least, there's not been a new coat of paint in twenty-eight years. I can take you somewhere, but the options are somewhat limited in Storybrooke."

"Could I just look online?"

"Online. Right." The Curse had not seen fit to impart him with a lot of technological knowledge. "And how do you pay for that?"

"With a credit card?," Beatrice said tentatively.

"And you know how to do that?"

"Yeah..."

"Very well. Just find some things you like and we'll order them."


Now

Beatrice, Emma and Hook arrived at Regina's castle. Beatrice spotted a tunnel.

"You can't go in through there," said Emma.

"And why not?," asked Beatrice. "Should I go in the front door and knock?"

"This tunnel leads to the West Wing of the Queen's Castle," said Hook.

Beatrice shook her head.

"The west wing," said Emma.

"It's forbidden," said Hook.

"Well, pretty much the whole building is forbidden so I don't see what difference which side makes."

Emma took out her sword, then Hook.

"You two are serious," said Beatrice.

"Beatrice, you don't go in the west wing of any building," said Emma.

"Why? Because Josh and Sam are busy writing the President's State of the Union speech?"

"You just don't."

"Then why even build it?," asked Beatrice. "Is this some asinine Enchanted Forest rule?"

"Everyone knows that," said Hook.

Beatrice walked down the path to the door. Waving her hand, she opened the door and walked through it.

It was dark. Really dark which Beatrice wasn't thrilled about. She heard Hook and Emma behind her.

"Why don't you go in the west wing?," she asked softly.

"Dark ghosts lurk in the west wing of every castle in this land," said Hook. "More dangerous than you can imagine."

Beatrice heard screams and crying.

She looked over to see a redhead saying goodbye to a little boy.

"I'm sorry, I have to go."

"Best to keep walking," said Hook.

Beatrice walked forward. She saw the same boy again and couldn't shake the feeling that there was something familiar about him.

"No, Papa, I want to stay with you," the boy said tearfully.

"Why is it the same ghost?," asked Beatrice.

"What do you mean?," asked Emma.

"Every castle in the land is haunted by dark ghosts and it's the same one-"

Out of nowhere a portal appeared, they hurried to escape it as Beatrice was sure she could hear screams. She thought she saw the Blue Fairy, she could swear she heard crying and then a shadow.

A shadow with bright blank eyes.

"No way..." said Beatrice.

"What?," asked Emma.

"That shadow. I know that shadow. I used to see it all the time."

"You know that shadow?," she asked.

"Don't be so skeptical," Hook warned. "Come on. There's no time to waste."

Hook tried to urge them ahead.

Beatrice stopped and turned to the shadow.

"Why are you here?," she asked.

The blank bright eyes met hers.

"I'm waiting for you," he said in a deep voice.

He grabbed her arm and Hook grabbed her. She whipped her arm back for a fireball and the shadow was distracted enough to drop her. She ran with Hook and Emma back until they found a door and fell through it, just shutting out the shadow.

"I don't understand," Beatrice said.

"Nor do I, Princess Beatrice."

They looked up to see Regina.

"Hey, Regina," said Beatrice. "How have you been?"


"Rumple."

Gold rolled his eyes as he marched through the forest.

"Rumple, talk to me!"

Gold looked back to see Sideways Belle. She was still following him. Ball gown with sword in hand.

"What is your plan?," she asked.

"My plan? My plan is to retrieve Beatrice and then maybe kill Hook for fun before I leave."

"Leave where?"

"You should stay here," he said as she stared at him.

He turned to walk away and heard Belle's footsteps behind him.

"Why could I never remember you listening to what I said?," he asked turning.

She shook her head. "I don't understand."

"Of course. I remembered you perfectly because you always were perfect."

"Rumple, you're talking about me as if I'm not here. I am and I want to help find our daughter."

He nodded. "Of course you do." There would be no fighting her. If the Belle he created was anything like the real one and she was, she wouldn't be happy unless she was helping him. So he had no choice but to include her in his plans or she would be fighting him.

She squeezed his hand. "We'll find her, Rumple. No one takes our daughter from us."

Her eyes darted and Gold turned to follow them. There was a piece of lavender tulle hanging off a bush.

"Beatrice's dress," said Belle, picking it up. She turned to Gold. "Can you do something with it? Enchant it?"

Gold looked behind her.

"Belle, has Beatrice been acting strangely?"

"Of course she has. Don't you remember?"

"Tell me what I said."

"Rumple, what's going on? Do you think Regina's cursed you as well?"

"Cursed me?"

"With the memories of that other world. The Land Without Magic, that awful place where we weren't together."

"And did I tell Beatrice I thought Regina had cursed her?"

"Yes, yes, you did."

"I know where she went."

Belle turned around. "The Queen's Castle? Why would she do that?"

"Because she has a logical mind and hates to leave a problem unsolved, no matter the cost."

"You think she went to confront Regina?"

"She thinks she knows Regina. She doesn't know this one."


Then

"Um, hi..." said Beatrice.

Gold looked up in surprise. Beatrice stood in the doorway of the cellar. It was the first time she had ventured down this far, their interactions usually remained in the kitchen or dining room. "Hi."

"The spinning thing? You really just sit down here and do that?"

The wheel. That was the reason she was still standing in the doorway. It seemed so strange that his own child had never even seen him spin. Bae had been an infant in a basket next to his wheel while Milah disappeared for hours.

"It's nothing I can't interrupt." He motioned for her to come closer.

She approached carefully. "Where do you buy straw?"

That was her question? "There's a store not far from my shop that had it in the garden section."

She nodded. "What is straw?"

Yet another question that no one had ever asked him. He supposed her life in Manhattan didn't have much need for agricultural knowledge. "It's the leftover stalks after crops are harvested." He saw that she was clutching her iPad to her chest. "Did you find some things?"

"I found some stuff, but I don't know, it's kind of a lot-"

"Well, let me see," said Gold, holding his hand out.

She reluctantly handed him the iPad.

"It's a bed," she said. "Well, duh, it's a bed."

Gold looked at the page she had pulled up. It was a white headboard, an imitation of an antique, but delicate. The pictures on the website portrayed all sweetness and light, fantasies of what a girl's bedroom ought to be, the absolute antithesis of Mr. Gold's dark and forbidding house.

"I see," he said. He looked up. "And the desk?"

"Um," she leaned over to scroll down, "they have one to go with it."

"And those bed linens? Are those what you want?"

"I don't need-"

"You don't have any and these won't go with anything I have."

Beatrice took the iPad back, did something and handed it back. There was now a bed covered with some sort of teal ruffled set. Teal ruffles. What would Mr. Gold say?

"Alright," said Gold. "Desk chair?"

"I can get a regular chair."

"Supposing you can't."

"Well, that one's cute," she said.

"Is that fur?," he asked.

"It's fake," she said defensively.

"Do they have any more to go with this?"

"Any more what?"

"A bedside table, a dresser, shelves for your books and your poor trinkets scattered everywhere." Gold attempted to look through. "Here, this one looks like it could hold everything."

"No, desk, bed, I'm good. Really." She took the iPad back. "I'm sorry."

"But your things-"

She shook her head. "No, sorry. I shouldn't be so... I'm sorry."

"Beatrice-"

"Forget the whole thing."

She left before he could move to follow her.

Belle had fallen asleep in their bed with a book open in her hands, a sight he had seen before in the Enchanted Forest.

"Belle," he said, gently trying to stir her awake.

"I wasn't asleep," she said quickly.

He had also heard that in the Enchanted Forest.

"Did Beatrice mention the furniture offer?"

Belle leaned back into her pillows looking at him. "I thought you were doing that together."

"Yes," he said. He didn't want to disappoint Belle with their latest encounter. "I just lost the website..."

"And you don't want her to know you lost the website." Belle nodded in understanding. "Did you check her Pinterest?"

Gold shook his head. "What's Pinterest?"

