Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters, and I’m not making any money from this story. Warning: Non-consensual disciplinary spanking of minors. I do NOT advocate the spanking of minors in real life – only in fiction. I also don’t advocate the use of magic to de-age adults in real life – only in fiction.
A Spell Gone Wrong Chpater 2
An hour later, Rumple and Neal were walking towards Belle’s room with Dr. Whale. Victor had agreed to the plan as soon as David had laid it out. Once they’d gotten Dr. Whale’s approval, David had gone to the sheriff’s office to check on Hook.
Rumple could feel his heart racing as they walked into Belle’s hospital room. He desperately wanted to spend time with Belle, but letting her see him like this made him squirm with embarrassment. He wanted to be a strong and powerful man in her eyes, not a child who needed looking after. He caught a glimpse of her smiling face, and then moved to stand slightly behind Neal.
Belle turned her eyes to the doctor and said, “Good morning Dr. Whale.”
“Good morning Belle. How are you feeling today.”
“Just fine, thank you, and before you ask, no I still don’t remember anything.”
He nodded. “Alight then I think it’s time to talk to you about being released.”
With panic in her eyes, she said, “Released?”
He nodded and said gently, “Physically you’re ready to be released, so it’s time to either move you out of the hospital, or if you’re not comfortable with that, it’s time to move you into the psychiatric ward.”
“No!” Rumple said, moving out behind Neal. “That was never part of the…”
“Hey!” Neal said while he clamped a hand over Rumple’s mouth before he could say anything else that might make it more difficult to get Belle to agree to their plans.
Rumple glared and pushed Neal’s hand away. Neal stared intently at his father and said, “You need to let the adults talk, Paul,” hoping he’d get the hint.
Huffing in frustration, Rumple crossed his arms, continued to glare at Neal, and said, “Fine.”
Turning an apologetic smile towards Belle, Neal said, “I’m sorry about that, here we are arguing in front of you, and we haven’t even been introduced.” He put a hand on his chest and said, “I’m Neal, and this,” he put his hand on Rumple’s head, “is my son Paul.”
“Hello,” Belle said with a polite smile in place.
“I have a job offer for you,” Neal said.
“A job? For me?”
“I know it probably seems odd, since we don’t know each other, but we live in a small community, and everyone in town knows about the woman with amnesia in the hospital.” He turned to Rumple and said, “Everyone also knows that my son Paul just started living with me a couple of days ago, and it’s been a difficult adjustment for the both of us.” He looked back at Belle. “I was here at the hospital to ask my friend Victor,” Neal gestured towards Dr. Whale, “if he had any suggestions for a full time nanny, when I overheard him talking to one of the nurses about getting your release papers ready. It got me to thinking that maybe we could help each other.”
“You’re asking me to be your nanny?” Belle asked with one eyebrow raised.
Neal shrugged. “You need a place to stay while you figure out what your next move is going to be, and I need a live in nanny.”
“But you don’t even know me! I have no idea if I even have any qualifications for that kind of job!”
“I have to admit, I am a little desperate.” Neal gave his father a stern expression and said, “Paul is pissed about his currently living situation, and his behavior has been… deplorable.”
“Would you prefer it if I said you were disobedient or maybe naughty?” Neal said.
Rumple blushed and shook his head.
Neal looked back at Belle and said, “I need help, and so do you. We could try it out for a day, and see how it goes. I’m offering free room and board, along with a salary, and one day off a week.”
“Well… I… I don’t know,” she said. She turned to Dr. Whale, and said, “Can I have a little time to think about it?”
“Of course,” he said. “We weren’t planning to release you until after lunch anyway. Take some time to think things over, and we’ll be back to talk to you around two o’clock.”
Belle nodded, and then said to Neal, “Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. We’ll see you then.”
Neal and Dr. Whale started to leave, but Rumple found he couldn’t leave without pleading his case. Now that he knew her only other option was the psychiatric ward, he desperately wanted her to come with them instead. He hated the thought of her being locked up again. He walked right up to the bed, took Belle’s hand in his and said, “Please agree to come stay with us Belle. I promise I won’t give you any sort of trouble, and you’ll have lots of free time to read.”
Looking into the child’s eyes, Belle found herself inexplicably needing to reassure him. She put her free hand over his, and gave it a small pat. “That’s very sweet of you to say, Paul.”
“My father isn’t the only one who needs help. I miss…” Unable to tell her that he desperately missed her, he went with the best lie he could on short notice, “I really miss my mom. Having you there would help.”
Belle pushed some hair off of Rumple’s forehead and cooed, “Oh, poor baby.”
Neal walked back over and put an arm around Rumple’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s go. We need to give her time to think it over.”
“No,” Belle said, looking up at Neal. “I don’t need anymore time to think. I’ll do it.”
Neal grinned. “Great. We’ll pick you up at two when you’re released.”
“Okay,” she said.
As they were leaving the hospital, Rumple said, “We’ll need to stay at my place.” Neal glanced down at him with both eyebrows raised. Rumple said, “Well we can’t take her to Granny’s! She’ll need a room of her own, and books. Lots of books. I want her to be as happy as possible.”
Neal couldn’t hide his smile. His father’s desire to please Belle was going to work out well for everyone. “I thought you lived in that back room of the shop.”
Rumple scoffed. “Of course not. Though I suppose I could see where you might think so since I am there most nights. I have a home on the east side of town near the Storybrook boarder.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about it?” Neal asked.
Rumple shrugged. “It just hadn’t crossed my mind. Apparently I was too busy being disobedient to worry about where we slept.”
Ignoring the barb, Neal said, “Will there be enough room for all three of us?”
“More than enough.”
“Okay, then we’ll go check out of Granny’s after you train Emma and I have a nap. Then we’ll check out your house before we go to pick up Belle.”
Rumple nodded, and then after a pause he said, “Bae?”
“I hated the idea of Belle seeing me like this, but… now that I’ve seen her, I can’t stand the idea of her in that hospital for another second.”
Neal smiled, and wrapped an arm around his father’s shoulders. “I think Henry was right. Did you see that look she was giving you? I think she’ll love you like a mother would within a week.”
# # #
Four hours later, Neal’s alarm woke him up. He was still groggy, but he got up, and went to see how things had gone with Emma’s training. When he walked into his father’s store, there was no one in the front, but he heard laughter coming from the back room. A surprised, but hopeful, smile lit his face as he went to investigate.
The door was open a crack, so he peeked in before letting them know he was there. Emma’s hair was completely soaked, but she was laughing so hard that she was bent forward with a hand on the desk to steady herself. Neal was struck with the memory of her laughing like that once after they’d broken into a dilapidated old motel room during a storm. They’d stripped in the dark, hung their clothes on the shower rod to dry, and gotten in bed together to warm up. Guilt reared up, as it did so often when he remembered how in love they were before he’d left her.
He forced his eyes away from her, and onto the boys. They were standing together a few feet away, both laughing as well.
Henry saw Neal first, and said, “Dad guess what?”
With a grin of his own he walked into the room and said, “What?”
“Rumple taught Mom how to levitate stuff.”
Neal turned his smile to Emma and said, “That’s great, but it doesn’t explain why you look like you just took a shower.”
Emma’s laughter had subsided enough to say, “I was levitating a water balloon.”
Neal raised an eyebrow and turned to Rumple. “That sounds like an accident waiting to happen.”
Rumple waved an impatient hand at his son, as if waving away the questioning eyebrow. “Liquid is easier to levitate than a solid when you’re first learning. I suggested going to the harbor to practice with ocean water, but Emma refused to take us anywhere in public. Henry suggested water from the sink, but I refused, because it’s nearly impossible to control at first, and I didn’t want a huge mess to clean up. We compromised with a water balloon. As predicted, Miss Swan couldn’t control it.”
“But she did finally levitate it,” Henry said proudly.
Rumple tipped his head forward in acknowledgement, and said, “She did quite well for a beginner.”
“That’s great,” Neal said, extremely pleased that they’d all gotten along. “What time should we meet tomorrow to practice?”
“Right after dinner?” Emma said. “By the time Henry has school, and visits with Regina it will be dinner time.”
“That should work,” Neal said. He turned to Rumple and said, “We’ll have dinner with Belle, and then let her have some free time in the evening while we come over here.” Rumple nodded in agreement. Neal turned back to Emma and said, “Let’s say seven o’clock here at the shop?”
Emma nodded. “Works for me.”
Neal gestured for Rumple to come to him and said, “We need to get going. We only have an hour to check out of Granny’s, and make sure your house is in order before we pick up Belle.”
“Remember,” Rumple said to Emma, “practicing without me could end in disaster.”
Emma rolled her eyes, “Trust me when I say I don’t really even want to practice with you. There’s no way I’ll be trying anything on my own.”
Rumple walked over to Neal and muttered, “You’re very odd, Miss Swan.”
“Odd?” Emma asked.
“You have so much potential, so much untapped power, and yet you don’t seem particularly interested in using it. That’s unusual.” Rumple eyed her as if trying to figure out a puzzle.
Emma put an arm around Henry and pulled him to her side. “Being able to wield magic is an empty power if you don’t have love in your life.”
Rumple frowned while contemplating that statement.
Neal said to Henry, “Have a good day tomorrow.”
“You too, Dad.”
Neal put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder, and guided him out the door.
# # #
Belle’s eyes opened wide when Neal pulled into the driveway of his father’s house. She turned to Neal and said, “This is your house, and you’re hiring me?”
Neal looked out at the huge building that could only be described as a mansion, and muttered, “It’s been in the family for generations. I inherited it, I didn’t buy it.” Thinking on his feet, he added another lie, “I can barely afford the taxes.”
Rumple scrambled out of the backseat, and opened Belle’s door for her. “Come Belle, let me give you a tour,” he said with a grin.
Neal grabbed Belle’s duffel bag from the trunk while Rumple excitedly pulled Belle towards the house and told her about her room. Neal followed the pair, quietly observing his father. He’d never seen the man so enthusiastic or anxious to please in his life, and he had to wonder what his childhood might have been like if Belle had been around right after his mother left them.
Once they got to her room, Neal set the duffel down on the bed, and said, “If you prefer one of the other bedrooms, just let me know. I picked this one because it’s next door to Paul’s.”
“This is fine,” Belle said. “Extravagant really, compared to the hospital.”
“Nothing’s too good for you Belle,” Rumple said with sincerity.
Belle’s eyebrows scrunched together at the odd statement.
