Author’s Note: The writing and art here are done with great respect, love and gratitude for the talents of Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, and everyone involved in of Once Upon A Time. I do not own these characters.
Since this chapter is particularly long; likely the longest I’ll write for this story. I am posting it in three sections for those who can’t read it all in one sitting to more easily find where they left off, when they come back to it.
Warning: The hospital flashback near the end may be disturbing. This chapter will have both fluff and angst. Enjoy! —NicoleMS
Rumpelstiltskin wants to go to his den to read her medical file, but fears leaving her this soon after her seizure. He is under no illusion that Belle is actually asleep, as her body seems to fidget restlessly. Thus, he opts to take the file over to the desk by window, seats himself and opens the thick file.
Flipping directly to the back of the file, where the earliest entries are, he begins at the beginning, to ascertain how the past almost twenty-nine years of Belle’s life have been spent. The file is redacted of identifying names, and Belle is simply referred to as patient number 682303. He hates the fact that she was a number in their eyes, not a person with a beautiful spirit. He observes that while they had Belle on a myriad of medications right from the start, Belle appears to have been the model of a compliant patient for twenty-eight years. As he reads through the file, he notes that compliance changes the evening of October 24, 2011. That date bangs like a hammer in Rumpelstiltskin’s head. It was that evening that he met Emma at Granny’s Bed and Breakfast. It was that evening that the clock in the tower began to move.
His head feels like it might split open, as he sees images that he berates himself for not seeing at the time. Belle sitting in her asylum cell with a blank expression, that suddenly becomes one of awareness, anger and determination. She hears someone coming to her cell. Hiding behind the door with her metal food tray in hand, she stands very still as the tall dark haired intern enters the room, with all the force she can muster she swings the tray at his head. “What the…”, he exclaims right before the tray impacts. She is about to run, when a portly male orderly with sandy blond hair enters the room, “Where do you think you’re going?” Grabbing her dinner fork from the cot behind her, she futilely tries to stave off the approach of the orderly. Belle warns, “You better let me go. He won’t stand for this. He’ll kill you if you try to keep me.” The orderly laughs, “There’s no ‘he’ in your life. Just the rubber room, girlie.” The intern tries to regain his balance, as the orderly advances on Belle. She pleads, “Please, I have to…” with one fluid motion, the orderly grabs Belle’s wrist, whipping it around her back and throwing her down face first on the floor, landing with the fork puncturing the skin of her abdomen. The intern yells, “Hey, watch it!” Unphased, the orderly presses his knee into her back, as Belle screams in agony and crunching sound emanates from her body. Urgently the intern moves towards the orderly, but before he can pull the orderly way, Belle is injected with a sedative. The intern exclaims, “Where the Hell did you get that?!?”, as he pulls the orderly away. The orderly smugly says, “I’m always prepared for these loons. Agnes doesn’t mind. They’re her lab rats, after all.” The intern kneels over Belle trying to assess the situation. “Great going, dumb ass. You cracked her ribs.” “And you’re welcome, choir boy. You nearly had your lights put out by a woman. Well, she’s not doin’ jack now.”
Hearing the commotion, Agnes enters the room. Glaring at the two men and dismissing Belle in a heap on the floor, Agnes says in a haughty tone, “Could you two make a bit more noise? I don’t think they heard you in Japan.” The intern confronts her, “You’re allowing him to carry loaded syringes with sedatives?” She glances at Belle, then back to the intern raising her eyebrow, “Looks like he handled the rabble-rouser quite well…choir boy.” The orderly chuckles. The intern protests, “Patients shouldn’t be subjected to this barbaric treatment.” She sighs, “Yes, your right. This won’t do. Get a gurney and take her to ‘the room’.” The intern protests, “No, wait! She was just a little keyed up. There’s no need for that.” Agnes hisses at him, “Have you forgotten who runs this ward? Keep up your bellyaching, and I’ll make you wish you were dead. It would be a shame if something unfortunate happened to you…or someone else.” The intern doesn’t know why he fears Agnes, but he does. He doesn’t know, who the someone else could refer to, since he has no one, yet he has always felt a foreboding that he could lose someone dear if he steps too far out of line. In a more subdued tone, he says, “She has injuries that need tending…please.” With another dismissive glance at Belle, “She’ll be fine. She needs to learn her lesson first.”, then snapping her fingers at the orderly, “You get the gurney now. I’ll meet you at ‘the room’.” The intern alone with Belle, gently and guiltily rolls her over to face him. He sees a small amount of blood where the fork had jabbed her. He surmises that thankfully it probably didn’t puncture too deep, but it still needs to be checked, cleaned and bandaged. Before he can do any more, the orderly returns with the gurney. Licking his lips the orderly sneers, “Now that’s a nice piece of…”
Rumpelstiltskin watches the scene play out in his head with a mixture of anger and nausea.