Belle reached to her night table for her computer. "It's this website that's just pictures of things people like," she said, opening up the laptop and logging on. "See?"

Gold took the laptop from Belle. It was just picture after picture. "Is this all Beatrice's?"

"No," said Belle, leaning over to help him. "You see, you click on her name and those are all her boards."

Gold scrolled down her page. One for clothes, one for shoes, one for purses, one for nail polish? Others seemed to be dedicated to things she had mentioned in passing, like that doctor show, places she wanted to travel to, books she liked. Gold had found her description of some of them dreadful, what sort of land sent their children off to slaughter each other on a reality show? It was bad enough this land let their children go off to singing auditions when they were clearly tone-deaf.

"Try 'Room Stuff,'" said Belle.

"I might have figured that out," said Gold.

"You might have," Belle teased. "Just click on it."

Gold did. There were all the things she had pointed out and more, even the things he had inquired after that she refused. Things she hadn't even mentioned.

"So she wants all this?"

"No, people just put things on there sometimes. Just get the things you two agreed on."

Belle leaned back, starting the book, but really falling asleep as Gold did more on the computer. He got enthralled by the website the bed came from and didn't see what harm it could do. Maybe he couldn't be what Beatrice wanted, but he could get her the things she wanted. They might even make her smile which had been a rare sight he had only seen when she was alone watching something.

Soon he had racked up a shopping cart with about forty or so things in it, having gotten everything on the board along with things young girls didn't think of like curtains and rugs, all of which were just a click away. He then realized her bathroom was sorely in need of some decor, briefly waking up Belle to find out what Beatrice's favorite color was which he had not known was a complicated question. Somewhere in the explanation he got the hint that purple would be an appropriate choice and found the necessary things. He was pleased with himself and went to the checkout finding the internet made it very easy for him to spend his money as computer illiterate as he was. He was considering finding out if there was another website he could buy a new television from when the phone rang.

It turned out to be American Express Fraud Prevention. He had a few credit cards, hardly used since he always had plenty of cash and this company felt the need to tell him that someone had used his card to buy thousands of dollars worth of furniture on the internet. He informed him that the things were for his daughter, those words infused with a sense of pride and that he expected to be making more purchases for her. He then asked if there was a way to get Beatrice a card and they connected him to someone who could help. They were only too happy to help him get an extra card for his daughter.

His daughter.

He did like the sound of that.


Now

"Well," said Regina glaring at the trio, "I was doing just fine until you three wandered in. And what were you doing in the west wing? I thought perhaps Emma and the pirate were that dumb, but not the daughter of Rumplestiltskin. Haven't you learned anything from your mother's books?"

"Mother?"

They looked back to see a dark-haired girl. She held up a paper.

"I finished my lesson."

"Very good, honey. Go wait in the kitchen and we'll make turnovers together. Mother just has some guests."

"I missed a step," said Beatrice.

"Yeah, so did I," said Emma.

"Cora," said Regina. "This is Princess Emma and I assume one of her many paramours, Captain Hook. This is Beatrice, the Dark Princess."

Cora curtsied.

"Run along, honey. We'll be there in a moment," said Regina.

Cora ran off. Regina turned back to them.

"You have a kid?," asked Emma.

"Yes," said Regina. She looked back at Beatrice. "I suppose I ought to be grateful to you. If you had never been born, my daughter wouldn't exist."

"Glad to help," said Beatrice.

"I never said I was grateful," said Regina. "What do you want?"

"So... I was just wondering, did you curse me?"

"Did I curse you?," asked Regina.

"Yeah, I'm sort of walking this line between blurred realities."

"So you've gone mad," said Regina. "That's no surprise considering your father and possibly your mother. At least I assume that's the reason for her attachment to the imp."

"Just curious, how did I spoil the Dark Curse?"

Regina looked at Emma and Hook. "Is she serious?"

"Yeah, she's serious," said Emma.

Regina turned back to Beatrice. "Snow White once again could not keep her mouth shut and went to console Rumplestiltskin in his cell. That's when she let slip that she had just seen Belle and she had not been dead for years. That's when they found out Rumplestiltskin had a plan to get out of his cell the whole time. He wanted to be captured. So he came here to rescue your mother and told me he knew I had failed to cast the Curse and why and he wasn't going to tell me because he wouldn't risk his True Love and their beloved Dark Princess."

"Ever figure that out?," asked Beatrice.

"I did actually which is when I discovered Rumplestiltskin had my father's heart. My mother made some off-handed comments about Belle and he found her heart, then killed her."

"So, yeah, you're probably angry," said Beatrice.

"Angry doesn't begin to cover it."

"Sorry, dearie, we don't have time for you to find another adjective."

Beatrice looked up to see Rumplestiltskin and Belle.

Regina turned. "Can't you supervise your child?"

"Beatrice, come on. We're going home."

"What about Emma?," asked Belle.

"If Emma wants to run off with a pirate, who am I to stop her? Sweetheart, come on."

"Rumple!," said Belle.

"Sweetheart, it's me," he said, turning towards her.

Beatrice eyed him. "Yeah..."

"Your father."

"Yeah, I caught on to that."

"Rumple, are you alright?," asked Belle.

"No, it's me," he emphasized.

Beatrice shook her head.

"Mr. Gold."

"Mr. Gold?" Regina laughed. "How long did it take you to come up with that name? A whole second?"

Beatrice eyed him. "What's going on?"

"I came here to get you out."

"Get me out of where? What is this place?"

"This is a netherworld. More specifically, it's my netherworld. I bent it to my will long ago after I lost Bae. Merlin made me come out of it once and swear never to return, but I broke that oath after I thought I lost your mother."

"Rumple," said Belle. "Maybe you should lie down."

"Sweetheart," said Gold. "Please just give us a minute. I have things I have to say."

"Prove it's you," said Beatrice.

"What?"

"Prove it's you and not just some trick by someone."

Gold searched his memory. "Beatrice, if you don't come with me now, you will never get to see the Doctor Who Christmas special and you'll never know how that girl can be in Victorian London and whatever the place with the snow was where she died."

"Okay," said Beatrice. "That was pretty good."

"Who is this Doctor?!," asked Belle.

"Just one flaw in your story," said Beatrice. "If you haven't been here since you thought Mom was dead, I shouldn't be here. There shouldn't be a place for me, but there is. There's memories and people who know me and a room full of stuff."

"Yes," said Gold.

"Yeah, so, you're disproven."

Gold walked closer. "When I thought your mother died, after I had done everything I needed to do to prepare for the Curse I let myself lose my mind. I came here. I imagined that she was still here and I imagined the life I had wanted to give her and someone like you."

Beatrice shook her head. "You didn't know about me."

"Your mother wanted you. She didn't think I knew, she didn't state it, but I could tell in every offhanded mention or lingering look at an infant that she wanted a child. I wasn't certain I could give her one-"

"No. Too much detail," said Beatrice.

"I wanted to make her happy," said Gold. "So when I came back here, I imagined Belle's child, her pregnant, her giving birth, her contentment. When you arrived, the magic of this world put you into the place that was waiting for you."

"Rumple, what are you talking about?," asked Belle. "You're saying I'm just ephemera?"

Gold turned and caressed her cheek. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but you're just a dream. A beautiful dream. You helped me when I needed it most like you always do, but I have to go. I have to take our daughter home."

"Home to where?"

"To you."

Beatrice felt herself drifting away.

"Beatrice?," asked Emma, snapping her back.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "Dad, did they find Owen?"

"Owen?," asked Gold.

Beatrice wrinkled her face like that was going to make the memory come back. "The guy I threw the fireball at."

"They found him, but his name wasn't Owen."

"And Tamara?"

"What about Tamara?"

"She's working with him." Beatrice felt it all coming back. "Owen dragged me out there, I got away and he tried to shoot me, but I did the fireball thing and actually nailed him. I was trying to get a signal out there on my phone when I ran into Tamara. She injected me with something."