Neal cleared his throat, gave his father a glare for the slipped emotion, and said, “Stop trying to butter her up, Paul.”
A faint blush crept onto Rumple’s face. He muttered, “I’m just trying to be nice.”
“That’s very sweet of you, Paul,” Belle said with a smile.
“Would you like to see the rest of the house?” Rumple asked.
“Lead the way.” Belle held out her hand for him.
The tour of the house ended in the library. Rumple kept his eyes on Belle’s face as they walked through the door, catching her expression of wonder and delight as she realized how extensive the collection of books was.
“This is magnificent,” she said reverently.
“What’s your favorite type of story?” Rumple asked, knowing full well what the answer was, but wanting to hear it again.
“Adventure,” she tore her eyes away from the books to give her full attention to the boy. “I love to read about the hero who has to travel to new lands, and conquer insurmountable odds to slay the beast.”
Rumple frowned at her choice of words. “What if the hero is the beast?”
She crinkled her eyebrows, “Why would the hero be a beast?”
Neal cleared his throat and said to Rumple, “I think we should give her a few minutes to settle in.” He turned to Belle and said, “We’re going to have dinner around six thirty tonight. We’d love to have you join us, but if you’d rather make your own dinner, the kitchen is always open for you, as is the entire house.”
“I’ll join you for dinner.”
“Great, that will be a good time to talk about your work schedule. We’ll see you then.”
Neal and Rumple left her perusing the library. Once they were far enough away, Rumple said with fondness, “She’ll probably lose track of time, and stay in the library reading all night.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to let her know when it’s time for dinner,” Neal said with a smile.
# # #
Rumple was pleasantly surprised to learn that Neal was a good cook. Dinner went off without a hitch, with most of the discussion centered on Neal’s time in New York, which seemed to fascinate Belle.
Once everyone was finished eating, Neal said, “I wanted to talk a little bit about tomorrow, and our daily schedule.”
“Of course.” Belle sat up straight.
“The biggest reason I needed to hire a nanny, is because I work nights, and sleep during the day. I work online, so I’m here at home while I work, but then just as Paul is waking up for the day, I’m ready to go to sleep.”
“I see,” Belle said.
“I’m hoping you could be awake and ready to watch Paul by seven in the morning.”
“That won’t be a problem. I may not remember who I am or where I’m from, but I do know that I’m a morning person.”
“Great,” Neal said with a smile. “I’ll sleep until about two o’clock in the afternoon, but you guys don’t need to worry about being overly quiet, it’s a big house. Paul isn’t enrolled in school yet, so he doesn’t have any homework or classes that you need to take him to. The two of you can do whatever you like with your time, after this first week is over. Unfortunately, this week Paul is grounded for leaving the house in the middle of the night to meet up with a friend.”
Neal glanced at Rumple, only to see the boy slouch down and scowl at the table. The man in the child’s body was obviously still irritated, even though they’d discussed this at length before talking to Belle. He focused back on Belle and continued.
“That means your job for the next few days probably isn’t going to be much fun for either of you, because you’ll have to enforce the grounding while I’m sleeping. So for the next few days, Paul may not leave the house without me. That means no trips to the store, or the park, and no playing outside. It also means no visitors, no friends coming over, no telephone calls, no computer time, and no television. The two of you can spend your time reading, talking, or playing together, but under no circumstances are you to let him out of your sight except to use the bathroom. ”
Belle gave Rumple a sympathetic look, but nodded in understanding.
Rumple rolled his eyes and said, “You’re being unreasonable. You know it won’t happen again.”
“I wish I could trust that you were telling the truth, but I can’t. You could have gotten yourself killed last night. Prove to me that you can behave yourself this week, and then we’ll talk about giving you a little more freedom.” Neal turned to Belle, and said, “If Paul refuses to obey you, or tries to break his grounding, you have my permission to swat his rear end a couple of times.”
“Bae!” Rumple hissed, while his face turned bright pink, mortified by the idea.
“Oh, no,” Belle protested, “I couldn’t possibly do that.”
Neal muttered, “You and I are the only two people who actually can.” He ignored the fuming child next to him and said to Belle, “It may seem harsh, but I know it works. That being said, I’d never tell you that you had to use that method of correction, but if you don’t then you’ll have to find another way to enforce the rules. Whatever works for you is fine.”
“It’s not going to be an issue, Papa,” Rumple said with a condescending sneer, “I won’t feel the need to escape Belle’s company.”
Nonplused, Neal said, “Good. I hope that’s true, because I want the two of you to get along.”
A slightly awkward silence settled in the room until Belle cleared her throat, and put her napkin on the table beside her plate. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to retire for the evening. I’m feeling a bit tired, what with all the excitement of getting out of the hospital.”
Neal and Rumple both stood automatically when she did. “Of course,” Neal said, “We’ll meet you here for breakfast at seven.”
She nodded and said, “See you then. Good night, Paul.”
“Good night Belle,” he said softly.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Rumple rounded on his son and hissed, “I can not believe you gave her permission to swat me! We did not discuss that, and I did not agree!”
Neal sat back down and said calmly, “I’m sure you don’t agree, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is keeping you alive until we can get you back to normal. She needs to be able to keep you in line if you get a wild hair and decide to go see your friend Jefferson while I’m asleep.” The two glared at each other in silence for a few seconds before Neal said, “I don’t even know why you’re worried, she was clearly appalled by the idea.”
Somewhat mollified, Rumple sat down. “You’re right. Belle is much too kind hearted. She wouldn’t ever smack me.”
Neal started gathering plates. “Help me wash the dishes, and then we can read for a while before you go to bed.”
# # #
The following afternoon, when Neal woke up, he found Rumple and Belle playing a game of chess in the library.
“What’s this?” Neal asked with a smile.
“Belle is teaching me how to play chess,” Rumple said with a twinkle in his eye.
Neal smirked. “Is that right?”
Belle stood up and smiled proudly at her ‘student’. “Your son is quite brilliant, Neal. A very quick study.”
“Yes he is,” Neal said with a smile. “Did you have any problems today?”
“Not at all.” Belle walked around the table, put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder, and said in a scolding tone, “And shame on you for leading me to believe that your sweet little boy was anything other than respectful and kind.” She brushed the hair off Rumple’s forehead and said, “He’s been perfectly behaved all morning.”
Relieved that things had gone well, Neal said, “I’m glad. To be honest, I expected him to be good for you, but it’s nice to know I made the right call in hiring you.” He waved at the chessboard and said, “You guys continue with your game. I’m going to go make some coffee. We don’t have anything pressing to do until after dinner when I’m taking Rumple to visit some friends.”
# # #
That same afternoon, Cora had herself magically cloaked as a young man doing yard work less than a block away from the Sheriff’s station. She waited and surreptitiously watched her daughter as she waited for the school bus. Poor Regina looked nervous, but also excited to spend time with her son. When Henry got off the bus he let Regina give him a tentative hug, and soon they were down the block and around the corner, headed towards Regina’s house.
Once those two were out of the way Cora started to focus on the traffic. She waited for the right type of vehicle to drive down the road so she could carry out her plans. Five minutes later a tow truck turned onto the street. With a smile, Cora held her hand out, and took control of the truck with her powers. She forced the steering wheel sharply to the left, causing it to swerve across oncoming traffic, and into a telephone poll. After the crash, she immediately dropped her hand, and kept an eye on the Sheriff’s station. Within seconds, both Emma, and David were out in the street, checking to see if anyone had been hurt.
As soon as everyone’s focus was on the accident, she set her rake down, and walked purposely to the side of the building. When she was out of sight, a purple cloud circled around her, changing her appearance. When she came out from the side of the building, anyone looking her way would have seen Ruby walking into the Sheriff’s office with some to go bags from Granny’s in her hands.
Hook was pressed against the bars, hoping to see what the commotion was when Cora arrived.
“What’s happened?” he asked.
“There was a car accident.” She put the bags of food down on Emma’s desk, and grabbed one of the drinks.
“Was anyone hurt?”
“No. A tow truck ran into a phone pole, but the driver seemed fine when I passed by.” She held out a to go cup for Hook, and said, “Might as well enjoy your lunch now. They’re probably going to be a while.”
Hook took the offered drink and said with a seductive smile, “Care to join me? I always find food more appetizing in the company of a beautiful woman.” He sipped from the straw, and tried to encourage her with his eyes, but after he swallowed, he frowned and swayed on his feet. He blinked several times, and looked around the cell as if disoriented.
Cora reached in and snatched the drink out of his hands. She said, “How are you feeling Killian?”
Hook put a hand up to his forehead and muttered, “My head feels… fuzzy.”
“Do you remember what happened last night?”
Scowling, he thought that over. Slowly he said, “It’s a bit of a blur. I was at the bar…”
“Did you just wake up?” Cora asked. “It’s almost dinner time. How much did you have to drink?”
Hook went to sit on his cot and held his head in his hands. “A substantial amount,” he muttered.
“You’re lucky you live in a small town where the Sheriff knows you. This is the third time this month that you’ve been too drunk to make it back to your ship.”
“Thank you for keeping count.” He waved his hand in her direction, shooing her away. “Don’t let me keep you from your rounds, Ruby.”
“As you wish, Captain Jones.” With a smirk, she grabbed the food and drinks, and walked out the door.
# # #
Half an hour after the accident happened, Emma and David were done taking statements. They were sending onlookers home when Snow arrived.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Car accident,” David said, “No one was hurt.” He gave his wife a kiss.
Emma smiled at them and said, “I can finish things up here. Why don’t you two go home, and spend some time together? I’ll wait here for Henry, and make sure Hook gets dinner.”
Snow squeezed her daughter’s shoulder and said, “We’ll get dinner started, so you and Henry can have dinner at home before you go meet with Neal and Rumple.”
“Sounds good,” Emma said.
“We’ll see you in a little while,” David said, as he and Snow walked towards their apartment.
Emma went back into the station, put her hand on the phone, and caught Hook’s eye. “What do you want for dinner Hook?”
He scowled in confusion. “Hook?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m sober now if that’s what you’re asking. How long are you going to keep me this time Sheriff?”
She took her hand off the phone, and walked over to Hook’s cell. “What are you talking about?”
He stood up from his cot and walked to face her. “I’m asking when I’ll be released. I know you’re not fond of me Swan, but I doubt anyone pressed charges, no matter how drunk I was.”
She knew something was very wrong, and said, “What’s your name?”
He sighed. “Really Swan?”