The orderly leans in reaching for Belle, smirking, “Man, I could just spread those legs and go to town on her.”
The intern lunges for him, slamming the orderly against the wall, pressing his arm against the orderly throat, he growls, “Don’t you ever! She’s off limits! Are we clear?!?”
“Okay, okay, don’t get your shorts in a wad. She’s probably too high maintenance when she’s awake. And I like ‘em awake enough to make noise.”
The intern gives the orderly and repulsed glare, then says, “Enough. Let’s carefully get her onto the gurney.” “Oh Hell. Screw that.”, the orderly says, and before the intern can stop him, the mammoth orderly scoops Belle up and plops her down on the gurney like a sack of potatoes. The intern shouts, “What the Hell! You can’t treat patients like that!” Laughing the orderly says, “No one cares about these whack jobs.”, then looking down at Belle, he notices her barely conscious with a few tears streaking down her face, he adds, “Okay, girlie, we’re taking you to a very special place. Now, you’ll learn how to behave.” She shudders in fear. Though she hadn’t remembered her true self until tonight (October 24, 2011), Agnes and Regina had threatened her many times with going to ‘the room’ if she had ever step out of line, but she had never been there. Now, she was going, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Belle slips in and out of consciousness. Coming back to awareness with her eyes closed, she senses that she is laying on something. She can’t move, which she attributes to the sedative. She hears the intern talking to Agnes, “I need to take care of that puncture wound and her ribs.” Sternly, Agnes says, “Negative. That’ll keep. She needs to learn her lesson first. This isn’t some hotel you know.” The intern scoffs in aggravation, “So what are you suggesting?” Coming within inches of his face, she glares, “I’m not ‘suggesting’ anything. I’m ordering that the little rat remain, exactly where she is for the next few days.” At that Belle’s eyes fly open, they become wide with fear when she realizes that her arms and legs are strapped down. Unthinking Belle starts to blurt out, “Help me, Ru…”, then stops herself. Leaning against the counter next her, the orderly smirks, “Oh look, she’s calling for her imaginary boyfriend, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Or is it Rikki-Tikki-Tavi?” Agnes rolls her eyes and continues staring down the intern. The orderly continues mocking Belle, leaning so close she can feel his breath on her face, “Oh I know, it’s Rumpelstiltskin.” At that, Agnes whips around and shouts, “Silence! You’re giving me a migraine!” Belle tries to keep her face expressionless. The orderly whispers into her ear, “Nobody cares about you, freak.”
Rumpelstiltskin holds back a sob, hearing those words, and feeling Belle’s heartbreak from them. She’s been mere blocks from him all this time, and she’s been in misery, while he lived in comfort and worked on his plans. How will she ever really be able to forgive him for not knowing she was alive? He feels that he will never forgive himself.
As Rumpelstiltskin’s vision of the events continue to unfold, the intern protests, “You can’t be serious! She can’t even get to a toilet to void.” “So put in a catheter and bag her.”, she says matter-of-factually. Aghast, the intern, barks back, “No. We can’t keep violating medical protocols!” Agnes growls, “I don’t give a rat’s ass about your concerns about protocol! These are my rodents. This is my experiment, and you will do as I say, or you won’t like what I do next. Now, do the procedure, or I’ll get him to do it.”, gesturing toward the orderly. In disbelief, the intern says, “Him?!? He’s not qualified to do that.” Agnes sighs, “So?” The orderly pipes up, “Yeah, let me do it. I’d like a look at the goods.” In spite of her efforts to control her emotions, Belle lets out a panicked whimper. The orderly smiles snidely. The intern squeezes his eyes shut in frustration, “Alright, I’ll do it. Just get him out of here. She doesn’t need to be agitated, while I do the procedure.” Agnes is ready to rebuff his request, when the orderly taunts “Oh come on, I wanna hear more about her boyfriend, Rumpelstiltskin.” Agnes says, “Fine. We’ll be back in five minutes. Get it done.” As she grabs the orderly forcefully by the arm, he whines like a child being informed that he is not getting dessert, “Oh man, this sucks!” Realizing that he is too stupid to adequately fear her, Agnes simply growls, “Zip it!”, as they exit the room.