"She knows you saw her?"

"Yeah."

"We have to get back," said Gold, taking her hand. He looked at Belle. "We have to go, sweetheart."

"I understand." She hugged Beatrice.

"You always do," Gold said wistfully.

Beatrice looked at Gold. "Is she going to be alone?"

"No," said Gold. "When we leave, the magic of this world replaces us. I could never leave her alone in here."

"Don't worry about me," said Belle. "Just go."

"Come on."

"Bye, sideways people." She pointed at Emma. "You're going to flip when I tell you about this."

Gold took her back through the door to the west wing.

"Remember, whatever you see in here is just echoes. Nothing can hurt you," Gold promised.

"How do we get out?"

"This way."

Beatrice saw the eyes of the shadow again.

"Sweetheart, don't look at that."

"No, really, what is that?," she asked.

"It's just something from my past. You don't need to worry about it."

She looked at him. "Your past?" She spotted the little boy again. "Oh, my God. That's you, isn't it? Who left you? Who were you talking to?"

Beatrice stopped as they arrived at the portal.

"We really go home with that?," she asked. "We don't Inception ourselves to another reality?"

"Just hang on," said Gold. He linked his arm with hers and grabbed her hand. He looked at her. "With me."

They jumped. One final time, Beatrice felt the memories of the netherworld washing over her, her life here flashing before her eyes. She was born, held in Belle's arms, cradled by Rumplestiltskin. She ran through gardens and fields she never knew, played games with kid Emma, ran the halls of the Dark Castle and then...

There was a kiss. She was kissing someone. She was in a gazebo, in the rain, it was almost pitch black and her face was tilted up. He was taller and his cloak was damp and...

She had her eyes closed.

"Why did I have my eyes closed?!," she screamed.

It was at that moment Beatrice realized she had bolted up and was back in the hospital room.

Neal eyed her skeptically. "Because you were unconscious?"

Gold stirred next to her.

"Papa," said Neal, rushing over. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Bae. Where's Belle?"

"Tamara took her to get some tea."

Gold bolted up. Beatrice went to follow and realized she had a freaking hospital gown on.

"Really?," she asked. "Too much trouble to conjure some actual pajamas?"

Gold waved his hand nonchalantly at her and she found herself in jeans and a sweater. She chased after them.

"What's going on?," asked Neal as he followed Gold.

"You're fiancée is a lying bitch," said Beatrice.

"Whoa!," said Neal. "Where the hell did that come from?!"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe when she left me in the woods to die!"


Tamara looked at Belle as they walked away with the styrofoam cups of tea. "How are you holding up?"

Belle shot her an icy look. "Look, I didn't come here because I wanted a chat or a cup of tea. I came to tell you something."

"To tell me something?"

"This family- the one you say you want to be a part of- accepts each other. I've tried to help, I tried to include you in the Christmas plans and you said so many awful things about us. About Rumple."

"I just said what I thought-"

"No, you were cruel and you enjoyed it. I am done tolerating it in strangers and I most certainly won't tolerate it in my own family-"

Which is when Belle noticed that Tamara had gone flying back into the wall as the whole cafeteria gasped. She looked up.

"Beatrice? Rumple?" She stood and walked towards them, embracing Beatrice. "My baby. Thank the Gods..."

Tamara moaned.

"Shut up," Beatrice snapped.

Belle was surprised as her embrace was met with Beatrice's squeeze that was quickly escalating into a death grip.

"Sweetheart, what's going on?," asked Belle.

That's when Emma, Regina and Merlin entered.

"Oh, good, the gang's back together," said Merlin.

"Is someone going to tell me what the hell's going on?," asked Neal.

"She's on the floor," said Regina. She looked at Emma. "Enough evidence?

"Now, please!," said Neal.

"Neal, Tamara was the one working with Owen or Greg or whoever he is. She's been sending someone information about everyone in town," said Emma.

"And she is going to be ever so helpful and let us know who that might be," said Merlin.

"Your taste in women continues to disappoint," Regina said to Neal.

Neal looked at Tamara. "Tamara, tell them there's been a mistake-"

"Left for dead in the woods?," asked Beatrice. "How did I get that wrong?"

"You're a good man, Neal, but you have no idea who you're dealing with," said Tamara. "Magic doesn't belong in this world."

"Is Tamara in a cult?," asked Beatrice. "I thought she was just a bitch."

"My children have been hurt," said Gold. He reached a hand out. "And you are going to pay."

Tamara gasped for breath.

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Oh, what would my day be if you didn't try to kill someone, sunshine?"

"We need to find out what she knows, Gold," said Regina.

Gold released his invisible grip. Tamara regained her breath as Emma collected her.


Then

Gold waited anxiously for the day when Beatrice's things would arrive. He wanted to surprise her and hadn't revealed his plans yet, but had moved her to another room while the painting was done which had irked her but she made no complaints.

It was only when the truck pulled up to the house entirely full of his order that he got a hint of how much he had actually bought. The company had something called "white glove service" and there were four workmen to come deliver and assemble. Then the truck with the flat screen and those delivery men had arrived, causing him to endure a call from Charming about the danger of outsiders. The prince could go to hell. His daughter was getting her things today. He supervised as the room came together, then the men left and he went to work with the bed linens.

"Rumple! We're home!," Belle called.

"I'm up here," he called back, making final placements on the ruffled throw pillows and standing back.

"We went to the school!," said Belle. "Where are you?"

"Beatrice's bedroom."

"What's in there?," asked Belle.

"Clearly nothing of consequence," said Beatrice as Belle opened the door.

The women froze.

"Rumple..." Belle gasped.

"What's going on?," asked Beatrice.

"Your things came today."

"My things?," she echoed, looking around.

"Yes, I made your bed," said Gold. "The delivery man hooked up the television to the cable and your Blu-ray player-"

"My Blu-ray player?"

He ignored her interjection. "I brought in your boxes, but I thought you would know what way you like your things arranged. Your posters are framed now, but I also thought you would know how you wanted them arranged. Just let me know."

"Okay..." said Beatrice. "Thank you. You know, in general, thank you."

She shifted uncomfortably.

"I'm going to start dinner," he announced.

Gold walked in the hallway and began down.

"Rumple?"

He turned just as Belle came up and thrust her lips against his.

"You don't need to spoil her," she said disapprovingly before another kiss.

"Then why does it seem you're rewarding me?," he asked, just before she could regroup again.

"Because you love her," said Belle, giving him a softer kiss this time. She ran her hand through his hair. "And she loves you and she'll tell you someday."

Gold sighed. "I suppose I'll just have to live in hope until then."


Now

Gold walked into Beatrice's room and handed her a mug.

"One mocha," he said. "You promise it won't keep you awake?"

"Not a chance," said Beatrice.

He looked to the television. "I've never been happier to see that enchanted blue box."

"It's not a-" She shook her head. "Never mind. Sure it is."

He kissed her cheek. "Good night, sweetheart."

"That stuff in the west wing," said Beatrice. "Was that all real?"

He stopped and sat. "Yes."

"And it was stuff that happened to you?"

"Yes, it was."

"Was the redhead your mom?"

"Yes," he admitted.

"What happened to her?"

"She left when I was small."

"Oh. So your dad raised you?"

"No." She looked at him with that curious look of Belle's and he knew he would have to answer. "My father was a coward who abandoned me. Two spinsters raised me and taught me my trade."

"Spinsters?," she asked. "There are really spinsters? You know, literal spinsters."

Gold smiled. "My Beatrice from the Land Without Magic. There's so much you don't know."

"Well, I figured out where to buy straw," said Beatrice.

"That was hay, sweetheart," said Gold.

"Oh." She considered it. "Does that not work the same?"

"No." He shook his head and gave her another kiss on the cheek. "It's no matter. Now, you really must sleep."

"Love you," she said casually looking back to the television.