“You’re the one behind bars, if you ever want out, you’d better be agreeable, and answer my questions.”
“Fine. Killian Jones.”
“Also known as?” she prompted.
“Captain Killian Jones?” he asked, not sure what she was asking. “The only commercial fisherman in town. The one who supplies all the restaurants with seafood.”
“And the name Captain Hook means nothing to you?”
“Captain Hook?” He raised one eyebrow. “Like in the cartoon? Is that some sort of mockery? Some jest about my missing hand?” He scowled at her and pointed to his fake hand with his real one. “Fishing accident, not a crocodile.”
Emma spun around, grabbed the pone, and dialed her parents. “We’ve got a problem.” She looked over at Hook and reiterated, “A big problem.”
# # #
When Regina brought Henry back to the station, she was surprised to find David and Snow there as well. When she noticed they were all glaring at her, she said, “What?”
“Have you seen Cora today?” Emma asked.
“I saw her earlier this morning. Why?”
“We think she stopped by to visit the prisoner,” David said.
“Hook?” Regina asked, while looking at the man in question.
Hook stood up, glared at her, and said, “Don’t tell me you’re in on this joke too. You’re the Mayor! Show some professionalism.”
“Killian doesn’t think it’s funny when we call him Hook like the cartoon character,” Emma said.
“Oh,” Regina said, “I see.”
“If you have any way of getting in touch with her, we have some questions we’d like to ask,” Emma said.
Regina got her compact out of her purse, and opened it to look in the tiny mirror. She waved a hand over it and said, “Show me my mother.”
“What are you all playing at?” Hook asked with growing irritation.
Snow looked over at Hook and then back at Regina. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this here.”
Regina glared at Snow for a moment before turning to Hook. “Magic is real,” she said, “Get over it, because I’m not going to try and hide it from you just because you’re…” she waved a hand in his direction, “…like that.”
He rolled his eyes, sighed, and sat back down on the cot. He mumbled to himself, “The whole town has gone mad.”
Regina turned back to the mirror and said, “Cora’s at my house.” She snapped the compact closed and asked Emma, “Do you want to come with me and talk to her there, or do you want me to bring her to you?”
Emma looked to David to get his opinion. “Snow can take Henry home and get him dinner, while you and I go with Regina to ask Cora some questions.”
Henry spoke up for the first time, “Shouldn’t we tell Neal and Rumple? Hook was here to get revenge.”
“Good point, kid.” Emma turned to Hook and said, “What does the name Rumplestiltskin mean to you?”
Hook rubbed a hand down his face and said, “I think it means someone slipped me something last night, and I’m having a really bad reaction to it.”
David said, “What about Mr. Gold?”
Hook’s eyes snapped over to David’s, and he sneered, “What does that thieving reptile have to do with anything? Is this his doing? Did he press charges against me last night?”
“No,” David said, “He’s missing.”
Hook’s eyes went wide with surprise for an instant, and then he started to shake his head. “I may not like the guy, but if you think I had anything to do with him being missing, you’re sorely mistaken.”
Emma and David exchanged a look. Emma turned to Henry and said, “You go home with Snow. We’ll talk to Neal later tonight after we’ve talked to Cora.”
# # #
Twenty minutes later, Regina simply shook her head while listening to her mother. Cora was completely forthcoming, and completely unrepentant as she explained what she’d done.
“Yes of course I put a spell on him.” Cora waved a hand in the air to shoo their concerns away. “What of it? He was a bloodthirsty pirate out for revenge. Now little Rumple will be safe, and…” Cora looked directly at her daughter, “…the pirate will be easier to housebreak.”
“Housebreak?” David asked.
Cora rolled her eyes. “Always so literal Charming, how tiresome.” She spoke deliberately as if speaking to a ten-year-old, “I mean he’ll fit into society better, so he won’t need to stay locked up.”
Emma could see her father’s shoulders tense up, and quickly asked, “Is the spell permanent?”
“As permanent as these things get,” Cora said. “If he takes the antidote, or if he crosses out of Storybrook, the spell will be broken, but the spell has a built in safety. The poor captain won’t admit it, but he’s deathly afraid of leaving his home town of Storybrook, unless it’s on a boat.”
“If he goes far enough out to sea will the spell break?” Regina asked.
“Only if he lands somewhere and sets foot on another shore.”
“Can you reverse it?” David asked.
“I won’t.” Cora said with a glare.
“David…” Emma said, “maybe we should think about it. Do we really want the spell reversed?”
David said with disappointment, “Emma, we may not like Hook, but that doesn’t give us the right to play with his mind. No one should be able to take away his memories, and replace them with false ones. It’s morally wrong.”
Blushing, Emma nodded, and mumbled, “Yeah, you’re right.”
Cora sighed and said, “Fine, one month.”
“What?” David asked.
“I’ll change him back in one month. That will give you time to find a cure for Rumple, and Hook won’t have to be a nuisance in your jail.”
“That’s not a terrible idea,” Emma said, hoping to sway David.
“Who knows,” Cora said with a smirk directed towards her daughter, “Maybe after a month of being here, he’ll find a reason to give up his quest for revenge.”
Regina closed her eyes, and put a couple of fingers at her temple as a headache started to form. “Mother,” she said tiredly.
Cora went and put an arm around Regina’s shoulders and said happily, “As the Mayor, you can get Hook released. Go back to the jail, and make sure he knows you’re the one who got him out.”
David and Emma exchanged a confused glance. Shaking his head, David said, “I suppose it won’t do much good to keep him in prison the way he is.” He glared at Cora and said, “I would ask you to give your word that you’ll fix him in a month, but since you’ve proven to be completely untrustworthy, I’m just going to warn you. If you don’t give him back his memories in a month, there will be retribution.”
Cora glared, “Threaten me, and you’ll be a frog for a month.”
“Stop it Mother! I thought you were going to try getting along for me.”
“This is me getting along! I’ve been exceptionally patient.” Cora waved a hand in David’s direction and said, “He’s like a kitten pawing at the foot of a dragon, and you expect me not to step on him or set him on fire.”
“I’ve slayed a dragon or two in my time.” David said with a glare.
Emma put a hand on David’s arm and said, “Okay, I think that’s enough with the veiled death threats for one night. Let’s go release Hook and give Neal the good news.”
When David didn’t move, Regina angled herself in front of her mother, not sure who she was trying to protect. She watched as David slowly nodded and headed for the door.
Once they’d left, Cora said, “What are you waiting for Regina? Go with them. Talk to Hook.”
Regina shook her head, sighed, and said, “I’m tired. I’m going to go take a bath.”
“A bath!” Cora said with her hands on her hips. “I just gave you the perfect opportunity to get to know the man while his obsession for revenge is on hold, and you’re not going to take it?”
Regina took her heels off, and started up the stairs. “He knows nothing of magic, and he thinks he’s a fisherman. A fisherman, Mother! Let’s just say there isn’t as much appeal as there used to be, and leave it at that.”
Cora scowled, and let her daughter go up the stairs.
# # #
Neal and Rumple got to the shop right at seven, but Emma and Henry hadn’t arrived yet. While they were waiting, Rumple looked up the phone number for the glass repairman he’d used in the past. He handed the number to Neal and grumbled about not being able to use magic to fix the glass door Hook had broken.
“And whose fault is that?” Neal asked.
“Regina’s!” Rumple spit out the name like a curse.
“Oh really?” Neal said, raising an eyebrow. “Was she the one who turned you into a thirteen year old in the first place?”
Rumple rolled his eyes, and refused to comment. He wandered over to the couch, and sat down to wait.
Just as Neal was getting his cell pone out to check on Emma, she arrived with Henry.
“Hi Dad!” Henry rushed over to give Neal a quick hug.
Neal loved the sound of those words more and more each time he heard them. He squeezed Henry tight before letting him go.
“We have news!” Henry said a grin.
“Yeah? What is it?” Neal asked.
“Cora put a spell on Hook, and he can’t remember anything about his past, which means Rumple is safe for now.”
Neal’s eyes shot to Emma’s for confirmation.
“It’s true,” Emma said. “Hook thinks he’s lived in Storybrook his whole life. He thinks he’s a local fisherman, and while he doesn’t seem to like Mr. Gold, he’s not on a quest for revenge. He doesn’t know that Rumple has been turned into a thirteen-year-old version of himself, and he doesn’t believe in magic anyway, so if someone told him that Paul was Rumple, he’d probably think it was a prank of some kind.”
“Why would Cora do that?” Rumple said, joining in the conversation.
Clearing her throat uncomfortably, Emma said, “I think she did it for Regina.”
When Neal and Rumple gave her blank stares, she winced and said, “I think Cora is trying to set them up. Like on a date.”
“I guess getting her heart back changed her more than I thought it would,” Rumple said. “Not so long ago, there wouldn’t have been any version of Hook good enough for her daughter.”
Neal scowled. “How do we know this isn’t another one of Cora’s plans?”
“We don’t,” Emma said, “but my gut feeling is that she’s being honest, and my gut is usually right. Cora said she’d leave Hook with his false memories for a month, which will give us time to get Rumple back to his normal size.”
“Speaking of which,” Rumple said to Neal, “now that Cora, Regina, and Hook have all been neutralized for the time being, we can work more openly with Jefferson.”
“I don’t know if you can call any of them neutralized,” Emma said before Neal could answer. “Regina and Cora would still hurt you if they could, and we let Hook out right before we came over here.” Her lip curled in disgust as she remembered the way Hook had leered at her and ‘accidentally’ brushed up against her when she released him. When he’d thanked her for letting him out, she’d purposely told him it had been Regina’s doing, just to distract him.
“Why would you do that!” Rumple demanded. He stood up from the couch, and pointed an angry finger in the direction of the jail. “The bastard shot Belle!”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t remember doing it,” Emma said.
“I don’t care if he remembers it or not! He did it!”
“Hey, you need to tone it down,” Neal said.
“Tone it down? They just let that murdering pirate go free!”
“No,” Emma said with irritation, “we let an alcoholic fisherman go free.”
“Unbelievable!” Rumple said, and kicked the edge of the couch.
Neal rolled his eyes, walked to Rumple, and put a hand on the child’s shoulder. He squeezed it and said, “Stop it. Getting worked up over Hook isn’t helping anyone. If the man doesn’t remember who he is, then he’s not a threat to you. I’d say that’s a good thing.”