As the intern sullenly gathers the supplies for the procedure, he whispers, “I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. I’m sure someone out there cares about you.” As he reaches under Belle’s hospital gown, Belle stares at the ceiling tiles, gritting her teeth. Even with the sedative, Belle feels a sharp pain from the catheter, which in combination with the embarrassment of being forced to submit to a procedure in such a private place, makes her face turn quite red. The intern ruefully thinks how much he loathes subjecting her to this unnecessary procedure, and tries to speak soothingly, “You’re doing fine. I’m almost done.” Then as he finishes, he feels compelled to ask, “Who is he? Is there someone who will help you?…someone I can contact?” Belle suddenly meets his eyes, having a moment of hope. As she speaks, to her dismay she realizes the power of the sedative, slurring, “Rumshin…Rumflshin.” She begins to cry in frustration. She senses that the intern truly wants to help her, but she can’t form the words. Then she remembers what Evil Queen Regina had told her about the curse stripping them of their memories and is unsure “Rumpelstiltskin” is even the name he is known by in this new land. Finished with the procedure, while washing his hands, the intern says, “It’s okay, sweetie, you can tell me later when the sedative wears off. Now, let me tend to your injuries.” Belle nods.
Just then, Agnes returns with a large, unyielding security guard, “What are you doing?” The intern nervously says, “I was just going to take care of her injuries. It won’t take long.” In a haughty tone, Agnes purrs, “No, it won’t take long at all…because you’re not doing it. I told you, she is here to learn her lesson.” With a snap of her fingers, the security guard grabs the intern, pulling him towards the door as the intern struggles in vain, “Hey, get off me!” Agnes orders, “You will return here in the morning when your shift starts and not before.” Surrendering, the intern pleads, “Leave the light on above the counter, so it’s not completely black in here.” Agnes rolls her eyes, shutting off all the lights, locking the door behind them. In the blackness, strapped down unable to move with searing pain in her back, ribs and abdomen, Belle breaks into a sob. Feeling that her best chance at freedom is gone, she slurs, “Rumshin, helf meee! I lub you…pease come for me!”
Rumpelstiltskin forces himself not to crumple the file trembling in his hands, as he looks over to Belle still fidgeting restlessly. He wonders how much more her thoughts and body will be tormented by what happened to her. Wearily, he looks back at the file, he sees notations for the next day (October 25, 2011), a dizzying array of words torment his mind: “respiratory distress”, “severe inflammation”, “dehydration” “epidural discoloration”, “convulsions” and “Fever – 105 temp”. His heart feels like it is being shredded by vicious claws.
The vision of events continues to torment Rumpelstiltskin. The intern, who had made several attempts to return to Belle throughout the night, finally opting to sleep in his car, is finally able to convince the new security guard to allow him entry 30 minutes before his shift officially begins. By this time, Belle has spent ten hours strapped down without any attention to her wounds. The interns fears are realized as he sees Belle sweating profusely, shivering, gasping for air, looking pale and weak. He frantically sets about treating her. Belle rambles repeatedly in a raspy voice that is barely audible, “Rumshin, I luf ew! Helf me!” Trying to calm her, the intern says, “It’s alright, sweetie. It’s alright. I’ll take care of you.” Then gritting his teeth in frustration, he hisses, “Damn! I wish I knew your name.” Somewhere in the delirium, Belle understands, and struggles against her swollen throat and tongue to force as clearly as possible, “Belle. ‘m Belle.” He looks at her astonished and says, “Okay then. Belle it is. Belle, I’m going to need to draw your blood and do other things you won’t like, but I have to do it, because you’re very, very sick.” Belle continuing to shiver, gives him what appears to be a nod of understanding. For all the misery that is ‘the room’, it is incredibly well stocked with equipment and supplies, a fact for which the intern is extremely grateful. There is a blur of events alcohol bath, cleaning and suturing wounds, wrapping ribs, administering an IV and PICC line for antibiotics. He can’t help feeling like he just fell into a war movie. So many of these procedures should have a secondary attendee, he knows he is breaking protocols right and left, but this whole situation in ‘the room’ breaks more protocols than he wants to consider, thus he might as well break protocols to save Belle as time is of the essence.
