“Rumpelstiltskin & Belle Metamorphosis Through Love” Chapter 1 “The Very Long Day” Part 1

“Collaboration of Love”
This is a scan of an acrylic and ink multimedia art piece that I made for an upcoming charity auction, Dec. 8th-15th, being put on by Pamela Anneliese Parker’s Facebook group “Once Upon A Time… Fan Community” to raise funds for With Kids, a children’s charity for which Robert Carlyle is ambassador. Details to follow.
*I do not own the rights to these characters.

  • Author’s Note: This is written with great respect, love and gratitude for the talents of Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, all the cast of Once Upon A Time, all the writers of OUAT, but especially, Jane Espenson, who wrote my two favorite OUAT episodes “Desperate Souls” and “Skin Deep”. The inspiration of the aforementioned talents marks the end of my approximately fifteen year drought in writing fiction. Thank you all!
    All fictions here are written by me, Nicole Muench Seidel
    To my readers, though this is heavily inspired by season one, it will not always be ‘canon’, and since this story has been in the making during the hiatus, it will not be a carbon copy of events from the upcoming season two. I have a particular ending goal for my story, hence season two stories that work with that goal might be included, while stories that are detrimental to that goal will not. In my opinion, Belle is the ultimate ‘Butterfly Effect’ to Rumpelstiltskin and his plans, adding chaos, but also love to his life. I do not own these characters. It is my intent to illuminate the heart of these characters with supreme respect for the talents that created them. So, enjoy the ride.
    P.S. Cyber kudos to those who can figure out the significance of Belle’s patient number. Feel free to leave a comment about this story. Thank you! —Nicole MS

  • The very long day started as a routine day for patient number 682303. As routine as it could be for someone secretly locked in a mental ward for almost twenty-nine years, as part of Evil Queen Regina’s power play. Patient number 682303 had finished her dinner. She was sick, bored and regretting her hasty decision from the previous day. She felt an unnamed emptiness in her spirit, as she had for nearly twenty-nine years. She used the handle of the spoon and left over beet juice to doodle on a napkin. Once finished, she tucked it in her sleeve, hoping it wouldn’t be taken from her. It always seemed like things were being taken from her. Laying on her cot, the door opened, and everything changed. An orderly named, Jefferson, entered her room told her to find Mr. Gold, whoever that was, and tell him that Regina had locked her up. Wearing hospital clothing and a tweed coat ‘borrowed’ from the unconscious head nurse in the mental ward of Storybrooke Hospital, 682303 was escorted by Jefferson out of the hospital and directed to Mr. Gold’s shop. The shop appeared closed, but the door was unlocked, thus she ventured to the back room, where a man in a dark suit was standing with his back to her. 682303 asked, “Are you Mr. Gold?” The man with a Scottish brogue started to speak before facing her. He seemed intent upon giving her the bum’s rush out the door, until he saw her face. 682303′s day became more strange, as the man gawked at her as though she were a ghost. She managed to do as instructed by Jefferson, asking for protection from Regina. To her confusion and shock, the man, with the flowing dark hair and dark eyes, looked at her with unabashed love and hugged her in a manner that was unlike any embrace that she could remember. They left the store, got into his black Cadillac car, drove to a wooded area and walked into the forest and up the mountain. 682303 was very unsure as to what they were doing, but she obediently followed. As they approached a peak, a wave of light flowed through the forest. With that flow of light, everything that she knew changed. The emptiness that she had felt had a name, Rumpelstiltskin It was him! It had to be. He looked different since her time at the castle, but it was definitely him, and her name was Belle. Their last words at the castle were words of hurt and anger, after Belle made the biggest mistake of her life, taking the advice of a seemingly kind stranger, Regina. Yet Rumpelstiltskin had embraced her with such love at the shop, perhaps he had forgiven her transgression. Belle’s love for Rumpelstiltskin seemed to be trying to burst out of her every pore. She declared her love for him, and to her delight and astonishment he reciprocated with a declaration of love. Belle’s dreams were finally coming true. Then Rumpelstiltskin said, “There’ll be time for that later. There’ll be time for everything. But first there’s something I must do.” He poured True Love’s Potion into the old wishing well. Purple mist appeared, and as was typical in life with Rumpelstiltskin, uncertainty reigned supreme.

    Now, at the peak of the forest, magical purple mist billows from the old stone wishing well. Belle’s face has a look of disbelief. Rumpelstiltskin, who has an expression of someone basking in victory, surveys the fruits of his labor; the True Love magic dispersing throughout the town. Shifting the position of his gold handled cane in his right hand, he looks into her bewildered blue eyes, as his left hand softly brushes aside her long chestnut brown hair. He touches Belle on the shoulder and says, “We must get going.”, then puts his arm around her guiding her onward. Confusion floods Belle’s being, as the wind kicks up and the purple magic mist engulfs the town below. They begin to descend the uneven terrain of the wooded mountain to Rumpelstiltskin’s car. Back in the car, his words “Magic is power.”, echo in Belle’s ears. Rumpelstiltskin had told her that he loves her. She had been certain that he was earnest…his eyes and embrace had told her heart what she needed to know. Yet moments later, he told her “Magic is power.” She couldn’t help wondering what that meant for them. The initial adrenaline rush of seeing her true love had masked her physical pain, pushing it from her consciousness. Now, as the car jarred from a bump in the road, Belle winces from the pain that is her ever present companion, but she tries her best to hide her discomfort, as she does not want to discuss it yet. Rumpelstiltskin notes the confusion and disappointment on her face. He needs to get her back to the solitude of his house before he can reveal any more. Hoping that the right words will reveal themselves to him by that time, and that she will understand, he busily rattles off mundane information about the town and its residents. He keeps talking in order to dissuade Belle from posing any questions until they reach home. Belle, dizzied by the purple mist, the movement of the car and a turmoil within her body and spirit, catches on to only pieces of what Rumpelstiltskin says, yet nods attentively as Rumpelstiltskin continues his monologue. Her head throbs and her body feels shaky and flushed. Belle’s mind is becoming as foggy as Storybrooke itself. The purple mist begins to dissipate. Once reaching town, they pass various buildings that Belle barely acknowledges, as she spends much of the time looking down at the floor mat, feeling queasy. Pulling the car into the garage, he declares with a smile, “We’re here.”, and Belle smiles back, trying to hide her mounting discomfort. She thinks to herself, “Yes, ‘we’re here.’ I’m here, finally back with Rumpelstiltskin.” wincing from pain, “Now, if only this infernal headache would go away.” They exit the vehicle and the garage. She looks up at the old three story, Queen Anne Victorian, coral pink house. “It has character.”, she thinks to herself, “and it appears to have many rooms to get lost in.” she worries in her disoriented state. Belle grabs the railing, as they make their way up the stairs to the porch. While Rumpelstiltskin unlocks the ornate double doors, Belle is mesmerized by the frosted red, green, blue and gold stained glass windows that twinkle with the light passing through them. Rumpelstiltskin opens the door, then with a gallant wave of his arm, motions for Belle to enter. She tilts her head to the side and smiles, but feels a nervous flutter, as she realizes that she’s not sure what she wants to say. Entering, to the right Belle notices an intricately carved staircase, then Rumpelstiltskin gently guides her to the sitting room to her left. The walls and ceiling are also coral pink, and there is a lovely old chandelier in the center of the room that creates a spectrum of colors as light floods in from the bay windows. Belle is struck by the strange dichotomy in the arrangement of objects and furniture, some placements appearing well thought out, while others seem as though he had just moved in and is still deciding their proper place. Feeling as though she’s being heated from the inside out, Belle struggles to regain her composure. This is the day for which she has waited so long and wants to be sweet and lovely. Opening her mouth to speak, Belle blurts out, “What in the devil is going on?!?” Both Belle and Rumpelstiltskin are stunned by the outburst. “Well, Belle, there are some things we should discuss.” Rumpelstiltskin says calmly. Belle’s head begins to feel as though someone is trying to pierce it, and there is a flash of anger in her eyes, “’Magic is power.’