Working very hard to stow his emotions for the time being, Rumple shot his son an irritated glare, and then focused on Emma. The quicker he could train her, the quicker he could be back to his normal size, and deal with the pirate in any way he saw fit. “Enough talk. We’re here to train you, so let’s get to work.”
Emma nodded in agreement, and the two started training while Neal and Henry sat on the couch together to observe.
# # #
The following morning before Belle joined them, Rumple and Neal sat at the dinning room table sipping tea. After the first few sips Rumple asked, “What are you going to say to Belle about me being grounded?”
After a confused pause, Neal said, “What do you mean?”
“You are going to tell her I’m no longer grounded, aren’t you?”
Neal shook his head. “No. Why would I do that? You are grounded.”
Rumple bristled and glared. “Don’t be ridiculous Bae! Hook is no longer after me, Regina is too focused on Henry, and Cora is too focused on Regina to come after me. There’s absolutely no reason for us to stay cooped up in this house all day while you sleep.”
Neal held up one finger and pointed to it, “Cora could change her mind any second, she may be focused on Regina, but she’s still power hungry and has a grudge against you.” He held up a second finger, “Hook could get his memories back at anytime. We don’t know if this spell will actually stay in place, in fact I think it would be just like Cora to say it lasts a month when really it only lasts a week. Then he’d be a free man looking to kill you.” He put up a third finger, “Regina would absolutely hurt you if she thought she could get away with it without Henry finding out. I doubt it will take her all that long to come up with a way to do just that.” He let his hand drop, and said, “So you are grounded, and you will not leave this house without me, unless you’d like another spanking.”
Both of them turned towards the door when they heard Belle clear her throat. Rumple turned bright red, while Neal asked sheepishly, “How long were you standing there.”
“Not long,” Belle assured him. “I heard something about a Henry, and then… well the rest of it.”
Rumple groaned softly, and hid his face in his hands.
“Paul doesn’t think he should be grounded anymore,” Neal said, “but I assure you he still is, even if he’s unhappy about it.” Neal squeezed Rumple’s shoulder in comfort, only to have the boy shrug him off. Neal sighed and changed the subject. “Would you like an omelet for breakfast Belle? I was just about to start cooking.”
“That sounds lovely,” Belle said.
As soon as Neal went to the kitchen with his tea, Belle took his vacated seat, and put her arm around Rumple. The boy peeked at her through his fingers, and she gave him an indulgent smile. “Cheer up little one, even if we’re stuck in the house, we can still have a good day together.”
“It’s not that.” He put his hands down and said earnestly, “I love spending time with you, Belle.” He glared down at his lap and said, “It’s just that Bae… I mean my papa is too overprotective, and it’s humiliating when he speaks to me as if I were…” Rumple realized how silly the words would sound, but muttered them anyway, “…a child.”
Belle carded her fingers though his hair, and said, “It might seem harsh and unpleasant to you right now, but at least your papa loves you, and he’s trying to do what’s right for you. It would be much worse if your papa didn’t care or notice that you were out with your friends the other night.”
Rumple had a flash of his own father, and realized how true Belle’s words were. Between Neal’s overbearing parenting, and his own father’s non-existent parenting, Neal was most definitely the better parent. The real problem was that Rumple was an adult, and no longer in need of a parent, but he couldn’t very well explain that to Belle. With a big sigh, he said, “You’re right.”
She gave him a kiss on the top of the head, and Rumple held his breath for a few moments. When nothing of the spell breaking variety happened he scowled at the table.
“Why do you call your papa Bae?” Belle asked.
“It’s a nickname,” he said, and took a sip of his tea to cover any awkwardness. He held up his cup and said, “Would you like me to make you a cup?”
“Why don’t we do that together?” she said. She stood and held out her hand for him. He put his hand in hers and forced himself to smile.
# # #
That afternoon Regina put her fingers to her temples and rubbed them, trying to get rid of her blossoming headache while the city building inspector droned on about sewer pipes. She’d come to the office to get away from her mother, and her incessant nagging about the pirate. When the inspector started shuffling papers to start on a new topic, Regina held up a hand and said, “Who were you in the Enchanted Forrest?”
The man’s eyes opened wide for a second before he muttered, “I was a farmer Madam Mayor… uh your Highness.”
“Which occupation do you enjoy more? Farming, or inspecting buildings?”
“To be perfectly honest Madam… your Highness… farming. But I do like the comforts of this world. Electricity and indoor plumbing would be truly missed if I went back.”
“So why not farm here?” she asked, thinking about how different Hook’s life would be as a fisherman.
“Well, Prince David and Snow…” The man blanched at the glare Regina shot his way. “I mean… uh…”
“Spit it out,” she said impatiently.
“They said everyone should get back to their jobs like everything was normal, so I’m just doing what they told me to.” The man pulled at his collar nervously, and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
Before Regina could question him further, there was a commotion in the outer office. Regina heard her secretary say, “Sir, you can’t go in there!” as Hook barged into her office.
He grinned at her, and gave her a small bow. “Madam Mayor.”
Regina had no idea why Hook would show up at her office, but she certainly was curious. She waved her hand absently at the farmer turned building inspector and said, “That’s all for now.”
“But Madam Mayor, we haven’t discussed…”
She whipped her eyes to him, and glared at him the way she used to glare at villagers who dared to speak to her.
“I mean… I’ll just… send you a memo.” He rushed out of her office as quickly as possible without actually running.
Regina turned back to Hook with a smug smile on her face. “What can I do for you Hoo… Captain Jones?”
Hook raised an eyebrow and said, “You’ll have to show me how to do that. I’d love to give one of my crew members a single look that had them scurrying to do my bidding.”
She smiled and raised one eyebrow. “You have to be willing to murder to get that kind of obedience.”
His smile faltered for a moment, before he broke out laughing. She found his laughter infectious and chuckled herself.
Once his laughter died down he said with a wink, “I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind a time or two, though flogging might work just as well.”
Regina’s breath caught in her throat, and she blushed. She forced her eyes down to her paperwork, cleared her throat, and tried to sound dismissive when she said, “I’m busy, so if you had a reason for disturbing me today, you should tell me, before I have the guards escort you out.”
“I’ve come to take you to lunch.”
Her eyes snapped up to his smirking face. “What?”
“Lunch. Where we sit down together and share a meal.”
“Why?” she asked with a scowl.
He walked up to her desk, leaned down so they were eye to eye, and said with sincerity, “To thank you for making the sheriff release me last night.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
“Sheriff Swan doesn’t seem like the sort to lie.”
Wondering why Emma would have lied, Regina asked, “Don’t you have a ship to run? Why aren’t you out fishing?”
“It’s the off season. I’ll be going back out in three weeks. Why are you avoiding the subject? Have lunch with me.”
“I told you I had nothing to do with…”
“Would you agree to lunch if I threatened to murder your secretary?” Hook interrupted while looking back towards the door. He looked back at her with a teasing smile. “It’s just lunch. What’s the harm? Say yes.”
Her stomach did a little flutter, and before she realized what she was doing, the word, “Yes,” came out of her mouth.
“Excellent.” Hook stood up straight, and held out his hand for her. “Let’s go.”
Irritated with herself for agreeing, Regina wondered if her mother had put some kind of love spell on them.
When she didn’t move, he said, “I swear to have you back in one hour Madam Mayor.”
With a sigh, she stood up, ignored his hand, and went to tell her secretary she was going to lunch.
# # #
When Neal woke up that same afternoon, he found Belle and Rumple in the library reading side by side on the sofa. Neal couldn’t help but grin at the sight. Belle had one arm wrapped around little Rumple’s shoulders, and the boy had his legs crossed on the sofa while his head rested on her chest. It was all very sweet and domestic, and Neal was grateful to see it after their argument about being grounded that morning.
He cleared his throat and said, “It looks like the two of you are having a good day.”
Both of them smiled, and Belle said, “Paul has an amazing attention span for an eleven year old. We’ve been reading for…” she looked at the clock and said, “…three hours.”
“He does love to read,” Neal said.
“Papa?” Rumple said, “Could I please talk to you in private.”
Neal forced himself not to groan. He doubted it could be anything good if Belle couldn’t hear it. He looked to Belle for any clues as to what it might be about, but she looked baffled. With a fake smile, he said, “Sure, why don’t you come to the kitchen with me while I make some coffee.”
Rumple marked his page, and said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes, Belle.”
Rumple followed Neal into the kitchen. Neal started getting the coffee maker ready, while Rumple said, “I wanted to apologize for this morning.”
Neal froze in place, and stared at his young father for a few moments.
Rumple cleared his throat, and looked at the coffeepot. “Belle pointed something out to me this morning, and it’s been on my mind all day. My own father left me when I was quite young, and before that… well he never had my best interests at heart.” He made eye contact with Neal. “I don’t feel that I need a father figure at this point in my very long life, but…” he looked away again, “…I do believe that you always have my best interests at heart, even if I don’t agree with your methods of keeping me safe. So I’m sorry that I have given you so much grief about… well everything.”
Neal got down on one knee in front of Rumple and pulled him into a strong hug. “Thank you, Papa,” he said sincerely. “I don’t like arguing with you, and I know you don’t agree with a lot of the decisions I’ve made, but it’s nice to hear that you know my motives are pure. I would hate to lose you again after missing you for so many years."
Rumple wrapped his arms around the man, and hugged back. He whispered, “I don’t want to lose you either, Bae. Never again.”
A few seconds later, Neal squeezed him harder, before letting him go. Neal tried to surreptitiously wipe a tear off his face as he stood up. He cleared his throat and agreed, “Never again,” as he went back to making coffee.
Once the coffee had started to drip, Rumple said, “Do you think we could maybe call Jefferson today, and get an update on the hat?”
Pleased with the apology, and the fact that his father was asking instead of demanding, Neal said, “Sure. I can call right now if you want.”
Rumple nodded eagerly.
Neal got out his cell phone and Rumple gave him the phone number. Rumple waited somewhat impatiently while Neal put the phone to his ear. As the seconds ticked by, Rumple said, “Is it ringing?”
After several more seconds, Neal held the phone out to Rumple and said, “That was the tenth ring. I don’t think he’s home.”
Rumple snatched the phone and put it to his ear. After several more rings, he hung it up and muttered, “Why doesn’t he have his answering machine on?”
“Avoiding Cora?” Neal guessed. “He seemed fairly terrified when I mentioned her name.”
Neal took the phone back, and looked at the clock. “He probably went to go get his daughter from school. We’ll try him again after dinner.”