Just as he finishes double checking the PICC line in Belle’s upper left arm, Agnes enters, “What the Hell are you doing with her?” Blankly, he answers, “Fixing the mess that we let happen overnight.” Glaring at him, Agnes starts, “I thought I told you…” The intern interrupts, “Do you want her to die? Do you want your little lab experiments exposed? Look at her…look at her…we did this, and I don’t know how much more she can survive!” Agnes generally doesn’t worry about the mortality of patients, as she can always cover her tracks, but this was no ordinary patient. She knows there would be Hell to pay if this pawn were to escape into death. Resolutely, Agnes responds, “Fine. What do you want?” “I’m attending to her to ensure she lives, and security guards are not to keep me from her.” Gritting her teeth, Agnes says, “Fine. But get those straps re-secured.” The intern replies sarcastically, “Of course, because it’s clear she’s ready to run a marathon.” Agnes looks at the frail woman, thinks to herself, “Weak willed little rat!”, then says, “Alright, do what you want for now. But she is never to leave your sight without being restrained.” It’s not really what he wants, but he will take it, since it is a vast improvement over the previous night’s situation.
Days blur by and Belle’s hold on life is touch and go. The powerful antibiotics have caused thrush, which then needs to be countered with a powerful anti-fungal medication. Finally, three days later, as the Intern awakens from sleeping in a chair in ‘the room’, he sees Belle looking at him with the faintest of smiles and color in her cheeks. He smiles broadly, “Welcome back, Belle.” She speaks softly, “Thank you for saving my life.” He nods, and then says, “I’m Mike, by the way.” Belle smiles, “Hi Mike.” Taking a serious tone, Mike says, “Can you tell me who to contact to help you?” As Belle opens her mouth to speak, Agnes who was listening at the door, rushes in pulls out a couple of vials of medication and a syringe. Mike asks, “What are you doing?” Ignoring the question, Agnes injects Belle, who whimpers, then seems to drift off. Grabbing the vials, Mike realizes that Belle has been given a sedative and an anti-psychotic medication. Dumbfounded Mike can only manage one word, “Why?” Folding her arms, Agnes says, “Look, you’ve had your time with your pet bunny, but she’s my lab rat, and the time for fun and games is over.” Aghast, Mike says, “Fun and games. I saved her life.” Agnes retorts, “Yes, and you did an adequate job. She will be transferred back to her room, and hopefully she’s learned her lesson.”
Hours later, Mike enters Belle’s room to continue their conversation. “Hey Belle. You feel up to talking.” He receives no response, he says, “Belle?” Slowly she looks at him, “Who’s Belle?” Mike’s stomach drops. Later that night, drinking at The Rabbit’s Hole, he can’t get Belle out of his head. He tries to drink her away, but she’s still there with her lost haunting eyes. He suspects Mayor Mills may be behind this. He has no proof, just a gut feeling, but who would be willing to go up against her? He momentarily considers Mr. Gold, but quickly dismisses the thought, because who really knows whose side Gold is on, and why would he help a random mental patient? So, Mike decides to wait. One day, Belle will be back, and he will find out whatever information he can then.
Rumpelstiltskin notes a pattern appearing in Belle’s file. There are times that it refers to her being agitated and speaking gibberish. Reading between the lines, he conjectures that those are times that Belle fights her way back to awareness. One of those dates is February 14, 2012, Valentine’s Day. He can’t help but wonder if in spite of being heavily drugged, was Belle sensing his strong emotions and fighting her way back, through the cocktail of drugs swimming in her veins?