Gold froze. She had never said that before. Had she even noticed? Had she meant to say that and now she was playing it off?

"I love you, too, sweetheart," he said, afraid to turn.

"Is something wrong?"

"No," said Gold. "Not at all."

Chapter Text

 


Gold was having an unusual Christmas in that it was the only time Christmas had actually been celebrated in his house. There was a tree with piles of presents underneath. There was a wreath and even some subdued lights on the outside that Belle hired Leroy to put up, much to the confusion of his neighbors. Belle and Beatrice had woken up late and now Gold made them breakfast.

"Aren't you supposed to run screaming to the tree or something?," asked Gold as he handed Beatrice her pancakes. Chocolate chip as she had informed him on the virtues of the dish.

Beatrice eyed him. "You have noticed I'm sixteen?"

"I had noticed, but I am just going off what I know from television."

Belle smiled. "She used to run screaming. She gave up on that a few years back."

"Then what can I expect from the day?"

"Well, we opened our gifts, then caught a movie and ate Chinese food."

"So long as we are done by nine," said Beatrice.

"What's at nine?"

Beatrice looked up at him as if he were stupid. "The Doctor Who Christmas Special."

"I thought we were all having dinner," said Gold.

"Well, it ought to be over by then," said Belle. "Everyone's supposed to come over around seven."

"You people can do what you want," said Beatrice. "I'm watching the Doctor Who Christmas special."

Following a leisurely breakfast, they made their way to the main event. The spruce was decorated with a mix of antique ornaments and the rather more whimsical collection from Belle and Beatrice's collection containing miniature New York landmarks, Daleks and Disney princesses.

They let Beatrice get in first since the majority of the gifts were hers. Clothes, bags and Reese's Christmas trees which seemed to be her favorite candy ever. Gold waited anxiously as Beatrice opened her gift from Belle, the ancient copy of Much Ado About Nothing. Then Beatrice gave Belle her gift.

"It's not that big," said Beatrice. "I found it on Etsy."

"It doesn't matter how big it is. You know it's the thought that counts." Belle opened and gasped at a brass cuff with books and a quote engraved on it. Belle read it aloud. "She is far too fond of books and it has turned her brain."

"So you bought your mother a label then," Gold teased.

"It's perfect, Beatrice, thank you," said Belle, putting it on. "I think Papa is due a gift."

Beatrice sheepishly handed him a box. He opened it and went past the tissue paper to find a tie. A gold tie in silk.

"You got me a tie," said Gold.

"I know," Beatrice said apologetically. "I was having a hard time and I didn't know what you liked-"

"No, sweetheart, I do like it and you got a pocket square," said Gold. "Not to mention that this is the very first Christmas present anyone has ever given me."

"It doesn't suck then?," asked Beatrice.

"No, of course not," said Gold. He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you."

"I'll open one of yours," said Beatrice.

"They're just trifles, really..." said Gold.

It was too late. She was opening one. "You got me the TARDIS cookie jar! Thank you! Oh, I have an idea for this." She tore in the box and started loading it with the many Reese's Christmas trees from her stocking.


Storybrooke's ever-growing prison had begun to take over half the municipal building that housed the sheriff's office. Merlin entered the room where Mother Superior sat behind magically erected bars. He held out a plate.

"I brought you dinner."

Mother Superior scowled.

"Fine," said Merlin, placing it on a stool. "Eat it. Don't eat it. What the hell do I care if you go hungry?"

"I still don't understand who you are or why I am in a jail cell. You act like you know me and I have never met you."

"You killed a woman."

"I'm sure I didn't."

"I am sure you did."

"Why would I do that?"

Merlin sat on a chair and pulled it closer to Mother Superior, causing her to move further back on her mattress.

"Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl who lived in a magical land among the clouds. The boy lived a lonely life as his mother was constantly bringing lovers home- which is an entirely different issue- and he grew close with the girl. One day, when they were all grown up they decided to build a new world. A better one. Only it wasn't better. The boy tried to build a kingdom, but saw it was doomed as soon as it began. Then one day he had a revelation that a princess could one day set everything to right.

"Only the girl didn't think so. She feared the day she would lose her power. She called the princess a monster and spent three hundred years trying to stop her. She connived, she deceived, she imprisoned her mother, she tore children from their families and she murdered."

Mother Superior shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Merlin sighed. "Of course you don't." He stood up. "Won't you excuse me? I have a Christmas dinner to attend."


Nine Years Ago

Belle looked across the table and smiled. Beatrice was hard at work with her crayons. They had come to Starbucks and taken a table to study. The semester had just ended but Belle was hoping to get a bit of a jump-start on her thesis research over the winter break. Beatrice was only too happy to join her mother in a big girl activity and concentrated on her own "studies" which consisted of her storybook, a pad of drawing paper and a huge crayon box.

"Have you thought about your Christmas list yet?," asked Belle.

Beatrice didn't answer. She continued coloring.

"You'll want it ready when we go visit Santa Claus so you can know what to ask him for."

"I don't want anything."

Belle frowned. "That can't be true. Perhaps a house for your dolls? What about a bicycle? We could take it to Central Park."

Beatrice shook her head.

"I know. Why don't we go to FAO Schwarz before we meet Santa and see if anything strikes your fancy?"

Beatrice's gaze turned outside. Belle followed it to see a homeless man holding a cup, begging for money. Belle looked back to Beatrice's pitying expression. She was always like this which Belle sometimes found to manage since the sight seemed to put Beatrice in horrible despair.

Belle got out ten dollars and handed it to Beatrice.

"Go buy a coffee and a sandwich. Take it to him and give him the change. Okay?"

Beatrice brightened up as she went on her mission to the counter. Belle watched from the doorway as Beatrice gave the snack to the man and he seemed to be a mixture of shocked and grateful.


Now

The day went on. Regina arrived at the house with Neal and Henry who helped Henry play with a new remote control airplane Regina had gotten him in the backyard. Merlin was the next to arrive, greeting Beatrice as he followed Belle and Gold to the kitchen.

"How is our beloved Mother Superior?," Gold asked Merlin, handing him a Scotch.

"As helpful as you might expect," said Merlin.

"Could we please discuss something else?," asked Belle. "It's Christmas."

"Yes," said Merlin. "I would note that it's been Christmas for some time now and the Charmings have not graced us with their presence."

"They had some emergency calls," said Belle.

"They always have an emergency," said Gold.

"Too bad," said Beatrice. She went into the cabinets and got out the popcorn and air popper.

"Do you want to spoil your dinner, sweetheart?," asked Gold.

"No dinner. Doctor Who," said Beatrice.

"I wish you would reconsider," said Belle.

"Uh-uh. I've been waiting for the Doctor Who Christmas special since October. David, Mary Margaret and Emma just came up with their emergency like three hours ago. Doctor Who has clearly been on the schedule longer, not to mention it's been on almost fifty years."

"She has a point," said Merlin.


Then

Belle walked into Beatrice's bedroom. The girl was standing at the window looking out as night fell over Manhattan.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm looking for the first star of the night."

Belle looked out. The sky wasn't quite dark enough to counteract the city lights and it was a bit cloudy.

"I'm afraid it may be a while and you need your rest."

Beatrice took Belle by the hand and tucked her into the bed.

"Any progress on your Christmas list?," asked Belle.

Beatrice shook her head.

"But, sweetheart," said Belle, "how will Santa know what to get you for Christmas if you don't tell him what you want?"

"I don't want anything."

"I know that can't be true," said Belle.

Beatrice looked down. "I'm saving my wishes."

"Saving them?," asked Belle. "What are you saving them for?"

"Something big."

"How big?"

Beatrice handed her the storybook. "Read to me."

Belle smiled. "Which story shall it be? Rumplestiltskin and Cinderella? Hansel and Gretel and the Evil Queen? What about when Snow White meets Prince Charming?"

"Beauty and the Beast."