Rumple sighed, and nodded in agreement.
Trying to cheer him up, Neal put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and said, “Why don’t the three of us go for a walk around your property after I drink my coffee. I’m sure Belle would enjoy getting a little fresh air.”
“I do have a small rose garden past the trees in the back,” Rumple said with a smile, remembering how much his Belle enjoyed roses. “They should be in bloom this time of year.”
“Good. Why don’t you go ask Belle if she’d like to do that, while I drink my coffee?”
Neal watched Rumple leave with a smile. He knew it was somewhat messed up and convoluted, but he could honestly say he felt better about his relationship with his father now than he had since the day his father had refused to jump through the portal with him at age thirteen. He grinned, shook his head, and muttered, “Dr. Hopper could have a field day with this mess.”
# # #
Four hours later, Neal pushed his dinner plate away, and complemented Belle on her cooking again. “You’ll have to share that recipe with me.”
“Yes.” Rumple chimed in, “Please do, Belle, it was delicious.”
“Oh stop you two,” she said with a pleased smile, and flushed cheeks, “you’re just trying to butter me up so I’ll cook more often.”
“Can you blame us?” Rumple said. “If your other meals are even half as good as that stew was, then I’d like you to cook every day… I just know better than to expect it.”
She chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Maybe I could cook again for you in a couple of days.”
“Yes please.” He smiled.
Neal sat back and watched the two of them talking. The three of them had had a wonderful day so far. He could see why his father had fallen in love with Belle. She was quick witted, even tempered, and kind. He looked over at the bouquet of roses that Rumple had insisted on picking for Belle during their walk. His father had been so sincere, and his eyes had been so full of love, that Neal couldn’t help but think of Emma and how much he’d missed her over the past twelve years. He’d assured Belle that it was fine to gather a bouquet, and then he’d walked ahead a few paces, to give them some privacy.
Thinking of Emma, made him check his watch. “I hate to break this up,” Neal said, “but we really should be going soon to meet up with our friends.”
“Of course,” Belle said with a smile. She stood up and started to gather up the plates.
Rumple put a hand over hers when she tried to take his plate and said, “We’ll clean up. It’s the least we can do after you cooked.”
She smiled and said, “You sound like such an adult sometimes, it’s easy to forget you’re eleven.” She set the plates down, and ran her fingers through his hair. “Are you sure, sweetheart?”
Rumple frowned, but quickly covered it with a big smile, and said, “Yes, of course I’m sure Belle.” He turned to Neal and said, “Right Papa?”
“Absolutely,” Neal said sincerely.
“Well then, I suppose I’ll be in the library if anyone needs me,” Belle said. “Thank you.”
Once Belle was out of the room, Neal put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder and said, “What’s wrong?”
“She sees me as a child.”
His father sounded so dejected, Neal didn’t have the heart to laugh, even though he was tempted. “That’s because your body is that of a child.”
Rumple swatted Neal’s hand away with a scowl. “Obviously. I just mean that it’s difficult. I love her as a man loves a woman, and it’s…” he sighed, “…humiliating when I realize she can’t love me in that way when I’m in this body.”
Neal put his hand back on Rumple’s shoulder and said, “It’s not forever Papa, I promise we’ll get you back to your adult size eventually.”
“Eventually sounds like a very long time from where I’m sitting.”
“Come on,” Neal said, “Let’s clean up so we can call Jefferson and go see Emma.”
The two worked together smoothly and soon had the kitchen cleaned up. As soon as he’d started the dishwasher, Neal pulled his cell phone out, and dialed Jefferson again.
“Hello?” Jefferson answered.
“Hi Jefferson, this is Neal… uh Baelfire. Rumplestiltskin’s son. We met a couple of nights ago on your front porch.”
Rumple held his hand out for the phone.
“Yes I know who you are,” Jefferson said. “What can I do for you?”
“My father is here, and he’d like an update on the hat.”
Rumple snapped his fingers and held out his hand again with a scowl.
Neal frowned at his father, and held up a finger to make him wait.
“Oh…” Jefferson said, and after an awkwardly long pause, he said, “I haven’t made any progress.”
“None at all?” Neal asked.
“Bae!” Rumple hissed impatiently. “Give me the phone.”
“Not for lack of trying,” Jefferson said quickly.
“Alright, my father would like to speak to you for a moment.”
“No…” Whatever else Jefferson was going to say was cut off, as Neal handed the phone down to Rumple.
Rumple put it to his ear, and demanded, “How far along are you?” As Rumple listened he paced around the kitchen. “What!” He paced some more. “Don’t give me excuses! I want a new hat, and I want it now.” He pounded his fist once on the kitchen counter to emphasize his demand.
Neal crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. He’d always found his father’s mood swings difficult to witness. Now that he was older, he understood that it was the Dark One’s hold over his father that caused them, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. It was as if the simmering rage was always inside the man, and it took very little to make the rage boil up and spew out of him.
“You listen to me dearie, if you don’t produce a hat for me within the next week, I’ll make sure to reunite Grace with her foster family once I’m back to…” Rumple was cut off mid threat when Neal snatched the phone from him. “Give that back!” Rumple hissed.
Neal glared down at the boy, and put the phone to his own ear. “I’m so sorry Jefferson, I assure you that my father will not do anything at all to separate you from your daughter once he gets his old body back.”
“How dare you!” Rumple said.
The angrier Rumple appeared, the angrier Neal became in response. He gripped the phone tighter and said, “In fact, I’d like you to stop working on the hat altogether.”
“What!” Rumple screeched, and grabbed Neal’s arm to try and get the phone.
Neal easily switched the cell phone into his other hand and said, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes, Jefferson,” and pushed the button to end the call.
Rumple had already let go of Neal’s arm, and had stomped over to the counter. “You had no right to do that Baelfire!” Rumple yanked a ceramic jar of flour off the counter, and smashed it down onto the ground. The jar broke into several pieces, and flour exploded onto the floor. Neal automatically took a step back to avoid the mess.
“Hey, what the hell! Don’t break things!” Neal yelled, hoping to cut the tantrum off before it started.
Rumple snagged a matching jar that held coffee grounds, and threw it on the floor closer to where Neal was standing. The brown grounds scatted across the floor, covering Neal’s shoes.
“This is my house, and these are my things!” Rumple yelled. He grabbed the last of the matching jars, and hurled it to the floor, adding a layer of sugar to the mess on the floor. “I’ll break anything I damn well please!”
Neal stalked towards the boy, and Rumple’s eyes opened wide as he recognized the expression on his son’s face. Rumple rushed to the other side of the kitchen table, away from his approaching son. He yelled, “You have no say in what I do with my property, you have no say in how I deal with my underlings, and you have no right to cut me off when I’m speaking to someone!”
Neal purposely walked towards the table and said, “Be still.”
Rumple waited until Neal made it halfway around the table, before darting around the other side to stay out of reach. As he was running, he slipped on the mess he’d created, and fell to the floor with a yelp. Neal’s hands were on him and helping him to stand up almost immediately.
“Are you hurt?” Neal asked. He checked Rumple’s head and arms for injuries, and brushed the bits of ceramic, flour, coffee, and sugar off of the boy’s clothes and skin.
Rumple tried to push Neal’s hands away and hissed, “Don’t touch me!”
Neal looked into his father’s eyes and could practically see the rage churning inside. He pursed his lips, put a hand on the boy’s upper arm, turned him to the side, and swatted his rear end three times. He turned him back around while keeping a hand on his arm and said, “I’ve had it with the Dark One and his rage tonight. You need to stop and listen to me like a rational adult.”
Rumple was too furious to think clearly, and shouted, “I already am a rational adult, and I’ve had it with you tonight!” while trying to push Neal away again.
Surprised that the swats hadn’t worked, Neal said, “Fine, if that’s how you want it.” He pulled one of the kitchen chairs out, turned it around, and sat down in it. He picked Rumple up and put him face down across his lap.
“NO!” Rumple yelled at the top of his lungs and flailed to get down.
With a frustrated grunt, Neal quickly trapped the boy’s legs between his own to keep them out of the way, and started spanking. He laid down rapid-fire swats onto the seat of Rumple’s pants, trying to startle the boy out of his rage.
“Ah! Stop! Stop this right now, Baelfrie!”
Neal pursed his lips, and shook his head. His father was still letting the Dark One speak for him if he was giving orders in this position. Neal stopped swatting even though he’d given Rumple less than ten swats since putting him over his lap, and took a deep breath to calm himself down. Rumple struggled to get up again, but Neal easily held him in place.
“Papa,” Neal said sternly, “you need to calm down, and think about how you’re behaving. I don’t…”
Belle rushed into the room, cutting Neal off mid sentence. Neal watched in silence as Belle’s expression changed from panicked worry to awkward embarrassment. He could feel his father’s entire body tense with horror as he realized they had an audience.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Belle said.
“This can’t be happening,” Rumple muttered and hid his face in his hands.
Belle took a step back and added, “I heard something crash, and I heard Paul yell, and I thought he might be hurt.” She took another step back to get closer to the kitchen door. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
On the one hand Neal wanted nothing more than for Belle to retreat back to the library, but on the other hand, he thought having Belle there might help Rumple to stop fighting him. Neal said, “That’s okay, you’re not intruding. You live here, and you take care of Paul for a large part of the day, so I think it’s important for you to know what’s happening.”
“You can’t be serious!” Rumple shouted, and pushed to get off Neal’s lap.
Neal ignored the outburst, held him in place, and said to Belle, “Paul was rude and disrespectful to someone over the phone, and when I took the phone away from him, he decided to throw a tantrum.”
“I did not!” Rumple screeched indignantly.
“You were angry, and instead of listening to reason when I asked you to stop, you decided to smash the three jars that used to be on the kitchen counter,” Neal said. “What would you call that?”
Rumple kicked a foot in anger, and didn’t respond.
“You made this mess, Paul?” Belle asked with disbelief. “And you did it on purpose?”
Rumple’s entire body slowly sagged down across Neal’s lap as the anger left him. Seeing his actions through Belle’s eyes made it difficult not to be ashamed of what he’d done.
“Belle asked you a question Paul,” Neal said, patting his bottom in warning.
“Yes,” Rumple whispered. He squeezed his eyes shut, wanting to disappear.
“I’d appreciate it if you could give us some privacy,” Neal said quietly. “We’ll come speak to you in the library in just a couple of minutes.”
After a short indecisive pause, Belle said, “I’m sure Paul is very sorry already. Aren’t you Paul?”