February 14, 2012, Mike enters Belle’s room. She looks at him with a light of awareness in her eyes that catches his attention. “Hi Mike.” Cautiously, he replies, “Belle?” Staring down at her left hand, she answers, “I’m here. I’m always here…just buried most of the time.” Mike sees the despair in her face, and he pulls out a flask, taking a swig. Belle comments, “You’re doing that a lot more lately.” Feeling a bit self-conscious, he says, “This is a tough place to work. Sometimes I need to not feel it so much. I’d offer you some, but with the meds you’re on it would probably kill you.” Belle sighs, “Not sure it would be that bad. Life may be a worse fate.” Rumpelstiltskin cringes hearing those words from his beloved Belle. As his vision continues, Mike says, “Okay, enough of that talk. Let’s figure out how to get you out of here. Who do you know that would help you? Who loves you, Belle? I know there must be someone.” Belle sighs knowing just how insane it will sound, but then reluctantly says, “Rumpelstiltskin.” Mike chuckles softly assuming she’s joking. Then Mike stares at Belle in confusion at her serious and lucid expression. He says to her, “Belle, sweetie, you know he’s a character from a story…right?” Belle sighs, saying, “I knew you wouldn’t believe me.” He counters, “Maybe it’s name similar to Rumpelstiltskin…or another name that starts with R, and your mind just got it confused with all the drugs you’re on.” Belle shakes her head, “No, I’m quite sure. It’s Rumpelstiltskin.” Standing up, Mike says, “I’ll be right back.” Belle replies sullenly, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.” Mike makes his way to the nurse’s station. Thankfully, no one is around as he grabs the Storybrooke Phone Directory. Returning to Belle, he says, “Well, let’s put the name to the test.” Flipping to the R section, Mike scans through and confirms what he knows to be true, showing Belle, “There is no Rumpelstiltskin in Storybrooke.” Belle looks away, resentment clearly shown in her face and body, “Fine, don’t believe me. I’m just a ‘freak’ after all.” In a soothing tone, Mike says, “Belle, I don’t think you’re a freak. I just think you got the name wrong. Here take a look and see if any of the names sparks a memory.” Belle takes the book and sighs as she starts at the beginning of the R names, “Well, there is a chance he has a different name here.” Mike queries arching his brow, “So he might use an alias?” Belle thinking of the queen’s curse, chuckles ironically, “Something like that.” Mike asks, “Belle, could ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ be an alias? It sounds like a name someone makes up, just to hide their identity. Is this guy bad news?” Not responding to the question of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ being an alias, Belle simply states, “If I can find him, it’s good news for me.” Belle continues to look at the rest of the R names, but none of them feel right. She finishes and growls in frustration. Taking another swig from his flask, he pulls a bottle of fruit juice from his cargo pants pocket, offering it Belle, “If you pretend, maybe you can convince yourself it’s the hard stuff.” Belle smirks, opens the bottle and takes a large gulp, “Thanks! It’s got a real kick.” she says sarcastically, then stares disappointedly at the directory. Mike reaches for it and says, “Look, we’ll figure out another way.” Belle pulls the directory to her chest and says with determination, “I’m not done yet.” Mike smirks, “What ya going to do? Read the whole damn phone book?” Opening to the first page, Belle says, “If that’s what it takes. I will never give up on him.” Shaking his head in amusement as Belle runs the tip of her finger along each name, “You’re quite the little firecracker aren’t you?” Belle smirks at his description of her. Mike continues, “So tell me about this Prince Charming.” Belle rolls her eyes. Mike says, “Sorry, I meant ‘Rumpelstiltskin’.”