!…’Magic is power.’ You told me you love me, then a minute later, you tell me, ‘Magic is power.’?!?” Attempting to defuse the situation, Rumpelstiltskin says, “There were things that I needed to do.” “Yes, send purple magic all over the place. Is that stuff safe? Are people going to be hurt by it?” Not giving him time to answer, stepping closer to Rumpelstiltskin, “The last time I saw you…you said that your power meant more to you than I did. Is it true?” He hesitates thinking of Baelfire. Belle’s eyes become glassy and dart around the room and her mouth falls open, while she runs her hands through her hair, “It’s true…isn’t it? It always has been, but I was just to foolish to see it.” Rumpelstiltskin attempts to strategize. He knows something that would diffuse the situation, likely leaving Belle completely disarmed, however it is not something he wishes to share, just to douse the flames of her anger. Using another tactic, he puts his hands onto Belle’s shoulders, trying to make eye contact, “It’s not like that. There was…there is a reason.” Belle interrupts, “I kissed you…no, wait, my recollection is we kissed each other…you were leaning toward me, just as much as I leaned toward you. I may have been very foolish listening to that witch, Regina, but you…kissed…me…too. Then you hated me for it.” Rumpelstiltskin’s voice becomes low with a slight hint of frustration, “I didn’t hate you.” The truth that he can’t bring himself to say to his darling, Belle, is that part of him had hated her. He hated, that by falling prey to Regina’s trick, Belle shattered their comfortable limbo. Belle had forced his hand, and ruined his joy at seeing her every day, and for a while, a part of him had hated her, but quickly the hatred dissipated and all that remained was the love. Rumpelstiltskin continues, “We both know that was not a simple kiss. You wanted to break the curse.” Belle admits, “Yes, I wanted to break the curse. I wanted us to be together…and usually, someone who has a curse wants it to be broken.” “Why didn’t you talk to me about it?” Rumpelstiltskin counters. “Why didn’t you keep your end of the deal and really tell me about your son? Hmm…something too hard to do?” Belle sees the affirmative answer in his eyes, “Well, I didn’t want to just blurt out that I loved you…”, her voice begins to crack, “just to have you laugh at me.” Rumpelstiltskin frowns in disbelief. “Laugh at you? How could you think I’d do that?” “You gave me plenty of reasons to think that,”, Belle takes a breath, then continues, “but if I broke the curse, I thought you would have been grateful that I had, and if the curse didn’t break, I’d know you didn’t really love me.” “You couldn’t love me with the curse.”, said Rumpelstiltskin, “You wanted to fix me.” An infuriated Belle chides, “Stop rewriting our history! That’s not how it was. I made every excuse I could to talk to you…to be near you. I thought it would be easier without the curse…I thought you’d truly let me in, if it was gone.” “That’s not who I am.” says a stoic Rumpelstiltskin. Wishing to refute his statement about her motives, Belle fires back, “Who are you then? I spent two months trying to figure it out. Every time I thought I was getting close to an answer, you would play some trick on me or make a joke, and I was back where I started…with no one to talk to for guidance to understand this whirlwind named, Rumpelstiltskin.” Defensively, Rumpelstiltskin says, “I was just teasing you. I thought you enjoyed my quips.” “I did…I do, but I was smart enough to know that they were meant to keep me off balance and at a distance, so I was never really sure of your feelings.” Rumpelstiltskin counters, “How can you say you weren’t sure? You seemed certain when we kissed.” “Remember when you told me that you were a difficult man to love?”, Belle asks. Rumpelstiltskin recalls the moment. Belle continues, “Remember what you were doing when you said that? How you held me and nuzzled against my hair?” A mixture of guilt and wistful pleasure sweeps it’s way across Rumpelstiltskin’s face. Belle explains, “You were always sending me mixed messages. You were only half right.” “What’s that suppose to mean?” Rumpelstiltskin asks in an irritated tone. Belle responds, “You are the most difficult, infuriating, frustrating man that I’ve ever known! But you were easy for me to love. In that moment, I knew nothing of True Love’s Kiss, nor it’s effect on curses. I just ached for you. I loved you, and I felt myself having feelings…so many feelings that I had never felt. I was so confused…nothing I knew made sense.” “Of course loving me didn’t make sense. Indeed, can you sincerely say that you wanted me when we stood by the mirror?”, Rumpelstiltskin queries. Belle steps closer to him, looking directly into his eyes, “I wanted to give the whole of myself to you…and having you change was not a requirement for my love. It was all so confusing. It was not what I was taught. Women in our world were treated as just so much chattel, in arranged marriages where the husband was paid a nice dowry for taking the woman off the father’s hands. Women weren’t suppose to have desires, not for any man. Even with husbands, that kind of contact was suppose to be just a chore on our lists, not something to be enjoyed. Your touch left me breathless and wanting more. But I didn’t know if I could trust you…I didn’t know if you loved me or just wanted to get your hands on me.” Shocked, Rumpelstiltskin says, “How can you say that, Belle? I loved you so much! You were the only person who could reach me, since I lost my son.” Belle firing back, “You never said that, and I was forever off balance with your jokes…I didn’t want to be a fool to another one of your little quips. You always had to be changing position, never letting anyone pin you down. Did you ever once consider looking for me after I left the castle?” “Regina told me that you died.”, he explains. Belle responds, “I know. Regina use to get immense pleasure from telling me about it. But before she came to you, did you ever consider looking for me?” Choosing not to answer, he asks, “Why couldn’t you have been satisfied with what we had? You just had to push and change everything.” he says with frustration in his voice. A shocked Belle, gestures to herself, “Me? You told me to go to town, and that you didn’t expect to see me again.” “Yes, because I loved you.”, Rumpelstiltskin explains. “I figured that out eventually, because that’s what Regina told me. She knew just how to play her game, because she knew you were keeping me in the dark. Not telling me things, like why the mirror was covered.”, says Belle. Rumpelstiltskin takes an authoritarian tone, “There were things that I didn’t think you needed to know.” Belle glares at him and with a tone of sarcasm says, “That turned out splendidly.” Her mocking stokes a fire within him wishing to set her straight, but before he can do so, Belle instructs, “Rumpelstiltskin, close your eyes.” He protests, “What? Why?” “Just do it.”, Belle matches his protest. Rumpelstiltskin does so with jaw clenched. “Can you see me?”, she asks. “No.”, he answers. “Good…can you hear me?”, the sarcasm clear in her voice. He glares at Belle, “I’m the one who plays games, am I now?” Belle counters, “I learned from the best, but you never taught me to beware of that lunatic, who was obsessed with causing misery.” “That is no excuse for not talking to me about the kiss.”, Rumpelstiltskin redirects. Belle explains, “When she stopped me on the road, I suddenly had someone to talk to about my confusion over my feelings for you. I was naive, foolish and desperate for someone, who seemed to have knowledge in the ways of love. Once I heard about True Love’s Kiss, I realized it was the only way to be sure if you loved me or not.” Belle gives a chuckle of irony and disdain. “…and I thought ‘What would be the harm?’. Shaking her head, “I got my proof that you loved me, then you treated me like this… “, she starts to stammer, “…this thing that you were done with and wanted to dispose of. This thing that had gotten stuck to the shoe of the great, and oh so perfect, Rumpelstiltskin. Do you have any idea what that felt like?