"You're a little obsessed with that one. What about one of the Oz tales? We've never read about the Wicked Witch..."

"No, I want Beauty and the Beast."

"Well, if that's what my public wants..." Belle teased. The book almost fell open to that story. "Once upon a time, there was a land called Avonlea and in it lived a nobleman's daughter called Belle..."


Now

Gold looked back at the living room. The Charmings had arrived at long last with a hundred sundry excuses about what irritating people in the town had kept them away. Something about Goldie Loxley helping herself to someone else's Christmas presents and Mrs. Schuman had gotten the bright idea to get all of her children razor scooters causing untold havoc. They were finally seated and getting into the prime rib roast.

"Is Beatrice not joining us?," asked Mary Margaret.

"Doctor Who is on," said Belle.

"I don't understand," said David.

There was a pile on of words as Merlin, Gold and Regina all tried to get out their own response to that, stopping as they found they were talking over each other.

"Couldn't she just watch it later?," asked Emma.

"That is apparently not a possibility," said Gold.

Mary Margaret could not leave well enough alone, turning to the living room.

"Beatrice?," called Mary Margaret. "Why don't you eat with us?"

"I would have if you people had bothered to show up on time!"

Regina smirked. "She does have a point. It was rather rude of you to keep us all waiting."

Gold got up.

"Rumple?"

"I'll handle this," said Gold.

Gold walked into the living room.

"Not moving. Doctor Who," said Beatrice.

"No, actually, I was wondering if I could join you," said Gold, glancing back as Mary Margaret began recounting her day.

She looked up. "You want to watch Doctor Who?"

He nodded. "If you'll have me."

Beatrice nodded. Gold sat down. Feeling one last moment of doubt, Beatrice turned. "Do you know what this show's about?"

"From what I've seen it appears to be about a sorcerer who uses an enchanted blue box to travel to different lands."

"Not so much." She put her hand up. "Too late. Show's on."

Gold tried to follow. The Christmas special appeared to be about a magical snowman, possibly enchanted by a dark wizard.

"Is the snow enchanted?"

"I don't know."

"Is the snow globe enchanted?"

"Dad, the show just came on. I don't know yet."

"I know. He's captured the soul of someone in that snow globe."

"Dad, I don't know the show just started."

"Are they being eaten by snowmen? That's just ludicrous."

"It's Doctor Who," she said like it explained everything.

The show went on. More killer snowmen appeared and it seemed as if they were linked to the girl character's thoughts.

"I told you, the snow is enchanted," Gold said feeling vindicated.

Beatrice was distracted by something else. "Look! He's wearing Amy's glasses!"

Gold tried to ponder the significance of this. He tried to follow the rest of the show, wondering what spell might have enchanted the ice and were there any practical applications he could think of for enchanted ice? Then a green woman appeared.

"Is she cursed?"

"No, she's just a Silurian."

"Are they all cursed?"

"In that they've been living under the Earth since they thought the moon was going to fall, maybe."


Then

Beatrice awoke as soon as her night-light went out. She was about to call for her mother when she heard her window rattling.

Then she saw the eyes.

The bright blank eyes and around them she saw the shadow.

Then the window opened and the shadow flew towards her. Beatrice shook, too petrified to scream. The shadow lifted her from her bed, grabbing her by the shoulder harshly and before she knew what had happened she was out of her window and among the skyscrapers, losing sight of her apartment window.

She was being taken away.


Now

"Snow that learns. I told you it was enchanted," said Gold. He pointed at the villain. "Is he going to cast a curse?"

"There will be no curses," said Beatrice.

That's when a potato man appeared on the screen. "What about him? Is he cursed?"

"No, he's just a Sontaran."

"Well, he's a moron."

Neal came out. "Are you guys really going to watch a TV show instead of having Christmas dinner?"

Beatrice gave him a stern look. "Never call Doctor Who a TV show again."

"Well, sorry if I don't see what the big deal is," said Neal.

"I'm sorry you don't get it," said Beatrice. "I'm so, so sorry."

Neal shook his head and went back in the other room.

"Was that supposed to be funny?," asked Gold.

"It was incredibly funny," said Beatrice. "As usual, I'm the only one who knows that."

Gold turned back to the television. "What do they mean memory worm?"


Now

Beatrice didn't dare move.

The shadow still held her. She was going further and further away from home. A thousand thoughts raced through her brain. Where was she going? What was happening? Why?

Then all of a sudden there was a burst of sparkling light and she was suspended in the air. A terrified glance at the shadow revealed he was encased in the light as well, seemingly paralyzed by it. Slowly the light moved down and Beatrice found herself on a rooftop being taken into strong arms.

"Merlin," she said, remembering a flood of other encounters.

"That's right, sweetheart." She wrapped her arms around his neck and turned his attention to the shadow. "You shadow. I thought I made myself clear to your master."

The shadow struggled against the light that seemed to be imprisoning him.

"What does he think he's going to get?," Merlin demanded.

Beatrice buried her face in Merlin's neck and started sobbing.

"You go back to him and you tell him that the Dark Princess is and shall forever remain under my protection." He nodded towards the sky. "It's the second star to the right and straight on til morning."

The light dragged the shadow away into the night.

Merlin looked at the pitiful sight that was Beatrice crying. "Come on, Beatrice. Time to get you home."


Now

Gold watched in confusion as Beatrice began laughing hysterically.

"See, he's being Sherlock Holmes and Moffat writes Sherlock Holmes. The Doctor is being Sherlock Holmes!"

Gold stared blankly at her.

"It's BBC fangirl Christmas on Christmas!"

"Which one's Sherlock?," asked Gold.

"The one with the cheekbones."

Gold froze. "Since when do you refer to people as 'the one with the cheekbones?'"

"It's Benedict Cumberbatch. That's how everyone refers to him. Shh."

Belle entered as the dead governess entered the children's bedroom.

"I told you her soul was captured in the enchanted ice," said Gold.

"Enchanted ice? You're making stuff up."

"Is this what you two are really going to do?," asked Belle.

"Mom, stuff is happening!," Beatrice said frantically, trying to wave Belle away as the ice governess chased.

"You want out of there, don't you?," asked Gold.

Belle sighed and leaned in. "Regina and Merlin are having a snark contest. David and Mary Margaret are practically throwing Emma at Neal."

"I could get rid of them," said Gold. "For a price."

"Could you just sit down?!," said Beatrice.

Glancing back at the family dinner, Belle had a brief glimmer of guilt and then decided against it as she sat on the couch next to Beatrice and picked up one of the Reese's trees.


Then

Merlin carried Beatrice back into her room and placed her on the bed. With a wave of his hand, the window slammed back down and locked.

"I've enchanted it now," said Merlin. "That shadow won't be getting in again."

"Why did it want me?," she asked, sobbing as Merlin sat down next to her.

"Let's not talk about that."

"Where was it going?"

"Someplace I am going to do my best to keep you out of." He saw her still trembling and picked her lamb up off the bed to hand it to her. She squeezed the toy.

"What's his name?," asked Merlin.

"Gyro."

"Well, that's on the nose..." said Merlin. "Do you know I gave it to you?"

Beatrice didn't answer.

"I chose the lamb because it reminded me of your papa."

Beatrice looked up at him with big eyes.

"You have his eyes," said Merlin. "He once spun wool and spent a lot of time with sheep."

"Was he a prince?"

"Not at all."

"In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is a prince."

"Well, Disney took some artistic license with that one..." He paused. "Actually, a lot of artistic license. I think that's a conversation for another time."

"You're going to leave now, aren't you?"

"I am. Now you, go get into bed with your mother and by the time she opens her eyes, you will have forgotten everything."

He gave her one last squeeze and sent her on her way.

Peter Pan. He had considered it a great triumph when he freed Rumplestiltskin from the coward's influence and saw him off to that abysmal realm to be his living tomb. Pan wasn't satisfied with that, though, sending his shadow to steal children.