As Belle continues her search through the directory, she says thoughtfully, “He thinks he’s a monster, but he’s not.” With another swig, Mike says sarcastically, “Monster? What does he have claws, fur and lives in a castle.” Without missing a beat, Belle replies, “No, he doesn’t have fur.” Not sure how to take Belle’s response, Mike says, “You know, you’re in a mental ward, so you might want to be careful what you say.” Belle looks at him and says, “I know you don’t believe me, but you’re trying to help me. So I might as well speak freely. I love a very special man, and in my heart, I know he loves me. If he had any idea where I was, I wouldn’t be here. He’d come for me.” Mike stares at her as if confused by the emotion and certainty in her voice, “But how do you know?” Belle smiles, with an air of wisdom about her, “That’s just love. When you love someone, you fight for them. It doesn’t matter that it’s hard or that others might not like it, because love, true love, is more powerful than anything.” Mike feels an ache in his chest that he can’t explain. He’s never had such an experience, yet he feels like he has. Belle resumes her search of the directory. As she begins with the G names, her body starts to tingle. Her heart races at Ginger and is pounding as she looks at Glass. She knows she’s near him. Just then, Agnes barges into the Belle’s room and pulls the directory from her hands. Agnes scolds Mike, “This is for staff. Why does ‘she’ have it?” Mike lies, “It gets boring here. There’s nothing to read, so I thought that was better than nothing.” It was a terrible lie, and all three of them knew it. Belle did her best to keep her face emotionless. She had been so close. She could feel it. Now, she wants to scream and cry in frustration, but she can’t. Agnes says, “And why are you still here? Your shift ended a half hour ago.” Innocently, Mike says, “I was just checking in.” In a haughty tone, Agnes responds, “Well, you best be on your way. It’s time for her to take her meds.” In the moment that Mike sees the size, shape and colors of the meds before Agnes shoves them in Belle’s mouth, his eyes grow wide. She clamps her hand across Belle’s mouth and growls “Swallow them.” Belle sees the expression on Mike’s face and knows no good can come of this. Tears threaten Belle’s eyes, as Agnes holds one hand a tightly over her mouth and the other hand at the back of her head. Some of the pills are dissolving in Belle’s mouth, creating a foul taste. Seeing no way out after long moments, Belle forces herself to swallow the foul brew. A sense of hopelessness takes over, as Mike says, “Those aren’t her regular meds.” Agnes replies nonchalantly, “I’m aware of that. Her meds have been tweaked. Now, go home. I’ll stay with her for a while. Her meds won’t be of much use, if she regurgitates them.” Mike’s and Belle’s eye meet. They both know this battle is futile. Agnes barks, “I said go!” Mike says to Belle, “I’ll see you tomorrow, Miss.” Belle nods and sighs as he leaves. Mike feels like his legs are heavy, as he forces himself to leave her. When he returns to Belle’s room the next morning, seeing her vacant expression, he can tell Belle is once again gone. Later that day, he observes Mayor Regina Mills peeking into Belle’s cell.
Mike keeps waiting for Belle to reawaken, but Agnes always seems to be ahead of him, with a new concoction of meds. Belle is looking increasingly fail and lost. He has no idea how to help her, so he further medicates himself with alcohol. April 29, 2012 (two weeks before the curse breaks), Mike receives a text to go to ‘the room’, and his heart sinks. When he arrives, Belle is flailing strapped down and Agnes is injecting her with ‘God knows what’. Mike screams at Agnes, as monitor alarms sound, “You’re going to kill her! I don’t think Mayor Mills would like that.” Agnes turns ghostly white. Observing her reaction, Mike says, “I knew it! I knew that witch was involved somehow. This woman is obviously a pawn. I don’t think our Mayor would find a dead pawn particularly useful.” Agnes feigns, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” With steely eyes, Mike says, “Oh, I think you do.”, as he readies a crash cart that he fears he will need any moment now. “She is not a lab rat. She is a person…and my guess is she’s quite valuable to the Mayor, so we will start weaning her off whatever witches brew of meds that you’ve concocted this time. And you will not…I repeat, not toy with her meds again!”
Rumpelstiltskin pulls himself from his taxing vision, trying to focus on the words before him in the file…”BP 220/130” “seizure” and ”cardiac arrest”. Trembling, he puts his face in his hands, strangled by the realization that a mere two weeks prior to Belle’s return to him, she almost died. He wants to hurl the file across the room, but grabs it with a death grip instead. For all the vile misery that Agnes’ sick experiments bring, there is one tiny; miniscule saving grace…Agnes is very thorough in testing her experiment subjects. Indeed, in any other hospital, there would be road blocks to such involved and expensive tests, but Regina has given Agnes free reign and all the latest and best testing equipment. Rumpelstiltskin reads prognosis regarding liver function tests, a renal panel, cardiac and neurological tests, and he is more terrified than if an ogre were about to rip him limb from limb. Somehow, some way, he must convince Belle to let him heal some of the damage, because the damage is much too extensive to be handled alone by a potion in some tea. As he reads through the file, he finds discussion of the prognosis based on another set of tests. He wants to cry out in agony for Belle. While Belle’s heart is his primary worry, he knows this will be devastating to her. He debates not telling her, but how can he keep something like this from Belle? He can’t. He knows he can’t, and that fixing it magically holds too high of a cost. Just then, he notices Belle sitting up in bed, staring at him. She swallows hard, “What is it? What are you reading?”