Rumple latched onto those words quickly, and forced himself to look at Belle with a large pout. “Yes, I am.” He wasn’t actually sorry. He felt completely justified in breaking his own things, and speaking to Jefferson anyway he wanted. But if Belle planned to talk Neal out of spanking him, then he’d happily play along.
“And he’ll clean up this whole mess by himself. Won’t you Paul?”
He hated that idea, but he nodded anyway. “Yes I will.”
“So maybe a spanking isn’t necessary,” she said to Neal hopefully.
Neal sighed. “Things have already gone too far for that to be an option. I’m going to have a private conversation with him, and we’ll see what he has to say for himself. It won’t be much of a spanking if he’s cooperative.”
Belle gave Rumple a look of sympathy, and said, “Alright.”
As soon as Belle left the room, Neal said quietly, “I’m not going to tolerate the Dark One, Papa. I saw enough of him to last me a lifetime. So we’re going to talk, and if I hear one hint of him coming out, you’ll get six of these.”
Neal raised his arm high, and brought it down with a resounding smack on the seat of Rumple’s pants.
Rumple grunted and clenched his teeth.
“Got it?” Neal asked.
Rumple spit out the word, “Yes.”
“I understand that everything in this house belongs to you, and you have the right to break those things if you want to, but we also have to keep up appearances until Belle gets her memories back or you get your old body back. So you tell me what Mama would have done to me if I’d broken a jar of flour on purpose.”
Rumple squirmed. “She would have spanked you.”
“Exactly, so the next time you’re full of rage and breaking things, please remember that you’re supposed to be eleven, and when I tell you to stop, you either stop or you get swatted.” When Rumple didn’t comment after a short pause, Neal continued. “I’ll take your silence as acceptance, so we’ll move on to the real problem; Jefferson. Do you remember how you felt when I went through the portal and you didn’t?”
Rumple craned his head back to look at Neal. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You basically threatened to take his child away from him. You know what it feels like to lose a child, so why would you do that to him?”
“I wasn’t going to really do it, I was motivating him so that he’d make the hat.”
“Motivating him?” Neal shook his head, raised his hand, and started swatting.
“Ah! Bae! That wasn’t the Dark One talking, that was me! Bae!”
Neal stopped after six swats, and said, “You weren’t motivating him, you were threatening him, and threatening a mad man when you’re in the body of a child puts you in danger. Jefferson isn’t called the Mad Hatter for nothing. He’s crazy, he’s unpredictable, and he’s prone to violence. What if your threats scared him into siding with Regina?”
“He wouldn’t!” Rumple growled. “She’s the one who separated him from his daughter in the first place!”
“Okay, then what if threatening him works, and he’s able to make a hat. Do you really think he’d give it to you after that threat, or do you think he’d take Grace and jump through it himself?”
Rumple was silent for a few seconds, and said, “He’s too loyal to do that,” even though he wasn’t sure that was actually true.
“We have a plan to get you back to your adult sized body again. You teach Emma magic, and soon enough she can reverse the spell for you. It’s a good plan, even if it will take some time. So in a minute, I’m going to let you up, and you’re going to call Jefferson. You’re going to tell him it’s okay to stop working on the hat, and you’re going to assure him that you aren’t going to interfere in his relationship with Grace.”
“I can’t do that! He’ll never take me seriously again!”
“I wasn’t asking you, Papa. I was telling you. You promised to follow my instructions until you got back to your normal size, and this is something that concerns your safety. You can either do what I asked, or you can get spanked and then do what I asked. Which is it going to be?”
“It’s not a safety issue, Jefferson would never hurt me! You’re being completely overprotective and irrational. I’ll tell Jefferson that his daughter has nothing to fear from me, but there’s no reason he can’t keep working on the hat.”
Neal pursed his lips and started spanking again.
“Ow! Baaaae!” Rumple whined.
“You just tell me when you’re ready to follow my instructions,” Neal said with a calm he didn’t feel, and increased the tempo of the slaps.
Quickly realizing that this was a losing battle when Neal didn’t stop after six smacks, Rumple yelled, “Okay! I’ll do it! I’ll call Jefferson. Ow!”
Neal kept spanking and said, “And what are you going to tell Jefferson?”
“To stop working on the hat! Bae please!”
“And?” Neal aimed a little lower to get Rumple’s upper thighs.
“Ah! That Grace is safe! I will!”
Neal gave him two more, and then stopped. He quickly set Rumple on his feet in front of him, and looked him in the eye. The boy wiped away a couple of traitorous tears, and glared at the man.
Feeling bad about the tears, and the huge pout on Rumple’s face, Neal sighed, and pulled the boy into a hug. “We were having such a good afternoon before this.”
A few seconds into the hug, Rumple wrapped his arms around Neal’s shoulders, and felt even more tears slide down his face. He’d heard the regret in Neal’s voice, and that pushed the rest of his anger away leaving room for his own regret, which quickly turned to more tears. He tried to stifle his hitched breath and watering eyes into Neal’s shoulder.
When Neal heard the crying, he picked Rumple up, sat him in his lap, and rubbed his back gently.
“I’m sorry,” Rumple whispered between bouts of tears.
Neal said softly, “I know everything seems difficult right now, it’s difficult for me too. I don’t ever want to spank you. But I can’t stand by and watch you do potentially dangerous things without stepping in, and I won’t stand by and watch you behave like the dark one. I know you want an immediate solution, and I understand that it’s humiliating to be this size in front of Belle, but it would be so much easier for all of us if you’d try to cooperate for the next month or so until you’re back to normal.”
The speech helped Rumple to calm down. He said softly, “I know you’re right, and I am trying, but I’m not used to taking orders from anyone, let alone from my own son.”
Neal patted Rumple’s back and said, “I’m not used to giving orders, so I guess we’ll both just have to try our best to make this work. Just keep telling yourself it’s temporary.”
Rumple pushed away from Neal’s shoulder, climbed off the man’s lap, and wiped at his face with his hands.
Neal got his cell phone out of his pocket, and held it up for Rumple. “Ready to make that call?”
Frowning, Rumple nodded and held out his hand. Neal hit the button to dial Jefferson’s number, and handed the phone to his father. Rumple nervously paced and rubbed his bottom, while he waiting for Jefferson to answer.
Neal listened to Rumple’s side of the conversation, and was quite pleased when his father sounded sincere about not interfering with Jefferson’s relationship with Grace. He sounded less sincere about the hat, but he did tell Jefferson he could stop working on it. Neal watched Rumple’s face as the boy listened to Jefferson’s response. The look of surprise was almost comical.
“I just told you that you don’t have to,” Rumple said. After a long pause he said, “Oh… well… thank you, Jefferson. Alright, bye.” Rumple hung up and handed the phone back to Neal.
“What did he say?”
“He’s going to keep working on the hat anyway,” Rumple said with awe. “He said that he’ll feel safer once I’m back to my old self, because he trusts me more than he trusts Regina or Cora, and I’m the only one he knows of who can keep them in check.”
Neal smiled. “It’s good to know that you have at least one real friend here in Storybrook.” He lost the smile and said, “You need to remember this moment the next time you think about threatening him.”
Rumple looked away and muttered, “You’re right.”
Neal stood up, put the chair back under the table, and looked at his watch. “We’re supposed to be meeting Emma in a few minutes.” He gestured to the mess on the floor, “But you told Belle you’d clean this up.”
Rumple looked at the mess and sighed. He really missed his magic at times like these. He rubbed at his rear end again with a pout.
Neal patted Rumple’s shoulder and said gently, “How about we skip seeing Emma tonight. You can clean this up, and then go to bed.”
Rumple reluctantly nodded. “I hate to admit it, but going to bed early is exactly what I want to do.”
“Come on. Let’s go talk to Belle. She was very concerned.”
Rumple groaned at the thought of having to face her, but followed Neal to the library anyway.
Instead of reading, Belle was anxiously waiting for them when they walked through the door. Belle looked both of them over and asked tentatively, “Is everyone alright?”
Neal looked down at Rumple and said, “Neither of us are feeling that great, but I suppose we’re better now than we were a few minutes ago.”
Rumple almost muttered, ‘speak for yourself,’ but kept himself in check. Instead he focused on Belle and said, “What about you Belle? You’re not upset are you?”
“Oh, sweetie.” She rushed over, and pulled Rumple into a tight hug. “Of course I’m not upset.”
Neal watched his father’s face as Belle hugged him, and he couldn’t help but think of Emma and how much he missed her again. With that thought, he decided that he needed to see her, even if they weren’t going to do any magic tonight. He said, “Belle?”
“Yes?” she said as she let go of Rumple.
“Paul needs to go clean up the mess he made in the kitchen, so he’s not going to have to have time to see our friends, but if you were willing to keep an eye on him for a little while longer tonight, I’d still like to go see them.”
“Sure, that would be fine,” Belle said sincerely.
Neal looked at his father and said, “Is that okay with you?”
Rumple nodded. He’d never say no to spending time with Belle, and he knew Neal wanted time to connect with both Emma and Henry.
“Okay,” Neal said with a smile. “After the kitchen is clean, Paul can get ready for bed, and lie down to read a book. He’s a little tired after that uh… ordeal.”
“Aw, poor baby.” Belle carded her fingers through Rumple’s hair while the boy tried not to cringe at that endearment. “I’ll make sure he gets into bed as soon as the kitchen is done.”
“I’m sure Papa wouldn’t mind if you helped me clean up Belle,” Rumple said hopefully.
To his surprise, Belle leaned down and said gently, “No sweetie. I’m sorry, but if you made that mess on purpose, then you need to clean it all up by yourself.”
Taken aback by her statement, Rumple found himself close to tears again.
Belle turned to Neal and said, “Unless you disagree.”
“No, I agree completely.”
Belle squeezed Rumple’s shoulder and said, “But I’ll keep you company while you clean, and that will make the time go by quickly.”
Rumple nodded and then said to Neal, “Go ahead, Papa, we’ll be fine. Tell Emma I said I’m sorry, and I’ll see her tomorrow.”
“I’ll do that,” Neal said with a kind smile.
# # #
Regina had worked late to make up for her long lunch with Hook, so when she got home that night, she wanted nothing more than to take off her shoes, and pour herself a glass of wine. She walked through the door and saw Cora waiting in the entryway to greet her.
“Hello Mother,” she said with a tired smile.
“Hello dear, how was your day?”