…what that does to a person? Regina was right, I did die…I felt myself die when you cast me off. My world was torn into a millions little pieces…and part of me hated you for it.” Rumpelstiltskin stands silent in cold shock at Belle’s statement. Belle continues, “…but more than that, I hated me. I loved you so much, but I did some stupid thing, that I really didn’t understand. I hated that you could make me feel so small…I hated that I still loved you desperately, and if you said the word or snapped your fingers, I’d still have come running…willing to be with you any way that you wanted, just so I could be near you. I thought when you calmed down that you would come after me…” then her voice becomes a mournful whisper,”…but you never did.” Rumpelstiltskin’s eyes lower momentarily to the floor. Belle wipes her face of the one tear that left her eyes without permission, then she walks around the room seemingly lost, as she grapples with the knowledge that nothing is going how she pictured it a million times before. Talking about the painful memories is not what she wants. She had planned to start anew, yet now every time she speaks the hurt and broken parts of her force their way out. Rumpelstiltskin thinking about that day, and his decisions thereafter, he searches his mind through his own guilt. Then an unexpected question emerges from his lips, “So you would have given up having a family to be with me?” His tone turns sarcastic, posing what he thinks is an absurd question, and his hand flourishes dramatically, “or would you have had children with me?”, his hand resting upon his chest. Belle answers emphatically, “Yes. You would have been my family, and if you wanted to have children with me, I would have done that too. I thought about that so many nights in my room. I didn’t know if it was possible for us to have children, or how that would have worked. But, yes, I would have had your children, and I would have adored them, because they would have come from our love…but you never gave me a chance. You were just too caught up in showing that you were better than me.” “Better than you?!?”, he says, stunned by the idea. Belle in a resentful tone, “Yes, better than me…lord and master, Rumpelstiltskin, who occasionally deigned to associate with such a mere mortal as me. The day you held me, if I had kissed you like I wanted, what would you have done then?” She steps back from him and rests her hand on an antique cabinet positioned against the wall. Biding his time for a reasonable answer to occur to him, “I’m not sure what you’re asking.” Belle’s tone momentarily softens, looking intently into his eyes, “I wanted to kiss you in that moment…I wanted to do all sorts of things.” A hint of a smile curls the corner of Rumpelstiltskin’s mouth. Belle continues, “If I had kissed you, with no knowledge of True Love’s Kiss, and you started to change, would you still have blamed me?” The smile flees Rumpelstiltskin’s lips, taking in the seriousness of Belle’s query. Her brow furrows, and very angry edge comes to Belle’s voice, “Would the great Rumpelstiltskin have absolved himself of all responsibility and put it all on my shoulders?” A silence envelopes the room, and a distraught Belle chastises herself, “I have to stop antagonizing him. I’m ruining everything, again.” Wanting to cry, Belle’s headache becomes more severe, and the beginnings of a vertigo like experience emerge, as she tries harder look into his eyes and focus. If he didn’t want her in the past, would he ever truly want her?, she wonders. A sense of despair, rains across her being as she questions how he will ever be able to love this broken person that she’s become. Feeling like a mad woman blurting out things that she shouldn’t, how will he be able to love her once he knows the truth? Knowing one day she’ll have to tell him, and he likely won’t be able to live with the knowledge of her past, and will cast her aside, one final time, she sinks into sorrow. Rumpelstiltskin, feeling as though Belle’s eyes are trying to tear right through him, ponders their last moments together in the castle. They both had said hurtful things in those last moments. He knows he had hurt her. Indeed, he had tried to hurt her. However, not until now, in the silence of the room with her blue eyes staring him down, had the realization of how deep he had cut her occurred to him. He had been so happy to have her back…alive…saying that she loves him, but now, Rumpelstiltskin is having trouble seeing the way forward. Every path seems to lead to her inevitably leaving him…alone and devastated again. Looking at Belle’s hand gripping the cabinet ever tighter, Rumpelstiltskin begins to consider her state. He had observed her hand moments before, but attributed her tight grip to an affect of rage. Now, something just doesn’t seem right. Her eyes seem to be straining, and there is a paleness about her face. Seeing Belle’s grip shift and a look of worry erupts from her eyes, Rumpelstiltskin quickly moves to her side as her legs buckle. He catches her with an arm around her ribs to steady her, as she stifles a scream from the pain. The connection that he had once had with her is gone, and now he must rely on deducing her state from her body language. “Belle, please sit down.”, he motions to the couch, “There’s so much I need to tell you.” She stumbles as she walks, but rights herself. “Belle, are you alright?”, Rumpelstiltskin asks in a worried tone. She seats herself, “I’m fine…I’m sorry…we shouldn’t talk about the past.” Belle says trying to smooth things over, “There’s no point to it, just please explain to me what is happening now and why?” Noticing her drawn features, “Do you want something to eat or drink?” he asks. Belle’s stomach clenches at the thought of food, as her dinner twists inside her. “Some water would be nice. Thank you.” He goes to the kitchen to get the water. Belle leans forward on the couch holding her head in her hands. The muscles in her eyes constrict. Rumpelstiltskin notices her physical strain as he reenters, “Here you go, my dear.” he says, handing her the glass. Belle reaches for the glass, but as she grips with her right hand, she realizes that she can’t hold it single handed and quickly brings up her other hand to steady the glass. Rumpelstiltskin watches the water quaking as she brings it to her lips, gulping thirstily. He observes that while her right hand seems weakened, her left hand appears damaged in some way. Calmly he says, “Belle, we can talk about this later.” Belle urges, “No, please tell me what’s going on. Is there more to this than power?” Rumpelstiltskin begins to explain, “Belle, it is about what I need the power for…maybe if I had told you this years ago, we…”, his voice trails off, “I need you to know that I always loved you. Please don’t doubt that.” Belle blinks away tears. He continues, “I’m sorry for the way that
    I lashed out at you after we kissed. It’s something that I’ve regretted for so long. Long ago, long before anyone that you know was born, I lost my son and swore never to love another person.” At that moment, Belle lurched forward with a pain that shot through her entire body. “Belle! What’s going on?!?”, Rumpelstiltskin exclaims. Unable to keep up the pretense of being fine, “I’m just not feeling well, but please don’t stop. I need to know the truth.” Rumpelstiltskin says firmly, “No, it can wait. Let me get you up to stairs and draw you a nice warm bath.” Her eyes grow wide and she shakes her head, “No, cold.” “Cold?”, Rumpelstiltskin, says with a tone of confusion. “Very cold!”, Belle confirms emphatically. He touches her cheek and feels that she is indeed hot to the touch. As she stands, her legs wobble, and he puts his left arm around her, as they walk to the stairs and ascend. In his loneliness at this house, Rumpelstiltskin had kept one bedroom ready for a guest that he never expected to come. Figuring if all went well, one day, perhaps Bae could stay in that room or any room of his choosing. Having some sundries in the adjacent bath, he wasn’t sure if he had anything appropriate for a female guest. Entering the guest room which is next to his own room, Rumpelstiltskin guides Belle to a green brocade wing-back chair, positioned to the right of bathroom door. “Sit here for a moment. I will make certain that you’ll have what you need. Then your bath will be ready momentarily.” Touching his arm, “No need to go through a lot of trouble for me, Rumpelstiltskin. The hospital is hardly a place of royal treatment.” The irony of that statement hits them both simultaneously, as they both shake their heads. Rummaging through the bathroom cabinets, he readies towels, wash rags, soap, shampoo…and spots lavender bubble bath in the back of a drawer. Not recalling when he bought such a thing, Rumpelstiltskin is relieved to have something that is pampering for his Belle. He draws the cold water into the claw foot tub. He returns to Belle, “Alright then, your bath awaits you.”, he says with a smile. “Thank you, that’s kind of you.”, Belle says, lightly touching his arm, then carefully she rising from her seat. Entering the bathroom together, he instructs her on the use of the retrofitted shower attachment, “If you would like to use the shower head, it detaches from the hook here, then flip this knob, turn those knobs. Do you need any help?” Both suddenly feel awkward with that question. “Uh, no thank you…I can handle things from here.”, Belle says shyly. He exits, and Belle, feeling wobbly and disoriented, looks around getting familiarized with her surroundings. Rumpelstiltskin sits on the bed, looking around the room, to see if any adjustments need to be made. “Rumpelstiltskin?”, Belle says popping her head out of the slightly ajar door. “If it’s alright with you, I’m going to lay these clothes on the chair, but don’t look.” “As you wish, Belle.” She starts to disrobe, having the door open just a crack to reach through