He was not getting this one.


Now

"I told you. Dead is dead."

"Rumple..." said Belle.

"I'm just saying..."

Belle scowled at him. "She's upset, there's no need to rub it in-"

"Shh! She said the thing!," said Beatrice.

It was at this critical point in the episode Mary Margaret came in. "Guys, I brought dessert if-"

"Shh! Stuff is happening!," Beatrice shouted. "She said the thing!"

"Okay," said Mary Margaret retreating to the kitchen. She walked back into the kitchen. "Guys? I think maybe we should just go home."

The Charmings made their departure with Henry, then Regina.

"See, I thought she was like an ancestor, but she said the thing she said in the future and now she's in the present..."

"I'm sure they'll sort it out," said Merlin. He looked at Gold. "Enjoy Christmas, sunshine?"

"Yes, I did," said Gold.

"I wish you could have spent more time here," said Belle.

Merlin shrugged. "Well, Tamara, Greg and Mother Superior, they require constant attention, you know."

Belle gave him a peck on the cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Good night. Good night, Beatrice. Good night, sunshine. Merry Christmas."

Belle saw Merlin out and came back. "Maybe now we could watch a movie together."

"Can't," said Beatrice. "Matt Smith's on Graham Norton."


Then

Belle awoke to find Beatrice burrowing in the blankets next to her.

"Beatrice," said Belle, still fumbling for consciousness as Beatrice slammed her body towards hers, more force than Belle thought should have been possible with the seven year old's small body.

"Turn on the light," Beatrice said weakly.

Belle turned on the bedside lamp and turned to see Beatrice. Her face looked tear-stained and she was holding her lamb.

"Sweetheart..." said Belle. "What's wrong?"

"I don't like the dark."

"I know. That's why you have your night-light."

"It went out." Beatrice nuzzled up to her.

"Oh, my poor baby. There's no need to be frightened," said Belle, wrapping her arms around Beatrice. "No need at all."

"I never want to leave you."

"Beatrice, why would you ever leave?"

"I don't want to be alone."

"You never will be," said Belle.

"I don't want to be like the man on the street."

"You mean that homeless man?"

Beatrice nodded. "He's all alone."

"And that's why you worry about homeless people..." said Belle.

"Like Beast."

"You're worried about Beast?"

Beatrice nodded. "He's alone."

"Beatrice, you know I'm not really Beauty and your father's not really Beast, right?"

Beatrice just squeezed her.

"Not everything is a fairy tale," Belle said softly.

Chapter Text

 


"No!," said Gold, tying his tie as he walked from the backroom to the main floor of the shop.

"Rumple, be reasonable..." said Belle.

"Oh, no, I don't think so. Is this the reason for the sudden midday picnic at the shop? To make me more likely to comply with such a request?"

"Actually, I like our midday picnics. I always have," said Belle. "I wanted to ask you when Beatrice wasn't around because I thought you might react badly."

"Oh, you think?"

Belle rolled her eyes. "It is two hours away once a week. She's driven that far before."

"It is outside Storybrooke, past the town line and if something were to happen to her, we can't help her without forgetting who she is."

"Even if that were to happen, Neal or Emma or Merlin or even Regina could go get her."

"Oh, good, let's send Regina," he snapped. "I don't even know why I worried."

"It's a PSAT study course," said Belle.

Gold shook his head. "And why is that significant?"

"So she can do well on the PSAT. So it can help her get into a good college."

"What happened to the SATs?"

"That's next year."

"There's an entrance exam for college before the entrance exam for college?"

"More or less," said Belle.

"So, I should let her go and leave me once a week so that she can leave me permanently?"

"So that's what this is really about," said Belle.

"I am concerned for her safety," said Gold.

"You're concerned that she's going to leave you and never come back," said Belle. "Rumple, Beatrice isn't like that."

The door opened. They looked up to see a man and a woman walking in. Suits, sunglasses, businesslike expressions. Gold and Belle exchanged glances.

"Are you Mr. Gold?," the woman asked, taking off her sunglasses. Her partner followed suit.

"Who's asking?"

They flashed gold badges. The woman spoke, introducing herself first. "Detective Barone, Detective Keller. NYPD."

"And what are two detectives from New York City doing in Maine in the middle of January?," asked Gold.

"We're investigating a missing person, Tamara Milton. Her employer reported her missing."

"We haven't seen her since well before Christmas," said Belle.

"And who are you?"

"Belle Gold."

"Do you know where we could find Neal Cassidy?," asked Keller. "We have questions."

"Is he a suspect?," asked Gold.

"We're just asking questions," said Barone.

"Why don't you leave your number and I'll have him call you?," said Gold.

Keller gave Gold a business card. "We'll be in town a few days."

They left. Belle turned to Gold.

"Call Merlin. The plan needs to go into effect."


Merlin walked into the sheriff's station.

"What's up?," asked Emma.

"You know the visitors we've been expecting?"

"Oh, God," said Emma.

"I've hidden Greg and Tamara for now. Regina is playing host," said Merlin. He looked at Hook. "You. Play nice or I give you to Rumplestiltskin as a late Christmas present."

"What visitors?," asked Hook.

"Detectives." Merlin looked at Gaston as he stared blankly. "Do you think you can not say anything stupid? No, never mind."

Merlin waved his hand.

"What did you do?," asked Emma.

"Rendered him dumb," said Merlin. "Double meaning in that."

"I must say it's quite an improvement," said Hook.

"Well, that's done," said Merlin. "I'm off to get the knights in order."

"What does that mean?," asked Emma.

"You don't want to know," said Merlin.

As they looked up, Regina entered with the detectives.

"Ah, Sheriff Swan, these are Detectives Barone and Keller from New York City."

They exchanged greetings.

Keller eyed Merlin. "And you are?"

"Colin Avalon. Concerned citizen, I was just leaving."

"Yeah, I'll see you later... Colin," said Emma.

Merlin left. Emma turned back to the detectives. "What can I do for you?"

Barone spoke. "We're investigating the disappearance of a missing person, Tamara Milton. We'd appreciate your cooperation, Sheriff."

Emma shrugged. "Whatever I can do to help."

"Do you know Ms. Milton's fiance?"

Emma froze. Hook laughed as Regina shot him a look.

"Sheriff?," asked Keller.

"He's the father of my son."

"Our son," said Regina.

"Oh," said Barone, "you two are-"

"No," said Regina with contempt. "I adopted Henry."

"When did you last see her?," asked Keller.

"Tamara? Well, that must have been around when she left town," said Emma.

"And that was?"

"Neal's sister was in the hospital," said Regina. "We were all there. That's when we learned she was seeing another man. As you can imagine, she didn't stay long after that."

"Uh, yeah," said Emma.

"Neal's sister?," asked Barone.

"Beatrice. Mr. Gold's daughter from his second marriage," said Regina. "She was injured in the woods. She's completely recovered now."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Keller. "Did it seem like there were any problems between Tamara and Neal?"

"Other than the other guy?," asked Emma.

"How did Neal take that?"

"About as well as you would expect."

"Do you know where we could find him? We went by his father's shop."

"I'll tell him you need to speak with him," said Emma.


A Long Time Ago In The Enchanted Forest

It was the third week of their summer tour of the kingdoms. They had gone from castle to castle and ball to ball. Reinette was glad to be out of Avonlea even if she knew that the intended purpose of their journey was superfluous at this point. They were taking a day to tour the gardens of a fine country house on the way to their next destination.

Belle toured the gardens eagerly with her grandfather and being led by the lord of the manor of himself, a kindly old gentleman obsessed with his flowers. Reinette found herself drawn to a particular group of roses and stared for a while.

"Reinette?," asked Catherine. "You seem distracted."

"Oh, I am sorry, Mama." She looked up. "Where did Papa and Belle go?"