Trying and failing to appear casual, Rumpelstiltskin replies, “Just some paper work dear.” Her eyes lock on him like lasers, “Paper work, regarding what?” He is not at all ready for this, as his mind swims with all he has seen and read. Resolutely, he answers, “It’s your hospital file.” He feels his stomach clench, as she reaches out her hand, and then says, “I want to read it.” “Belle, you’ve had a trying day. Perhaps another…” She cuts him off, “No. Now Rumpelstiltskin!” As he momentarily ponders getting rid of the one page that will upset Belle the most, Belle adds, “I want to see all of it.” A strangled growl rumbles from his throat as he walks, cane in hand, over to the bed and says, “As you wish, darling.”
Placing the file in her lap, he adds, “The earliest entries are in the back. So if you want to read it chronologically, you start from the back.” Belle cautiously opens the file, as though it were toxic. Rumpelstiltskin observes her tight-lipped expression, as she flips through the file. Shaking her head, she speaks as if talking to herself, “It’s so odd, some of this I remember, but some is really hazy or even a total blank.” She seems to be skimming through the file quickly, perhaps not to dwell on unpleasant memories. He hopes that her haphazard reading will cause her to not engage with the details of particularly upsetting pages. Though she is moving rapidly through the file, it feels to him as though time is standing still as his blood pounds in his ears. As she is nearing the end of the file, she reads a page with various comments pertaining to vital organs. Rumpelstiltskin observes the fear in her eyes and the tension in her body as she trembles slightly. He finds himself holding his breath, wanting to compel her to skip past the next page. However, she turns to the next page and stares, eyes wide and mouth gaping, as her right hand curls into a tight fist. Almost panting, she closes the folder and hands it back to him aggressively. With a razor sharp bitterness in her voice Belle says, “Well, isn’t that just wonderful?!? Take it. I’m done. I am really done.” He reaches for her, as he says, “Belle, it might not…” Jerking away in anger, face reddened, the ghost of tears blazing in her eyes, “Don’t! Just don’t!” Pulling back, yet still trying to calm her, “Belle, sweetheart…” With adrenalin pumping through her body, she bounds off the bed, half stumbling, half running for the bathroom, and yells, “I don’t want to talk about it!”, then slams the door. Rumpelstiltskin sits at a loss for what to do. To see Belle in such misery rips at his very being. He wants to kill Regina, and that shrew, Agnes as well…not by magic, “Oh no, that’s too good for them”, he thinks ruefully. He wants the pleasure of ripping apart each of them limb from limb until they beg for the mercy of death. Indeed, he would go exact his revenge on them now, if he did not fear leaving Belle alone.
As the day progresses, Belle is highly agitated and hostile. He is not sure how much of her mood is the result of the revelations in her file or the effect of her withdraws from the one remaining med, Haloperidol, that the hospital had been giving her. It is likely both, he surmises. She barely speaks the rest of the day, paces manically and at dinner, barely touches her food. When pressed to drink her special tea, Belle makes a show of gulping it down and slamming the cup on the table with such a force it is surprising that the cup does not break. He can see that she is refusing to acknowledge sorrow, rather nursing a festering rage. He understands her preference towards rage, feeling it is better than falling apart, yet he fears Belle’s embrace of rage. It is not in congruence with her beautiful spirit, yet of even more concern, is the damage it might be doing to Belle’s weakened body. The night ends with them going to bed in silence. Rumpelstiltskin lays in Belle’s bed, on top of the covers, to be near her if the nightmares come.