and deposit the clothes on the chair. The edge of a piece of paper hangs out from the bundle of clothes. Once Belle is done and closes the door, Rumpelstiltskin goes to his room and opens the wardrobe, pulling out one of his plush robes. He could conjure her some clothing, but he doesn’t want to seem presumptuous. Additionally, the thought of Belle wearing his robe brings a smile to his face. Next, he grabs a bottle of leave in conditioner and a comb. Belle, in her bubble bath, relishes the cold. Though it makes her shiver a bit, the cold is clearing some of the fog from her mind, greatly improving her state. The scent of the lavender relaxes her. An impulse strikes her, and she grabs her nose and takes as deep a breath as she dares, then immerses herself entirely. The cold and the solitude soothe her mind, as she ponders the unlikely events of this day. Rumpelstiltskin returns to the guestroom with his robe, the conditioner and comb. He places the conditioner and comb on the night stand and begins to pace, wondering about Belle’s state. Belle still completely immersed, realizes she has stayed under the water too long as a pain originating in her ribcage tears it’s way through her entire being. Jolting up out of the water with a loud gasp, Rumpelstiltskin hears the commotion and asks in a worried tone, “Belle, are you alright?!?” Feeling a bit embarrassed, “Yes, yes, I’m fine. I’ll be out soon.” She gulps nervously realizing she has nothing to wear. “One thing at a time.” she tells herself, “I can get through this, one thing at a time.” In her tension, she scratches at a small scar on her upper left arm. Then, she quickly washes her hair, uses the shower head to rinse her hair and is ready to get out. Gripping the side of the tub, she tries to get up, but slips back down. “Oh no, I have to be able to do this.”, she says to herself. Belle tries getting up again, landing with a thud this time. Concerned, Rumpelstiltskin asks, “Belle, do you need help?” There is silence as she debates what to do. “Belle?”, mildly panicked. Surrendering to the inevitable, a nervous Belle says, “Uh yes, I’m having trouble standing back up…my legs are weak, and it’s too slippery.” “I’m coming in.”, Rumpelstiltskin declares. “Wait. Just don’t look, alright.” Belle requests nervously. “I won’t. It’ll be okay. I’ll be right with you.”, Rumpelstiltskin reassures her. He goes to the hall chest, grabbing the biggest towel that he has, then slings his robe across the back of his neck. “Alright now, here I come.” Rumpelstiltskin announces. He opens the door, looking up at the ceiling with the large towel stretched out wide in front of him, using his right hand to hold both his cane and the right side of the towel. Reaching the tub, he says, “Here, grab my arm. Can you pull yourself up?” “Yes, I can do that.” Belle confirms. She grips his arm, and the water from her hands soaks through his sleeve. “I’m sorry, but I got your jacket wet.” Realizing he forgot to take off his suit jacket, “It’s fine. It’s just a suit.” The shift in weight against his arm tells him that she made it to a standing position. Looking at the ceiling, Belle’s distorted reflection in the metal rim of the light catches his eye…he notices a brownish-purplish mark at the left side of her rib cage, and though the image is distorted, he can see a lump there. “You promised not to look!” Belle scolds him. “Yes, I’m sorry…I wasn’t really looking.”, redirecting his eyes to another part of the ceiling. She wraps the towel around herself, then braces herself using his arm and steps out onto the rug in front of the tub. Once she has stable footing, Rumpelstiltskin removes the robe from around his neck and presents it to her to wear, as he continues to gaze at the ceiling. Getting his robe on and tied, Belle says, “Thank you.” in a sweet, shy tone. “All covered then?” he asks. “Yes, you can look now.”, she confirms. Rumpelstiltskin notes that Belle looks adorable in his robe, which is clearly too big for her, and he hands her a towel for her hair. Loving the feel of Rumpelstiltskin’s robe against her skin, Belle notices that it smells like him, a realization that makes the robe even more enjoyable. “Belle, I think you should lay down for a while.” he says with a concerned tone to his voice. “You’re probably right.”, Belle agrees. Pulling back the blanket, she climbs into the bed. Rumpelstiltskin informs Belle, “In a while, I can see about getting you some proper clothes.” Belle’s expression changes to worry. “What’s wrong?”, he asks. Belle stammers, trying to explain, “I don’t know how to say this, but it feels strange for you to do that. I…I mean, you’ll be seeing my…my undergarments before you’re invited to.” Belle’s face turns beet red, at the thought of what she just implied. “Invited to?” Rumpelstiltskin says, as the comment is too tempting to let pass. “I mean…that is…you’re a man” a tone of frustration claims her voice, “Oh, you know what I mean!” “Oh of course, dearie. Just so I know, will this invitation be arriving by carrier dove?”, he teases. Belle swats him with a pillow. Trying to sound conciliatory, Rumpelstiltskin says, “I’m sorry for teasing you, but you’re so beautiful when you’re flustered.” “Beautiful? I think your eyes have gone bad.”, Belle says, with a tone of self derision. He looks at her puzzled, then worry overtakes him, remembering the mark on her rib cage. “You saw it, didn’t you? Ugly thing.”, Belle sighs. “Only for a moment.”, he sits next to her on the edge of the bed, “Please, Belle, tell me what happened.”, implores Rumpelstiltskin “Regina and her guards can be overzealous sometimes. It never healed quite right. I really don’t want to talk about it now.” Rumpelstiltskin’s stomach clenches at the thought. “I’ll handle Regina.”, he says in a seething tone. “No! Please…do we have to deal with this now?”, says Belle becoming upset. “No, we don’t. I will.”, he says, firmly with an tinge of hostility to his voice. Becoming more emotional, Belle urges, “Please stop this. I’m afraid.” Taken aback, he questions, “Afraid? Of me?” Belle explains with a vulnerable tone to her voice, “We’re here. We’re together, but it all feels like some dream that I might wake from at any moment. I’m afraid of you, of me, of everything blowing away with the wind.” He attempts to reassure her, “It’s alright, Belle. I’m here. I’ll protect you. I’ll take care of everything.” “But I don’t want that!”, Belle protests with an expression that is both fragile and
    strong. “What do you mean? You came to me for protection.”, he says, bewildered by her stance. Belle responds, “Yes, when I didn’t know who you were. Now, I do, and I can’t lose you again! I can’t let Regina hurt you, because of me. I’d rather be dead!” Horrified, Rumpelstiltskin exclaims, “No! Don’t say that! Don’t ever say that, Belle!” “You don’t know what it was like. In our realm, knowing every day that you were possibly in danger, because of me. I didn’t know if our kiss had permanently weakened you. I nearly went mad with worry. If you retaliate, she’ll retaliate, and where does it end?”, she asks with pleading eyes. In a determined tone, he says, “There’s nothing to worry about here. I’ve got more power than Regina. She won’t win this one.” “Power doesn’t matter. I saw what she was like, and I’m quite certain that she has no soul. There’s no winning with that.”, Belle starts to cry, “Either you’ll end up dead or you’ll lose your soul trying to beat her at her own game. That’s not winning. That’s sacrifice! And I won’t have you sacrifice your life or your soul because of me.” Becoming agitated and defiant, Rumpelstiltskin responds, “What do you expect me to do? Let her get away with what she did to you…to us? Do you really expect me to just lay down and take it…submit to her machinations? I won’t do it!” Belle leans toward him, seeming to search his eyes for answers to unasked questions, and says, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I expect you to do. There’s too much swimming in my head right now. I’m trying to be level headed, because I don’t want us to lose each other again, but I feel anything but level headed. I’m frightened. I’m angry. There’s a part of me that feels like it hates everyone and everything, but especially Regina. I didn’t use to be like this, and it scares me. When I came to you for protection, protection was a clear thing…protection from some random person, who locked me up and used to peak in on me from time to time. But now I remember, I remember how she used my gullibility to rip us apart. I remember how much it hurt to lose you. Maybe I need you to protect me from me…from letting these feelings control me.” Belle’s tears fall rapidly, and Rumpelstiltskin pulls her in for an embrace. With a breath weighted with emotion, Belle whispers, “Can you ever really forgive me? You know I wasn’t trying to kill you, right?” Rumpelstiltskin pulls her out of the embrace and wipes his hand across her tear covered face, crinkles his forehead in a way that always used to elicit a smile from her lips. He smiles softly, gazing at her with nurturing eyes. Still unsure, Belle reiterates, “You know that don’t