"I sent them on. You've been staring at that same display for forty-five minutes," said Catherine. She motioned for Reinette to join her on a bench. "Out with it. What's wrong?"

"I don't know that I should tell you."

"Is it Maurice again?," asked Catherine, rolling her eyes. "I suppose he still wants you to return home."

"He does," said Reinette. "It's not Maurice, though. I've long since learned to ignore his dictates and commands."

"Then what?"

"It has to do with the reason for our summer sojourn," said Reinette.

"Belle's True Love?," asked Catherine. "Has she met him? I can't imagine she has. The girl puts her thoughts so plainly on her face."

"No, but I have," said Reinette. "Or at least I've seen him."

"What do you mean?"

"An old friend was kind enough to point him out to me."

"Oh and what do you make of him?"

"He is not a prince."

Catherine waved it off. "Oh, well, titles aren't everything."

"No, he has a title."

"Someone among the gentry, then?"

"Not quite."

"Civil servant?"

"He's the Dark One," Reinette said in exasperation. She immediately regretted her slip. She wondered if she could pass it off as some sort of joke. She was certain her mother would not see it as a very funny joke.

She turned to Catherine ready to make something up and instead found her mother sitting rather placidly.

"Ah, so does he have a large house or-"

"What sort of a question is that?!," Reinette shouted. "My daughter is tied to the most feared man in all the realms-"

"The most powerful man in all the realms," Catherine noted, throwing the prophecy back at her.

"How can I possibly be concerned with what a seer woman said when I have my daughter's welfare to think of? How can you just sit there? You're not even the tiniest bit shocked-" Reinette felt as if the breath had been sucked from her lungs. "Did you know?"

"Know what?"

"Did Merlin tell you? Did you know before I did?"

"Reinette, you know I have moments of prescience..."

"Yes, rather curious your moments of prescience as the Ice Princess has no powers of prescience! Did Merlin tell you?"

"Merlin told me nothing of it."

"Then who else knows about this?"

"Someone who ought to know."

Reinette leaned in. "I don't want word of this to spread. The Dark One has many enemies, not to mention the Clerics were they to hear-"

"Yes, I know all about that. The clerics. The fairies. I have been at this a while longer than you."

"And how long a while is that?"

"Longer than you and your brothers have been alive."

"And who told you?"

"As I said, someone who ought to know."

"Was it the Dark One? Does he know already? Is that how you stopped the Ogres in the Far North Kingdom?"

"Yes, instead of making a deal for my first-born child, I bargained him down to my third born granddaughter," Catherine said throwing her hands up. "It was not the Dark One, but as I say someone who ought to know."

"You are infuriating," said Reinette, standing up and straightening her skirt. "Everyone I know is infuriating."

"If you want my advice-"

"No, I do not. Thank you," said Reinette, walking off.


Now

Beatrice entered the shop. Gold looked up.

"Why didn't you answer?," he asked. "There are detectives in town. They may have questions. Why didn't you answer?"

"I had my phone on silent. I was in school, remember? Texting forty times doesn't make me answer you any sooner."

"Oh, is this the level of cooperation I'm to expect if I allow you to take that class in Augusta?"

"I don't know. Are you going to text me forty times?"

"I will text you as much as I like on the phone I pay for."

"I told you. I was in class."

"Is that so?"

Beatrice threw her hands up. "Where else would I go? In case you haven't noticed, I don't exactly have a crazy social life."

"Is that your real motivation behind this request?"

"You don't exactly meet the most sociable people at a PSAT study course on Saturday mornings."

"Is that so?"

"No, you only meet other losers who don't have anything better to do on the weekend," said Beatrice. "So, yeah, I would be hanging around all Saturday morning with a room full of people like me or worse. What do you think we're going to do? Rob a convenience store?"

"I don't appreciate that tone."

"I don't appreciate your tone."

"Watch it," Gold warned.

"I'm going to the library," said Beatrice.


Then

Reinette had never wished more that she didn't have such a talkative set of parents than on the carriage ride to the next ball.

"Prince Eric is his name, I think," said the Duke. "He's far more interested in exploration than anything else, I think."

"Really?," asked Belle.

"Yes, he's always planning expeditions. If you don't want to hear about nautical knots, don't strike up a conversation with him."

Belle giggled. "I think I would like exploring."

"I've no doubt you would make an excellent explorer," said the Duke. "Though I think you might be bored. You've already read it all in your books."

"If she even gets the chance to explore," muttered Reinette.

Catherine shot Reinette a glare. "I am certain Belle will have many opportunities."

"Are you now?"

"Yes, I am," said Catherine.

"What are we talking about?," asked Belle.

"Only your prospects," said Reinette.

"I fear I may have missed a step in the conversation as well," said the Duke. "It's taken on a flavor of adversity."

"Shall I tell him, Mama?," asked Reinette.

"Do you suppose you may yet shock him?," asked Catherine.

Reinette narrowed her eyes at her mother. "Does he know as well?"

"Do I know what?," he asked.

"You know," said Catherine.

"I don't know," said Belle.

The Duke banged on the roof of the carriage. "Coachman! We shall stop at the next village!"


Now

Beatrice stomped into the library past the circulation desk. Belle and Merlin watched as she walked to one of the tables, put her messenger bag down and took out her Macbook.

"Beatrice?," asked Belle. "I thought you were spending the afternoon with Papa."

"That guy is crazy," said Beatrice.

Merlin snorted. "Did you just notice?"

Belle shot Merlin a look as she approached Beatrice. "What happened?"

"I didn't answer his forty text messages because I was in class and he went ballistic and now he thinks- you know, I don't know what he thinks because he is crazy."

"Did you talk about the PSAT course?"

"The cover for my crime spree, you mean?"

Belle looked at Merlin. "Would you handle her?"

Belle walked the couple of blocks to the shop. It was their first fight. She thought it must have meant something that Beatrice was now comfortable enough to fight with him, but she didn't like Rumple behaving in such a way. "Rumple!"

"I'm in the back."

Belle went past the curtain to find him spinning gold. "I thought you weren't supposed to be doing any magic while the detectives are here."

"Your daughter is a madwoman. Disrespectful."

Belle pulled up a chair. "Stop spinning."

Gold stopped. He turned to Belle with his arms crossed.

"I am upset," said Belle. "She came to you-"

"Came to you."

"With a reasonable request and you turned it into something it wasn't. You have missed so much together, I can't believe you want to waste any of the time you have arguing."

"Oh, you mean the two and a half years more I'm getting?"

"Rumple, this is no way to keep her. All you'll do is drive her away."

"I found the list."

"What list?"

"The college list." He pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to Belle.

"And why do you have this? It was in her journal."

"Well, I'm the one expected to pay for this, am I not?"

"Her guidance counselor at her old school asked her to put this together last year. It's not even that serious."

"Stanford!"

"She doesn't have to go to Stanford."

"Yes, there's also UCLA or perhaps the University of California at Berkeley. Or perhaps I'll get lucky and she'll choose NYU. What is that? Eight hours by car?"

"Boston is four hours," said Belle. "She made this last year. She changes her life plans every other week, not to mention they get changed for her. Even if I thought that this list was accurate, Beatrice is not the type to go off to college and never see her family again."

"Right because no eighteen year old girl in her right mind would go off and never see her family again," he said looking pointedly at Belle.

"There were some ogres involved," said Belle. She took his hands in his. "When I was fourteen, my father arranged my betrothal to Gaston."

Gold shook his head. "Nobles..."

"He wouldn't let me accept any invitations or go anywhere. My mother was the only reason that I got to see my first season and that was my only season because she died not long after. My father kept me closed off from the world until I met you."

"So what? I was the better option?"

"I'm saying that locking her up will only drive her away, but if we help her to pursue things she won't shut us out."

"Would you have told your mother you had fallen in love with a monster?"

Belle smiled. "My mother was the first person I wanted to tell and it hurt that I couldn't."

"And what would she have said?"

"My mother wanted me to have True Love."