“Long.” She set down her purse, and took off her coat. “How was yours?”
“Just fine. I watched quite a bit of that television you showed me. It’s somewhat addictive… if confusing at times.”
Regina chuckled. “It certainly keeps the masses contented in a way that nothing in the Enchanted Forrest ever could.” She pushed her shoes off her feet, put them by the stairs to take up later, and headed to the kitchen.
“Did you have any interesting visitors today?” Cora asked once they were in the kitchen.
Regina froze with her hand halfway to a bottle of wine, and then turned to her mother with a suspicious glare. “Why would you ask me that?”
Cora smiled and said, “I may have checked on you a couple of times. Through the mirror I mean, I didn’t leave the house of course, because I promised you I wouldn’t.”
Regina glared, grabbed the wine, and said, “That’s wonderful mother. Nothing shows love and trust like spying on your child.” She got out the corkscrew and muttered, “It’s like I’m fifteen again.”
“Oh don’t be like that darling, I wasn’t spying, I just wanted to see you.”
Regina rolled her eyes, and got out two glasses. She’d had that argument with her mother too many times to count, and she knew she’d never get Cora to see how invasive she was being. She poured the wine, and handed her mother a glass, while she took a sip of her own.
“How was lunch?” Cora asked with a smirk, before taking a swallow of her own wine.
Resigned to talking to her mother about it, Regina sighed, and sat down on one of the kitchen barstools. She looked at the glass in her hand and said, “It was nice.”
Regina blushed slightly, took another drink of wine, and then said, “Really nice.” She glared at Cora and said, “Did you put a love spell on him? Or me?”
“Of course not,” Cora scoffed. “I put the spell on him so that you could get to know his personality without the baggage. If you like him, it’s because you’re compatible.”
“He still has baggage, it’s just different baggage.”
“Oh?” Cora said, encouraging her daughter to elaborate.
“He told me his life story, and there are too many similarities to his real life to be a coincidence. He said he’s originally from England where he was in the Royal Navy with his brother. He left the navy after his brother died in a freak accident on duty. He bought a fishing boat, and moved here to escape everything that made him think about his past. He had an affair with a woman he met in a bar the first week he was here, and didn’t realize she was married to Mr. Gold until after he’d already fallen in love with her. She left her husband to be with him, but a week after that she was killed in a car accident. ”
When Cora noticed Regina’s glare, she said, “Well if I changed too much, he’d no longer have the same personality. The important factor is that he’s not consumed with revenge anymore, because of the way his girlfriend died.”
Regina took a sip of her wine and contemplated that.
“You did like him, didn’t you?”
With a tentative smile, Regina said, “Yes. He made me laugh, he was attentive to my needs without being weak or submissive, and he flirted mercilessly.” Her smile grew into a grin as she remembered a particularly raunchy innuendo he’d made in the middle of a crowded elevator, causing all of the occupants to flee when they got to the next floor. She loved to watch the former villagers flee in horror, no matter what caused it.
“Did you set up another date?” Cora asked.
“Yes. He’s taking me to dinner tomorrow,” Regina muttered while turning bright red at the memory of him asking her out.
He’d walked her back to her office, given her a tiny bow, and held out his hand. When she put her hand in his, she’d been expecting him to kiss it, but instead, he pulled her towards him as he stood up straight, and kissed her on the mouth. She’d gotten lost in an upsweep of emotions, and in the physical sensations of kissing him while he held her tight. When he’d finally pulled his mouth away from hers, he said breathlessly, “Dinner tomorrow?” She’d answered ‘yes’ before she even knew what she was saying, and then he was gone.
With a knowing smile, Cora said, “Good.”
Snapping out of her thoughts, Regina scowled at her mother. “Or not good, since he’s going to get his memories back a month from now. Then what? He’ll remember who I am, and he’ll be disgusted that I deceived him.”
Cora waved her hand in the air dismissively. “He’s a man Regina. If the two of you get close this month, he’ll forgive you easily.”
“Mother!” Regina didn’t have to fake the uncomfortable embarrassment and humiliation she felt while her mother talked about sex, which was ironic considering how much she’d enjoyed all of Hook’s sexual innuendoes. She poured herself some more wine, and said, “Let’s go sit on the couch, and you can tell me what you watched today.”
“All right,” Cora said. Pleased that her plan was working, she followed her daughter into the other room to talk.
# # #
Neal arrived at his father’s shop about five minutes late to meet up with Emma and Henry. He found Emma standing by the counter, waiting for him. “Hi,” he said, noticing how beautiful she was when she smiled, and also noticing the way her smile grew when she saw him.
“Hi.” She glanced behind him, and said, “Where’s Rumple?”
“He’s not coming.” He couldn’t keep the frown off his face when he thought about the reason for that.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Neal sighed. He wanted to tell her about it, but he didn’t think it would be good to get into with Henry around. “It’s a long story. Is Henry in the back?”
“No, he’s at home finishing his homework with Snow, and let me tell you, he’s not happy about that. David had to promise to bring him by once the homework got done, or I’m pretty sure there would have been tears.”
“Tears?” Neal asked, not sure what she meant.
She chuckled, “Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. But there would have been pouting. Lot’s and lots of pouting along with puppy dog eyes while he begged me to let him come see you.”
“I’m glad he wants to spend time with me,” Neal said.
“Me too.” Emma paused and then added, “And I wanted to tell you that I’m glad you’re here spending time with Henry.” When he raised one eyebrow, she smiled and said, “I know I was against it at first, but I see how happy he is when he’s around you.”
The corners of Neal’s mouth turned up slightly, but it was no where near the kind of smile that statement would usually produce.
Emma frowned. “Okay, what’s wrong?”
“I told you, it’s a…”
“A long story,” Emma finished his sentence for him, and then gestured to the shop, “It doesn’t look like we have anything more pressing to do, so why don’t you tell me about it.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “Let’s go get comfortable, it might take a while.”
She nodded, and followed him to the back room so they could sit on the couch. She sat down first, and tried not to show how flustered she was when he sat much closer to her than a friend would.
Neal sat back, put his hands in his lap, and said, “Things between me and my father are emotionally strained at the best of times, and now that I’m stuck taking care of him until he’s back to normal, I’m not sure if I’m making things better or worse. It’s so surreal and strange to be around him when he’s little, and I’m never sure if I’m reacting to the things he’s actually doing right now, or if I’m reacting to things he’s done in the past.”
“Like what? Give me an example.” Emma said.
“Tonight he asked me if he could speak to Jefferson to get an update on the hat. We’d been having a pretty good day so I let him. But as soon as he found out Jefferson hadn’t made any progress, he got very upset, and actually insinuated that he’d have Grace taken away from him.”
“Sounds like him,” Emma muttered.
“I know, and that’s the problem.” Neal shook his head. “I’ve heard him threaten people a hundred times, and it upsets me when he does it, so I don’t know if I reacted the way I did because of this particular offence, or if it had more to do with all those other times.”
“Probably some of each. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.” Emma put her hand on his shoulder in comfort. “You haven’t been around him since you were a kid, and you have a lot of anger about those years. If some of that anger comes out due to current issues matching up with old ones, that could be healthy.”
“Sure, it could be healthy if he were an adult, but he’s not.” Neal kept his eyes forward, and said softly, “I took the phone away from him while he was talking, and promised Jefferson that my father wouldn’t separate him from Grace. I also told him to stop working on the hat.”
“That couldn’t have gone over well.”
“It didn’t. My father basically threw a tantrum. He yelled and broke things on purpose, so I swatted his butt to make him stop.”
Emma gasped in surprise.
He forged on. “Then when he still refused to calm down I spanked him.”
“I’m sorry, you did what?”
Neal put his head in his hands, and said, “I put him over my lap and spanked him, and I suppose that’s the heart of the issue. I gave him a child’s punishment for something he used to do as an adult all the time. But in my eyes those actions were always childish, even if he was an adult when he originally did them.”
An awkward silence filled the room for a few moments while Emma thought it over. She said quietly, “We never talked about spanking when we were together.”
He turned to look her way. “I don’t remember it ever coming up in conversation.”
“But it sounds like you’re okay with spanking as a punishment. I mean in general, not just for Rumplestiltskin.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Even for Henry?”
Neal leaned back against the couch, and picked up one of Emma’s hands in both of his. He looked her in the eye and said, “Yes. Even for Henry. You’re not?”
She bit her lip and shook her head. “Not really.”
His expression changed when he considered the possible reasons for that. He put a hand up to caress the side of her face when he asked, “Because of something that happened in the orphanage?”
“No,” she quickly reassured him. “Nothing like that. No one there ever abused me. I never got spanked or hit while I lived there. In fact if we had talked about spanking back when we were together, I probably would have said I was against it, but I didn’t have a strong opinion about it one way or another.”
“So what happened to give you a stronger opinion?” He asked, and moved his hand to cover her hand again.
“Spending time with criminals that skipped bail,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how many abusers I went after. These guys would beat their kids or wives, and then when I caught them, most of them had some sob story about how their family had turned against them. Some of them would even have the nerve to tell me that they were justified in punishing their kids, because their kids were rotten, and that the government shouldn’t have any say in it.” She shook her head and glared off into space. “There’d be pictures in their files of their kids with bruises, welts, scabs, stitches, and casts.”
Neal rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. She turned to him, and her anger lessened. “So yeah,” she said, “I was vehemently opposed to any physical punishment… until I found out that David had spanked Henry. Then I had to rethink my opinion, because David is kind, and gentle, and loving, and I know he would never hurt anyone he loved. I couldn’t understand how the sweet person I’d been getting to know could have actually hit my kid.”
The corners of her mouth turned up in a slight smile. “We had a huge fight about it when he first told me. Both Snow and David went on and on about the difference between abuse and discipline, and they assured me that abuse wasn’t tolerated in the Enchanted Forest anymore than it’s tolerated here. They also told me that if I’d grown up with them, they would have had no qualms about spanking me. They said it’s common practice in the Enchanted Forrest.” She looked to him for conformation.
He nodded. “That’s true. Or at least it was when I grew up. I certainly got spanked when I did something wrong, and every single one of my friends did too.”
Emma nodded. “So over the past couple of months, I’ve been reevaluating how I feel about spanking in general. Then a couple of days ago when David told me he’d spanked Henry again for running to Regina’s with Rumple… I wasn’t as upset as I was the first time, but I wasn’t exactly okay with it either. Being able to see Henry right after helped, because he didn’t seem traumatized by it, but it still hurt to know that he’d been hurt. Does that make any sense?”