you?” “Yes, I know that.”, he cups her cheek in his hand, “I suppose on some level, I knew it even when I made the accusation. I was just so blinded by rage, over what was happening. Yes, I forgive you. I forgave you long ago. What I couldn’t forgive was myself…for not keeping you with me…for allowing you to die. Now, that I know that you’re alive, and that all these years you were so close to me, suffering, I’m not sure how I’ll forgive myself for not knowing…for not keeping you safe.” Belle urges, “Rumpelstiltskin, please, you have to forgive yourself. Regina took away our past. We can’t let her take away our present too. I love you, and I’m here. That’s all I want. I know I’m asking a lot…maybe more than I deserve, but I just want you to love me. Even when I’m completely irrational, please love me.” Rumpelstiltskin pulls her back in for another embrace, and sighs, “Well, my darling Belle, that is the easiest request I’ve ever granted. I love you. I love you, as though you’re part of my bones. You’re a part of me that can’t be removed.” Belle nuzzles her head against his neck. Rumpelstiltskin feels her breathing and muscles start to relax, as he holds her and strokes her back. They linger in their entwinement, taking in the sensation of the miraculous second chance they’ve been given. Releasing each other, Belle, now much calmer, sees the spray bottle on the night stand, “What’s this?” Rumpelstiltskin explains, “It’s a conditioner for your hair to help you get tangles out.” “The things one discovers when their not locked in a mental ward.”, she replies with a tone of bitterness, “getting cleaned up when your the secret patient in a mental ward is humiliating to say the least.” Feeling uncomfortable, but needing to know more facts, Rumpelstiltskin asks, “How many people knew about you?”

    Belle sprays the conditioner into her hair and begins using the comb to work through the tangles. “Well, there was the harsh looking blond nurse with her hair curled high on her head, the male doctor, who always seemed to have his gown, mask and cap on, a male orderly with sandy blond hair and green eyes, and some type of medical assistant, he had dark wavy hair and green eyes…he seemed really troubled to be involved. I don’t think he knew who I was, but I overheard arguments between him and the nurse, he was concerned that they weren’t following…”, Belle pauses to remember the words he used, the continues, “…’proper medical protocols’ with me. So that’s four people…plus, Jefferson.” “How long did he know about you being there?”, Rumpelstiltskin asks. “I really don’t know. I hadn’t seen him before today.”, she explains. Belle takes a break from combing, laying the comb back down. There is an extended silence. Feeling the need to do something, Rumpelstiltskin picks up the comb and gets ready to comb Belle’s hair. She looks at him with a confused smile. “Is this alright with you?” he asks. “Yes, I suppose.” She repositions herself in the bed to have her back to him, and Rumpelstiltskin commences working his fingers and the comb through a difficult tangle. Belle, momentarily turns her head toward him and says, “Thank you. It feels nice having somebody else do it.”, then turns back. Rumpelstiltskin smiles and focuses on the task at a hand. Keeping busy helps him to clear his mind. “Did you really think, I thought I was better than you?”, he asks. Bowing her head, “I’m sorry I said that.” “You didn’t answer the question.”, he says. Belle turns to face him, “Rumpelstiltskin, I’m not completely ignorant of what was going on with you. You walked around that castle like a gaping wound. I know people must have hurt you…acted like they were better than you.” Belle breaks eye contact, bites her bottom lip and sighs, then looks back into Rumpelstiltskin’s questioning eyes, “Even though I understood that, it still hurt when you did it to me.” He says, “Belle, I was only having a bit of fun with you. I really wasn’t trying to make you feel like you were less than me.” Unconvinced, Belle asks, “Can you honestly say that fun was always your only motivation?” He pauses, then responds, “No, there were moments I wanted you at a distance. You were just getting too close for me to handle.” “I think I knew that, to some extent. I just wanted to help somehow, but I didn’t know what to do with the feelings I was having. I liked your playful, mischievous side, but not knowing where I stood with you, made it painful at times too. I’d never had those kinds of feelings…I never cared where I stood with Gaston…although at least a room length away was preferable”, Belle smirks. “With you, having the feelings that I was having, was like being thrown in an ocean and not having the foggiest idea of how to swim.” Rumpelstiltskin smiles, as a small ironic chuckle erupts, “There were times I felt like I was drowning too.”, lightly moving a strand of hair from in front of her forehead, “Perhaps, we both should have taken swimming lessons.”, he quips. Belle giggles, “That might have helped.” Staring into each other’s eyes for an extended time, then feeling a bit unsure what to do or say next, Rumpelstiltskin breaks eye contact, begins combing Belle’s hair from the front. Without looking at her face, Rumpelstiltskin asks, “Belle, why are you so sick?” “I think that’s partly my fault. The other day there was a commotion in the ward. I heard through my door that all the pills were knocked on to the floor. Well, when they got it all straightened out, they forgot to give me mine. I hated those pills. They gave me different kinds over the years, and I always got sick in some way. So, when they came around with my pills the next day, I faked swallowing them. For some strange reason, I thought there might be an opportunity to get out, and I wanted a clear head. Well, the clear head didn’t happen, but I’m out.” Then the question that he didn’t want to ask escapes Rumpelstiltskin’s lips, “So it was always the nurse who helped you get cleaned up, right?” There is an extended silence, and a look of shame shrouds Belle, “I said it was humiliating.”, she says in a hushed tone. Rumpelstiltskin’s stomach clenches again, trying to focus on combing her hair, he asks, “Did anyone there do anything to you?” Belle hesitates, just for a moment and says, “At a hospital, they do a lot of things to you, but if you’re asking what I think you’re asking, no, nobody at the hospital did that to me. It was just embarrassing and painful things. Can we talk about something else, please?” “Yes, of course, but just one thing. Do you want me to try to heal you?”, he asks. “No, I don’t think I want that right now. There’s too much going on with my body right now. I don’t want to add magic to it. If it gets too bad, maybe, but not right now.”, responds Belle. Rumpelstiltskin questions again, “Are you sure? I could make you feel more comfortable.” Belle snaps, “Rumpelstiltskin, no, please don’t push me.” “As you wish.” he says in a dejected tone. Rumpelstiltskin places the comb on the night stand, slips his right hand into his jacket pocket and gets up. “Rumpelstiltskin?”, Belle hooks her pinkie around the pinkie of his left hand and looks up at him with large sincere eyes. “I’m sorry that I’m not pleasant to be around right now.” He smiles with a soulful sweetness in his eyes, “It’s fine, Belle, I understand that you’ve been through a lot. It’ll take a while to adjust. Perhaps you should eat soon.” “Wait. If I hadn’t stumbled into your shop today, what would you be doing right now?”, Belle asks. Furrowing his brow in confusion, he asks, “What are you getting at dear?” Belle looking at him with understanding eyes, “You have plans. It may have been a long time since we’ve seen each other, but I know your ‘I’m working on something’ look. That pulsing spot right above your eye brow is a give away. Stop fussing over me, and do what you planned on doing. I’ll try to rest for a while. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up later.” Then with a maternal tone, Belle instructs, “Off you go.” Rumpelstiltskin smiles, somewhat astonished by her concern for his plans. “Well, as you wish dear.” Belle lays back on the pillow, “Rumpelstiltskin?” He responds, “Yes, love?” A large smile breaks across Belle’s face at hearing him call her ‘love’. “Leave the door open please. I’d rather not be behind closed doors.” “Of course.”, he nods and turns toward the doorway. “I love you, Rumpelstiltskin”, she calls out. Turning back to her, “Oh, Belle, I love you too. Now, get some rest, and I’ll peak in when I’m done.” “That’ll be wonderful.”, a sleepy eyed, Belle croons. The cold bath having eased the pain enough, that she can relax a bit, Belle snuggles the collar of Rumpelstiltskin’s robe against her face and breathes in his scent. The scent is of being home, closing her eyes, she focuses her thoughts on Rumpelstiltskin. Unlocking his study, Rumpelstiltskin enters and walks to a small oak wall cabinet with brass handles. Opening the cabinet, he retrieves five potion bottles. Two of them had been prepared early that morning, in anticipation of magic returning and the plans they would help him fulfill. The other three bottles are empty.