He sighed. "I suppose that this is the woman who saw something in Merlin..."

Belle shot him a scolding look. He softened.

"Then again, she did give birth to you so how can I argue with her?"

"Much better," said Belle.


Then

They stopped at the village. The Duke quickly dispatched Belle to a bookshop with a small purse and went back to his wife and daughter.

He sat down across from them at some benches arranged around the fountain in the town square. "Now, that was enough coin to buy us three hours. Catherine, Reinette, what exactly is the problem?"

They scowled at each other.

Catherine looked to her husband. "Alec, do you remember a long time ago in the Far North Kingdom we entertained a visitor before we married?"

"A visitor? Which visitor?"

Catherine rolled her eyes. "The visitor."

"Oh," said Alec. "The visitor."

"And who was this visitor?," Reinette demanded.

"Reinette has just discovered the role that the you know is to play in Belle's life."

"Oh, yes, the you know," said Alec.

"Must you two speak entirely in riddles?!," Reinette asked.

"There are spies everywhere. We dare not speak his name, especially you," said the Duke.

"Of course," said Reinette. "I ought to have known you two would be in on this conspiracy to tie my only child to a monster together."

"You seem to be ignoring one particular point in favor of your anger," said Catherine. "It's not a conspiracy, it's True Love."

"Is that what your visitor said?"

"Yes," said the Duke. "She most certainly did."

"And why do you believe her?," asked Reinette. "Who is she? How can I speak to her?"

The Duke and Catherine exchanged looks.

"Speaking to her at this point in time would present great difficulty," said the Duke. "Some impossibility."

"And why is that?"

"Oh, you know, it's a bit wibbly wobbly timey wimey," he answered.

"What does that even mean?," asked Reinette.

The Duke shook his head at Reinette. "Never mind that, you also seem to be ignoring the prospect of your daughter's happiness."

"I have to protect her."

"Yes, of course, you must, but you must also learn to tell the difference between protecting her and driving her away. The prophecy leads us to a child, your granddaughter. Belle's daughter. If you come out against that child's father, if you call him names like monster, you will create a chasm between you and them that will not soon be mended. Would you have yourself cut off from Belle when she will need her mother's guidance the most? Would you never meet your granddaughter?"

Reinette shook her head. "No, of course not, Papa."

"Then take the future as it comes to you. Don't decide against it because that is a losing proposition."

Reinette nodded. "And what do I do about Maurice?"

"Oh, sod Maurice..." said Catherine.

"Mama..." moaned Reinette.

"I fear Maurice may not see the sense in this course of action," said the Duke. "Best to not advise him of it."

"The clerics? The fairies?"

"She can be protected from them," said Catherine.

"This can all be resolved agreeably if you keep your head," said the Duke. "Don't make an enemy of her. You might win but it will be a bitter victory."


Now

Gold and Belle entered the house. Music permeated every wall.

"What is that?," Gold asked distastefully.

"That is the Original Cast Recording of Wicked," said Belle. Gold looked at her in concern. "It's her angry music."

"Wicked?"

"Yeah, it was this book, then this musical about the Wicked Witch of the West-"

"I've heard enough," said Gold quickly. "I'll go apologize."

"Okay..." said Belle as he began climbing the stairs. "That was easy."

Gold knocked on the door to Beatrice's room and opened the door to find the music assaulting him more as he did.

"Okay, that's enough," he said, going towards the speaker and fumbling for the power button.

"Now I can't listen to music."

"I think we should probably revisit anything involving the Wicked Witch of the West."

"Oh, God, she's real, isn't she?," asked Beatrice.

"Let's not discuss her. I am here to apologize."

"You are?"

"It was unfair of me to cast undeserved aspersions at you when you just want to attend a class. I should be encouraging you."

"Well, I'm sorry. I was sort of..."

"You were sort of like me."

"Oh, God," said Beatrice.

"Yeah, sorry," said Gold.

"It's just... I have missed so much of my children's lives, I am being very protective of what I do have."

"Miserly."

He frowned at her.

"Sorry, it's this PSAT study guide."

"It's accurate. Keep up the good work. This class. When does it begin?"

"Two weeks from Saturday."

"And I take it there's a fee."

"Twelve hundred dollars."

"Really?" He shook his head. "No matter."

"So, who was the Wicked Witch of the West?"

Gold shook his head. "We are really not discussing her."

"Did she sing at least?"

"I'm making dinner," Gold said, turning around.

"So, if you care to find me look to the western sky..." Beatrice sang.

Gold spun back around. "What?"

"It's in the musical. The Wicked Witch sings it. I was just making sure it didn't sound familiar."

He exhaled. "Really, Beatrice, don't."


Then

Belle came into Reinette's room at the palace. The Under the Sea ball was that night and many people from all the kingdoms had arrived. Prince Eric had nearly drowned that morning and it was also serving as a celebration.

"Oh, Belle, you look lovely," she said.

Belle looked down at the short skirt that puffed around the bottom of the pale yellow gown like a cloud. "I feel embarrassed. I've never had this much of my legs showing."

"Well, it's what they wear in this kingdom."

"Why can't I just wear one of my other gowns?"

"Belle, you don't want to stick out or be mistaken for a matron."

"Right because we couldn't have my True Love think that..."

Reinette scoffed. "I doubt he would care."

"What?"

"You know what?," asked Reinette, shaking it off. "From now on, I don't think you need to look upon these balls as a place to meet your True Love."

"Then why am I going?"

"To have fun. To meet people. To see other lands. To let everyone see how wonderful you are."

"I don't see that I'm all that wonderful," said Belle. "Or if I am at least no one will ever see it."

"I know it to be true and I am certain someday your True Love will."

Belle sat down next to Reinette on the chaise lounge. "Do you suppose if I did meet my True Love Papa would call off my marriage to Gaston?"

"I don't know that he would have a choice."

"Do you think Papa would be angry with me?"

"He might," said Reinette, running her fingers through Belle's hair. "I won't be, though. I want you to have True Love and when you have questions, I want to be there to answer them and help you."

"Oh, not questions..." said Belle. "One talk was enough on that topic."

"Not just that," said Reinette. "There are consequences to the topic of that particular talk. Pregnancy, childbirth, you know I spent two days in labor with you."

"Mama..." moaned Belle.

"Everyone tries to scare you with the labor and that's just the tip of the iceberg really. Yes, pushing another human being out of your body is painful, but it would be such a simple thing if that's all there was to it. There's morning sickness, the weight gain, the swelling. My fingers were the size of sausages."

"Is it time for the ball yet?"

"Suddenly she wants to dance..." Reinette teased. "I am your mother and I must tell you about these things before you find out on your own. As I will be there for you."

The gong went.

"And now you are spared from further discussions," said Reinette. "Go to your ball."

Belle smiled and kissed her mother on the cheek. She left and Catherine entered.

"Will you be joining us?," asked Catherine.

"Momentarily," said Reinette. "I was just thinking about our earlier discussion."

Catherine entered and shut the door. "Were you?"

"I was thinking that Maurice will not take the news well when the..."

"The you know?"

"Yes, when he enters our lives. I was thinking perhaps it might be prudent that I come home for a while. Or I could take up residence in the Dower Summer House, it's not so far from the home of the you know."

Catherine smiled. "Yes, I think that would be a good plan."

Neither woman noticed the blue light not far off.


Now

"Merlin," said Emma, storming into the library. "We need to talk."

"I know, Savior," said Merlin, putting down a book as he sat behind the circulation desk. "Henry's books are a week overdue. Belle thought I ought to cut him some slack, but spoil them now and who knows what will happen?"

"Where's Mother Superior?"

"I thought it would raise too many questions were two New York City detectives to find a nun in an abandoned corner of the municipal building behind enchanted bars."

"We agreed to hide Greg and Tamara in the mines."

"Then I had a discussion with myself and I agreed that it would be better if Mother