Around three in the morning, Rumpelstiltskin awakes to the noticeable absence of Belle in the bed. Startling to alertness, he surveys the room to see her sitting on the window seat absentmindedly drawing doodles in the condensation on the window. Before he can say anything, she speaks without looking at him, “Go back to sleep. I’m fine.” He remains sitting up in bed watching her for a few minutes to see if she will rejoin him of her own accord. Seeing no indication that she plans to move soon, he gets up and joins her on the window seat. He sits and waits for her to speak. After a couple of minutes, Belle says, “I think my mother would have been quite content to have never had a child…she likely would have preferred it. Not I…I always wanted children. Regina just had to take that away too.” Her voice begins to crack, “Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe I would have been a terrible mother.” In a calm soothing tone, he says, “You’re going to be a wonderful mother.” She looks at him incredulously, “How can you say that? You read the same report that I did. I’m a hair’s breath away from being…being…barren!” The dam breaks and Belle begins to sob like a howling storm. Rumpelstiltskin pulls her into his arms and strokes her back, as she cries out all the sorrow that she has had locked away for the past several hours. After several minutes, she says mournfully, “I can never give you a child.” Pulling away just enough to see her face, both his hands wipe her tear drenched cheeks, “You don’t know that for certain. And even if that’s the case, do you think that’s what matters to me? It could have just as easily been me to not be able to provide you with a child. I am a couple hundred years old, you know. Things happen. Would you love me any less?” Argumentatively, she says, “No, but that’s not the point.” With an unwavering tone, he counters, “Yes, it is, Belle; that is the point. I love you no matter what. And there are other things we can try.” In a worried tone, Belle says, “No magic. Not for this. The potential price is too high. We can’t do that to our child.” Trying to steady her, he reassures, “I know. I wasn’t talking about magic. We can research what this realm has to offer. Besides that report was one twisted person’s opinion.” “Based on science!”, Belle counters. He scoffs, “Science knows nothing of the human spirit. You, my dear, are the most spirited person I know. There is still hope.” Bitterly she replies, “False hope. It hurts too much to hope.” He strokes a finger under her jaw line, and says, “There is no such thing as false hope. Hope in its essence is true.” She shakes her head, and then stares out the window. After a moment, he adds, “And if we can’t produce a child, we could adopt one.” A bitter chuckle escapes her lips as she looks at him with her eyebrows raised, “And who is going to give a child to the Dark One and a mental patient?!?” A pained look takes over his expression, and Belle says, “Look, I’m sorry. I know you are just trying to cheer me up…but I don’t want to be cheered up. I’m angry, I’m sad and I’m frustrated. I just want to hate the world right now…especially Regina. Am I not entitled to feel what I feel?” Resolutely, he says, “Fine. I have a project that needs my attention any way.”, then walks out of the room. Belle momentarily wonders what project he could have in the wee hours of the morning, and then loses interest in the thought, staring out the window. She knows she is being unkind to him and hates herself for it, but right now, she just doesn’t feel kind and loving. So much of her life has been systematically chipped away because of Regina’s schemes, and this is just one chip too many.
Sometime later, Rumpelstiltskin returns with a hammer, a nail, a hand held stud finder and some sort of framed picture. He glides the stud finder along the wall, which is across from the bed. After locating the wall stud, he begins to hammer a nail into the wall. The sound startles Belle out of her thoughts. Getting up and walking over to him, she asks, “What are you doing?” With a smirk, he replies, “I’m improving the décor. ‘We should let some light in’.” Her brow furrows in confusion as her mouth hangs open a bit. Then she sees the picture that he is hanging. It’s her drawing of Rumpelstiltskin, Baelfire and herself, pregnant. Once the picture is securely in place, he steps back and puts his arms around her from behind, pulling her back flush to the front of his body, and whispers next to her ear, “Every morning when you wake up, I want you to look at this picture and know one thing to be true…’anything is possible.’” She stares mesmerized at the picture of their would-be family and leans back into his warm embrace as he nuzzles his face against her hair. Then Rumpelstiltskin adds, “Now, darling, please come to bed. You need your rest, and I need to feel your lovely body next to me.” Belle turns, reaches her arms around his neck, feeling the tickle of his hair on her cheek. Parting, they walk to the bed, he lays on top of the covers, and she lays beneath, resting her head on his chest, Belle sighs, “I do adore you so.”