    He places the bottles on his antique rosewood office desk, and seats himself. The sun having set, he turns on a lamp. The light reflects in the mother of pearl inlay around the edge of the desk, then refracts passing through the bottles, casting brilliant colors on the walls. Rumpelstiltskin hadn’t used magic in this way in nearly twenty-nine years, hence he takes a moment to reconnect with its power, to familiarize himself with the different energy of True Love Magic, clears his mind of other things and focuses on the purpose of the potions that he had prepared. Taking the first prepared bottle, he studies it for a moment, breathes in and glides his hand across the glass surface of the bottle. The contents sparkles with tones of copper, gold and electric blue. Rumpelstiltskin smiles with satisfaction. He confidently repeats the process with the second prepared bottle, turning the contents into a swirl of brown and yellow. He rises from the chair and places the completed potions in their designated spots in the cabinet. Returning to his seat, his expression turns somber, as the stares at the three empty bottles. When the day began, he hadn’t imagined that there would be a need for these yet-to-be-made potions. “If I had only known.” he laments to himself. “Things would have been different.”, he thinks scorning the mistakes that he made in haste and anger. Pushing the thoughts from his mind, he clears his head to focus. It is imperative that he be precise with the mixtures. Belle’s life may depend on the efficacy of these potions. Rumpelstiltskin’s forehead creases in thought. The first task is to reverse his spell from so long ago. He never imagined there would be a need for a reversal spell, yet here he is, calculating the proper elements for such a spell. He retrieves a strand of Belle’s hair from his right jacket pocket. He holds her hair up to the light and briefly admires the shimmering tones of brown, red and gold that cascade along the strands, as he moves the strands in the light. He places one hair into the potion bottle, then yanks a hair from his head, grimacing from the sting, and adds it to the bottle. He unlocks the desk drawer to the right, and opens it, revealing an array of contents…herbs, minerals, twigs, roots, etc. in various bags, bottles and small boxes. He rifles through the contents, removes a bottle of dark gray liquid and dispenses eighteen drops of the liquid into the potion bottle with the hair. Then he grabs a small measuring spoon and scoops three level spoonfuls of orange powder into the bottle. The powder appears to become liquid, as it contacts the other ingredients. Closing the bottle, Rumpelstiltskin places it between his palms, and rubs his hands back and forth spinning the bottle between his hands, as a purple glow emanates from between his fingers. After a minute, he holds the bottle up to the light analyzing the magenta color and the liquidity of the contents. After a pensive pause, he brings the bottle back down, removes the stopper and swallows the thick liquid in one gulp, as the bitter taste makes his eyes water and jaw clench. Pondering the other two bottles, he recalls Belle’s request not to use magic on her, yet he had promised to protect her. One request would inevitably cancel out the other. Quickly resolving that he would rather her be alive and be cross with him for disregarding her wishes, he commences his work. He pulls a small, empty, brown dropper bottle from the drawer and places it on the desk, next to the potion bottles. He inserts a strand of Belle’s hair into both of the empty potion bottles. Removing a small bag from the drawer, Rumpelstiltskin opens the bag and pulls out a black hair and looks at it with disdain. He places it in one bottle. While most of his potions have a strong taste, as a reminder to the recipient that magic comes with a price, it is vital that the potion with the black hair be absolutely tasteless. He retrieves and pours a thick red liquid into the bottle containing the black hair, and adds a shimmering green powder. Intently staring at the bottle, Rumpelstiltskin grabs a velvet bag, containing an orb of swirling gold mist. He smashes the orb and using his hands like an orchestra conductor, directs the air born mist into the bottle with the black hair. He inserts in the stopper and waves his hand across the bottle. The liquid in the bottle becomes as clear as water. He reopens the bottle and taking an eyedropper, he pulls some of the liquid out and deposits, three drops in the remaining potion bottle. Before closing the potion bottle that is still mostly full of the clear liquid, he smiles fiendishly and adds a crystallized substance. Then closing the bottle again, he waves his hand across to ensure that it again has the appearance of water, and will be completely tasteless. He gets up and places the bottle in the cabinet for safe keeping. Returning to his seat, he must produce a protection spell in the last positioned bottle that already contains Belle’s hair and three drops of the clear liquid. He adds twenty drops of a purplish liquid, and acquires a red root to add to the mixture. It is vital that the magic is precise in order to protect Belle, yet not overwhelm her frail body. Rumpelstiltskin holds the bottle between his hands, and brings them to his chest at the closest proximity to his own heart. There is a burst of multicolored light radiating from his hands and chest. He fills the small, brown dropper bottle with the potion, closes it and slips it into his jacket pocket. He retrieves another dropper bottle, with a silver elixir that should mitigate Belle’s symptoms and advance healing, and puts that in his jacket pocket as well. Closing the potion bottle, he deposits the remainder in the drawer and locks it. Grabbing his cane Rumpelstiltskin walks to the door, enters the hallway and locks the door behind him. Peering into the guestroom, Belle is resting with her eyes closed. He receives confirmation that the reversal spell did indeed work, sensing a strong feeling of contentment from Belle. It is a sensation reminiscent of the days at the castle, when she would pose questions about items in his collection. Opting not to disturb her, he ventures down stairs to make her some specially brewed tea. Rumpelstiltskin blends various teas and herbs, along with some cinnamon for taste. Once he has a finished cup of tea, complete with honey, he pulls the brown dropper bottle from his jacket pocket, and adds five drops of the protection potion to the tea. Though he would like to be able to give Belle more to complete the process tonight, in Belle’s frail state, Rumpelstiltskin is not certain that Belle can handle the full amount, hence he decides to spread the dosage over the next few days. Rumpelstiltskin then adds eight drops of the silver elixir to the tea, and places both dropper bottles on the highest shelf of a kitchen cabinet. Moving to the drawer next to the sink, he retrieves a bottle of lavender oil, and puts it into his jacket pocket. Rumpelstiltskin makes his way upstairs to Belle, sitting the cup on the dresser in the guestroom. However, he decides not to wake Belle, as he senses he needs to go back down stairs. When Rumpelstiltskin is approximately half way down the staircase, there is a pounding at the front door. He is quick to answer the demanding visitor, in order to lessen the chance that Belle will be disturbed by the noise. Opening the door, Emma storms into the house, “Some kind of purple crap just blew through town, and my ‘Spidey Sense’ tells me you’re the culprit.” Taking a congenial tone, Rumpelstiltskin says, “Ah, Sheriff Swan still on duty? Impressive. However, I’m busy dealing with something right now, so I don’t have time for chatting.” Belle, upstairs in bed, opens her eyes responding to the sound of commotion below, and gets out of bed to investigate. Her headache starts to re-surge. Emma, yells, “Look Gold…I mean Rumpelstiltskin…oh, whatever the Hell you’re calling yourself these days, I’ve had enough of your games. You’ve double crossed me for the last time!” “Why, whatever do you mean?” Rumpelstiltskin queries sarcastically. “You stole the potion and left Henry for dead.” Emma says, angrily. Rumpelstiltskin becoming impatient, replying sarcastically, “He’s dead? Sorry, I hadn’t heard.” “Well, no he’s not, but that’s besides the point.”, trying not to be disarmed by Rumpelstiltskin’s twist on logic. “No, Sheriff,” Rumpelstiltskin leans in with a hissing tone, “That is precisely the point! I said that Henry would be fine, and he is fine.” Emma fires back, “Yeah now! Do you know what you put me through?!?!” “You mean what you put yourself through.” Rumpelstiltskin replies calmly. Flabbergasted, Emma shouts, “You arrogant ass! How dare you!?!” He replies impatiently, “I dare quite easily, Sheriff. I had the situation well in hand.” In an accusatory tone, “You sent me on some wild dragon chase, while Henry could have died…we both could have!” “Yes, and what did you do before you left him for your quest?” he inquires. “What’s your point, Gold?” Emma asks irritably. Speaking emphatically, “What…did…you…do? You didn’t kiss him. Thinking both of you could die, you didn’t kiss your boy goodbye. You still had your walls up; not fully embracing your role as his mother. You had to lose him, temporarily, to break those walls.” Emma somewhat defensive, “Well…uh, you didn’t tell me it was that simple. You just sent me to find some damn gold egg!” Belle reaches the top of the stairs, looking down
    at the blond woman yelling at Rumpelstiltskin, and the pounding in Belle’s head grows more intense. Rumpelstiltskin taking a professorial tone, “I had need of the potion inside…” “Yeah, to blow that purple crap into town.” Emma interrupts. Rumpelstiltskin continues, “…and having you procure it for me was good training for the battles that you’ll face soon.” Belle’s pace down the stairs quickens, as she stumbles down the last few steps behind Emma. Emma yells, “I’m sick of hearing about battles!” Belle lands with a thud at the bottom of the stairs, quickly grabbing the stair railing, to prevent herself from completely toppling over. Emma and Rumpelstiltskin startle turning to see the wet haired, wild eyed Belle glaring at the both of them. “What in the realms is all this racket!?!?!” Rumpelstiltskin, moving quickly to her side, “Belle, you shouldn’t be out of bed.” “Don’t fuss over me!”, she snaps at him. Emma, a little slack jawed, tries to figure out whether this stranger is a friend of Mr. Gold’s, a family member or a hostage. Rumpelstiltskin steps back stunned by Belle’s harshness…”This is Emma Swan, and we’re just having a lively debate.” “Yes, yes, I’ve heard enough of it on my way down.” Belle stepping between him and Emma, “Look Miss Swan, I know, at any given moment, he can be a horse’s rear end…” Emma represses a smile, while Rumpelstiltskin looks a bit offended, “but if he said your son would be alright, he meant it. He would not have allowed real harm to come to him, and the proof of that is your son is well. So, while I appreciate that you’re upset, if you ever carry on with Rumpelstiltskin like that again, and I’m around, you will deal with me.” Rumpelstiltskin is touched by Belle’s defense of him and glad to have Emma distracted from her rant. “It’s alright, Belle. Emma just became a bit animated expressing her opinion.” Looking at Emma, “We’ll table this discussion for another time.” Emma, who is still a bit stunned, nods in agreement. Then a realization hits Emma, “Wait! You’re Belle?…as in Beauty and the Beast?” Belle responds with both confusion and disdain, “I’m not sure to what you’re referring. But at this point, I’m not sure which of those I’d be.” Emma rubs her chin and looks back at Rumpelstiltskin, whose eyes are fixed on Belle. Suddenly a look of panic comes across Belle’s face, as her stomach clenches violently, looking desperately at Rumpelstiltskin, “Nearest bathroom?!?” He points off to the left, and she dashes for the door. He calls out, “Let me help!” “No, I don’t want you to…”, Belle slams the door and a moments later, a muffled guttural sound emanates from behind the door. Emma asks, “Is she going to be okay?” “Yes, she’ll be fine.” Rumpelstiltskin says in a tone that seems to be trying to convince himself. Awkwardly looking at each other as the sound from the bathroom continues, Emma says, “Sooo Beauty and the Beast, huh?” He gives her an unamused glance. Emma continues undaunted, “Well, if she’s the Beauty, that makes you…?” “Don’t.” Rumpelstiltskin glares at her. Emma shakes her head and laughs. “Okay, so I’ve seen the movie…what was the deal with the rose under glass? Couldn’t you have just locked the door, if you didn’t want her to touch it?” Rumpelstiltskin, in an annoyed tone, “That’s not what happened. The film producers took a great deal of creative license.” Belle flushes the toilet, washes her hands and looks for any reflective surface to check her appearance. She picks up the Q-Tip canister to see a fish eyed image of herself. Looking at the image, she feels quite unattractive as red, teary eyes, with dark circles and flushed skin with beads of sweat look back at her. Looking at the medicine cabinet, she whispers, “Please, please, please.”, and opens the door to find a travel sized tooth paste and some mouth wash. Her shaky hands reach for the paste, opens it, applying some to her finger, then uses her it as a makeshift brush. She reaches for the mouth wash. On the other side of the door, Emma asks “Has she been here the whole time? I’ve never seen her in town.” Rumpelstiltskin seethes, as the renewed thought of what Regina had done bursts into his consciousness. Belle, opens the door, having heard the question, and answers, while holding onto the door jam to keep herself upright, “Regina told him that I was dead, but she had me locked up.” Emma puts her hand to her face and shakes her head, “That woman is a real piece of work!” Belle adds, “Can someone just please drop a house on her and be done with it?” Emma smiles and nods, but Rumpelstiltskin, who is unaccustomed to such talk from Belle, finds the comment disturbing, though he agrees with the sentiment. He doesn’t wish to see Belle go down that road. Belle’s knees begin to buckle, and she grabs onto an antique cabinet to keep from falling. Rumpelstiltskin and Emma rush to her. This time she does not protest the help, as all her energy is spent. “We’d best get you back upstairs to bed.” says Rumpelstiltskin, and Belle nods passively. Rumpelstiltskin, conscious of Belle’s injury, instructs Emma, “Grab her under the arms.”, while he gingerly places his arm around her from the other side, avoiding the affected area. Then the trio, slowly move to the stairs, ascend up and to the guest bedroom. Getting Belle in bed, and under the covers, Emma asks, “What’s happening? Did Regina make you sick?” “I think it’s because I haven’t had my medicine.”, Belle replies weakly. Rumpelstiltskin adds, “She’s been locked in the hospital mental ward, ever since Storybrooke was created. She’s going through withdraws.” He grabs the cup of tea, brings it to Belle. “This should help you feel better.” “Thank you.” Belle takes a sip, then immediately suspects that there is something magical in the tea and gives Rumpelstiltskin a questioning glance. Deciding not to push the issue, Belle knows that he would never harm her, and in spite of her earlier request, she now feels that anything that could help her feel better is a blessing. She gives him a knowing look, smiles, and sips the tea, while looking directly into his eyes, so Rumpelstiltskin doesn’t think he’s pulled one over on her. Getting the message loud and clear, he smiles sheepishly back. Emma is bemused watching the interaction. After a lengthy pause, Emma asks, “You just got here?” “Just before you broke the curse.”, Belle responds, as she snuggles under the covers. “So do you have any clothes?” Emma asks. “Just the ones that I had on at the hospital.” Belle gestures towards the clothes on the chair. Simultaneously, Rumpelstiltskin says, “I could…” and Emma declares “I have an idea.” Belle keeps her eyes on Emma. Rumpelstiltskin observes the interaction between the two women. Though he wants to provide Belle with anything that she needs, Emma’s attentiveness to Belle provides a fortuitous distraction from Emma’s anger at him. “At the sheriff’s office, there’s been a lot of new clothes donated and washed for disaster relief. I bet there are some things that will fit you.” Belle giving Emma a soft smile, “Thank you, Emma. That sounds great…as long as it’s no trouble.” “No trouble. We have plenty. I’ll be back in a while, try to rest.” Emma says, as she notices Belle shivering with chills. “I’ll try.” Belle says unconvincingly. “Want to listen to my mp3 player?” Emma offers, “It always relaxes me.” Belle stares at Emma, as though she is speaking another language. Rumpelstiltskin, interjects, “It plays music, Belle.” “Oh.” Belle replies, slightly chewing her bottom lip, realizing that there is so much in this new realm that she doesn’t know. Emma pulls the player from the pocket of her red leather jacket. Emma helps Belle with the ear buds, switches the volume low, trying to avoid overwhelming her, and demonstrates how to play the device. Belle smiles and leans back on the pillow. “Thank you.” Emma nods, “No problem.” The hauntingly, lovely keyboard strains of Genesis’ “Hold on My Heart”, begin, and Belle closes her eyes and sinks deep into the pillow. Rumpelstiltskin walks Emma down stairs and to the door. Emma going into sheriff mode says, “You have to find out what they had her on. Some of those meds, like Haloperidol, can have some really bad side effects.” Rumpelstiltskin raising an eye brow, “Haloperidol? That’s very specific. How do you know about that?” “That’s none of your concern.” Emma retorts, “My point is some of the psychotropic drugs, whether it one kind or a cocktail can do permanent damage to someone’s liver, kidneys or heart…even if medical protocols are followed. And what are the chances that Regina’s cronies followed medical protocols? You have to have her drink as much water as possible to try to flush that stuff out of her system. I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” “Very well then. Oh Emma,” Rumpelstiltskin lightly touches her forearm, making Emma raise her eye brows, “Thank you for being kind to her. It’s been a long time, since she’s had any kindness.” His voice cracks at the end and his eyes appeared damp. Emma has never seen this side of Mr. Gold. Feeling a strange compulsion to reassure him, “She’ll be alright. She’s strong…the woman has chutzpah.” Rumpelstiltskin surprise by Emma’s use of Yiddish, “Chutzpah?” “Yeah, chutzpah…guts…” Emma continues, “after all, she did essentially call you a horse’s ass.” Both Emma and Rumpelstiltskin laugh this time. “Actually, it was a ‘horse’s rear end’.” Rumpelstiltskin quips. “At any rate, I think she’ll keep you on your toes. I almost feel sorry for you…almost.”, she smirks, “I’ll be back in twenty. Bye.” As Emma descends the porch steps, she feels strange being so cordial to Mr. Gold, considering when she arrived at his house, she wanted to rip his head off and shove it down his throat. Something about Belle’s victimization at the hands of Regina made
    Emma want to help her…and to know more. In her car, she looks at a crystalline plastic horse necklace, hanging from the volume knob of the stereo, and thinks of its former owner, Marissa. Emma had shared a ‘room’ (cell) with Marissa, during her time in lock up, during her third trimester with Henry. Belle’s eyes had the same haunting quality as Marissa’s. Emma becomes lost in thought about Marissa. Marissa was a year younger than Emma. She had long flaming red hair, freckles and eyes that stayed with a person long after they stopped looking at her. Unlike Emma, she had a family life, friends and had excelled in school. She was the kind of girl that it would have been easy for Emma to hate, if Marissa weren’t so kind hearted. Marissa was never the type to cut class, until the day came when seeing a performance was too much for her to resist. Unlike others her age, who would have ditched class to get to Phoenix to see a rock concert, Marissa’s temptation was a one time performance of “La bohème”. She never made it to the opera, as she was busted for truancy. While this minor offense usually yielded a lecture from a judge and some public service hours, Marissa had the great misfortune of having Judge Hardwick Miller. Judge Miller and the owner of a nearby correctional facility had a cozy arrangement. Miller supplied occupants for the facility, the owner of the facility would get substantial payments from the state, then Miller would get a cut of the money. Eventually, both Miller and the correctional facility’s owner, would get cells of their own, but it was much too late for Marissa. Marissa’s sentence was one year in the correctional facility. Marissa, though terrified, was relieved to meet her room mate, Emma Swan. Marissa, the oldest of five children, had seen her mother through the last couple of pregnancies, and decided as long as she had to be there, she might as well help Emma, as much as she could. At meal times, anything that Marissa thought might be good for the baby, managed to travel from Marissa’s plate to Emma’s. After lights out, Marissa and Emma would talk, and Marissa, who had a pristine soprano voice, would softly sing songs, when she knew Emma was upset. Occasionally, Marissa would make her way to Emma’s cot and sing silly made up songs to the baby. Marissa’s paternal grandmother, who was from Poland, was known for many Yiddish words, and Marissa had a habit of using such words in everyday conversation. Marissa would often tell Emma that she would be fine having the baby, because Emma had “chutzpah”. Marissa had managed to bring into the facility a crystalline plastic horse necklace, which she gave to Emma, telling her that she could ride anywhere on a crystal horse. For the first time in Emma’s life, she had someone looking after her. That was the case for the first month of Marissa’s incarceration. Then came the day that the facility owner’s son, Brian X. Phillips III, got a job in the facility. It never should have happened that a man would have access to a women’s facility. It was one of many examples that Emma would see of people with too much power, abusing said power. Early on, Emma noticed him eyeing Marissa. She tried to stick close to Marissa, as much as possible, but then one day, Emma was ordered to the warden’s office to discuss plans for Emma’s unborn baby. After the meeting, Emma looked for Marissa with no luck. By meal time with no sign of Marissa, Emma was in a full scale panic, particularly after noticing the Brian, was grinning like the cat that ate the canary. She had checked everywhere that inmates were allowed to go, then she thought of the linen closet. There was Marissa, looking disheveled, with bruises on her wrists and a shattered look in her eyes. The next day at dinner, a scuffle broke out between two well known trouble makers, and in the course of events, a search for ‘contraband’ was conducted, and Marissa was found ‘holding’ something in her sweater pocket. Though she declared her innocence, Marissa was told she would have three days of solitary confinement. When Emma, sensing a frame up, tried to intervene, Marissa begged Emma to stop, because she didn’t want the baby to be harmed. Marissa, reasoned with Emma, that three days alone wouldn’t be too bad. Emma prayed that Marissa would be alone. When Emma saw Marissa again, she had a large bruise on her neck, more bruises on her wrists and arms, and was drugged into a stupor. When Emma questioned the guard about Marissa’s state, Emma was told that Marissa was a very disturbed girl, who needed to be medicated for her own safety and the safety of others.

    They gave Marissa various pills and injections. Emma didn’t know what they all were, but one day, she saw the name of one of the meds; Haloperidol. The name stuck in Emma’s brain like a knife. Emma tried to get Marissa to talk to her, but she rarely spoke, and would disappear for long periods of time, only to return looking like more of a shell of the girl that Emma had known. The day before Henry was born, Emma was able to get Marissa to interact with her and the baby in her belly. Marissa sang one short, wobbly sounding tune to Henry. When Emma returned after giving birth to Henry, she had a new roommate. Emma was told that Marissa’s attorney had gotten an appeal, and Marissa went home. After Emma’s release, she nervously went to Marissa’s house, uncertain how Marissa’s family would react to Marissa’s ‘cell’ mate arriving on their door step to see their daughter. When Emma asked to see Marissa, her mother stared at Emma in disbelief, then finally forced out the words, “Marissa’s dead.” She had died in the correctional facility the day after Henry was born. From then on, Marissa’s memory fueled Emma’s rage at those who use power to abuse others.   To be continued…

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