“It makes perfect sense, because I felt exactly the same way. It doesn’t sound like David told you, but I was there when it happened.”
“I was. In fact, that’s how the idea of spanking my father got put into my head in the first place.”
Both of her eyebrows went up in surprise and curiosity. “Will you tell me about it?”
He spent the next five minutes explaining what had happened that day, and how terrible he’d felt when he heard Henry get spanked, as well as how strange and uncomfortable it had been to spank Rumple.
Once he finished, Emma shook her head. “I don’t know who to feel more sorry for, you or Mr. Gold. I think you’re both gonna need therapy.”
Neal chuckled, and said, “I’ve been thinking the same thing every day since he cast that spell.”
She laughed along with him, and then put a hand on his arm as she said, “That’s something you need to keep in mind through all of this. He’s the one who cast the spell against your wishes, so in that regard, he really has no room to complain when you treat him as if he were actually a child.”
He felt a rush of affection for her, and without thinking about it, he leaned in and kissed her.
Emma’s eyes opened wide with surprise for a millisecond, before kissing him back. Her hand slid up his shoulder, and soon she had her fingers in his hair as the familiar smell and taste of him overloaded her senses.
Once he felt her respond in kind, Neal wrapped one arm around her back, and pulled her in so that their bodies were pressed together, while his tongue got reacquainted with hers.
They were both caught up in the moment when they heard someone clearing his throat loudly.
Startled, they both jerked apart, and turned to see who had interrupted. Emma turned scarlet when she saw her father standing in the doorway with his arms crossed and a serious glare on his face, and she cringed when she noticed Henry standing right next to him with a shocked expression on his face.
Neal immediately took his hands off Emma, and scooted away from her on the couch, feeling like a teenager again, instead of a full grown adult.
Oppressive silence filled the room for several seconds, until David said through clenched teeth, “Could I speak to you in the other room please, Neal?”
Neal swallowed hard, nodded, and stood up.
“David,” Emma said in a placating tone, “this really isn’t…”
He held a finger up and cut her off with the word, “No.”
Her protests died in her throat. Normally she had no issues with telling David about it when she thought he was wrong, but in this instance she simply couldn’t find her voice.
David put a hand on Henry’s shoulder and said, “Go sit with your mother until I come back.”
Henry silently nodded, and went over to sit on the couch, as Neal walked over to David. David opened the door to the front of the shop wide and gestured for Neal to go through. Once Neal was through, David followed him, and shut the door firmly behind him.
Henry looked up at his mom, and said, “Are you and Dad like… dating or something?”
Emma put an arm around his shoulders, and said, “I’m sorry, kid, you shouldn’t have seen that. I honestly don’t know where I stand with Neal. I don’t even know if I’d want to date him.”
Henry nodded and then looked towards the shut door. “Grandpa seemed awfully upset.”
“Yeah he did,” Emma agreed, and the two of them fell into silence while they waited.
In the shop Neal stopped at the front counter and turned to face David, wondering if the other man was planning to sock him one.
David crossed his arms tightly to keep himself in check and said quietly, “What are your intentions towards my daughter?”
Caught off guard, Neal said, “Um… I’m not sure. It was just a kiss.”
David pointed towards the backroom with a jerky motion and hissed, “That was more than just a kiss, and the two of you have a child together, so I’ll ask you again. What are your intentions towards my daughter?”
Neal thought about it for a second, took a deep breath, and said, “I still love her. I never stopped loving her. I doubt she’d ever take me back, but I’d like to give our relationship another try.”
“With the endgame being marriage? Or are you planning to impregnate her and take off in the middle of the night again?”
Shame bubbled up inside Neal, but instead of letting that intimidate him, he stood up straighter, looked David in the eye, and said, “I never would have left her if I’d known she was pregnant, and I swear I won’t ever leave her again.”
David glared at the man for a few seconds before grabbing a fist full of Neal’s shirt, and pulling him close so they were inches apart. He said with deadly calm, “If you abandon her again, I’ll hunt you down, and cut out your tongue for lying. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” Neal said immediately, believing every word David had just said. “Absolutely clear.”
David searched Neal’s eyes for a moment before letting the other man go. He smoothed out Neal’s shirt for him and said, “Alright then. As long as we understand each other, you have my blessing.”
“I do?” Neal asked with surprise.
With a frown, David reluctantly said, “I’ve seen the way Emma looks at you. She still has feelings for you, too. And over the past few days I’ve seen your interactions with Henry and Rumplestiltskin without his adult memories. You’ll become a good father… as long as you stick around.”
David nodded, and said, “Come on,” as he headed for the back room.
When her father and Neal came back into the room, Emma said, “Everyone okay?”
“Yep.” David said, “I’m going to get home and spend some time with my wife, while the three of you have some family time.” He looked pointedly at Emma and said, “Henry has school tomorrow, so don’t stay out too late.” Without waiting for a response, he walked towards the front and went out the door.
Emma and Henry got up and walked over to Neal. Emma whispered, “What did he say to you?”
Neal grinned. “He gave us his blessing if we want to date.”
“What?” Emma scowled. “Of all the patronizing… Who does he think he is? He has no say in who I date.”
Neal chuckled. “I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s your father, and I’m also pretty sure he thinks he has every right.”
Henry grabbed Emma’s hand and said, “But that’s great, Mom. If David approves, then you and Dad could get together again. We could be a real family.”
Emma’s anger at her father faded. She knelt down in front of Henry, and said seriously, “We already are a real family, Henry. Neal and I don’t need to be together for that. We both love you, and that has nothing to do with how we feel about each other. Okay?”
He smiled. “Yeah I know,” he said with certainty. “But it still would be awesome if the two of you were together.”
Neal held out a hand for Emma to help her stand. She took it, and once he had her standing he pulled her close and said, “What do you say Emma? Will you go out on a date with me tomorrow night?”
She glanced down at Henry who nodded enthusiastically. She turned back to Neal, and remembered how wonderful it was to wake up next to him. “Okay,” she said with a smile. “We’ll go on a date. But for now…” she looked around the room and said, “…how about we look for a deck of cards, and we can teach the kid crazy eights.”
Neal let her go with a grin. “I haven’t played that in years. You two clear off the desk while I find us some cards.”
# # #
One month later…
Rumple woke up as the first rays of sunlight came through his window. He looked at the date on his alarm clock and said to himself, “One month.”
It was exactly one month ago that he’d cast the spell to get his son back. He had trouble believing that so much time had gone by with so little progress towards reversing the spell. His eyes slowly traveled around his room, noticing how little he’d done to it over the past month to make it his. To be accurate, it wasn’t his room. This was a guest bedroom. His son was currently occupying the master bedroom to keep up appearances for Belle. Rumple knew he should just be grateful that Neal trusted him enough to let him sleep in his own room without supervision now, but he certainly didn’t feel grateful. This morning he felt oddly disheartened.
Normally he was an early riser, eager to get started with the day. Often he was motivated to get up by his anger or thoughts of revenge, and other times he was motivated by hope or even love, but today he wasn’t motivated by anything. He rolled over onto his side, and stared out the window as he thought over the past month, his family, his current situation, and his bleak looking future.
He didn’t want to be thirteen anymore. He didn’t want to be stuck in a body that couldn’t do magic. But most importantly, he didn’t want to spend anymore time with Belle when she couldn’t remember who he was. He was tired of her treating him as if he were ten. He scowled at his own thoughts, because they weren’t exactly true. He did want to spend time with Belle, even if she couldn’t remember who he was, but some days it hurt.
It was especially difficult on the days when he had to watch his son and Emma falling in love again. It was painfully obvious that the two of them were blissfully happy together. For the first week they’d been dating, their happiness had made Rumple happy too. He wanted his son to find love. The second week, it had become slightly annoying to watch. By the third week, Rumple had found himself angry about it, because it had shined a spotlight on how completely platonic his current relationship with Belle was. His snippy comments that week had earned him more than one swat from Neal.
But now as he lay in bed watching the sunrise, he felt resigned to watching his son’s blossoming romance. Neal and Emma got to have their happy ending, but he didn’t, and maybe that was exactly what he deserved. Belle didn’t seem unhappy in her role as his nanny, Emma didn’t seem unhappy as his apprentice in magic. His son didn’t seem unhappy being his guardian, even if it still made Rumple cringe most days. They all deserved happy endings, but he was a villain, and according to every fairy tale he’d ever read, villains didn’t get happy endings.
A little of his usual anger stirred in his guts when his thoughts turned to Regina, Cora, and Hook. They were all villains too, and yet they seemed to be getting a happy ending. Cora had her heart, she had her daughter, and she had her life. That was far more than she deserved in Rumple’s book. Then there was Regina and Hook, and their disgusting relationship full of grinning at each other like fools and holding hands in public. Rumple tried to muster up a sneer, but ended up sighing instead. He knew their happiness was contrived by a spell. Regina could never be truly happy while Henry was living with his biological mother, and Hook would never be happy once he got his old memories back. He tried to concentrate on the thought of how devastated Hook would be when he found out the truth, but even that thought didn’t cheer him the way it usually did.
He was startled out of his thoughts by a knock on his door. “Yes?” he said, not bothering to sit up.
Belle opened the door with a cheery smile and said, “I can’t believe you’re still in bed. Aren’t you excited about the festival? I thought you’d be waking me up before dawn.”
Rumple groaned. He had to work very hard not to voice the string of curse words that popped into his head. He already felt like shit, so of course today was the annual Arts and Crafts Festival in the park. It would be like rubbing salt in a wound. The misery he already felt would be amplified as he watched everyone around him enjoying life.
Belle lost her smile when he didn’t respond, and walked over to his bed. “What’s the matter? Are you sick?”
“Yes,” he snapped. He was sick all right. Sick and tired of being thirteen, and waking up alone instead of next to Belle.
Surprised by the tone, Belle quickly headed for the door as she said, “Oh, I’ll go get your father.”
Those words finally got Rumple to sit up, “No!” he said to her retreating form. “There’s no need for that, Belle… Belle?” He flopped back down and muttered, “Perfect.”
A few moments later, Neal showed up in his pajamas, with his hair still messy from sleeping. “Paul? Are you okay?” he asked as he sat down on the bed beside Rumple. He automatically put a hand on the boy’s forehead.
Rumple pushed the hand off, and turned his back to Neal. “I’m fine. I’m not ill. Just leave me alone.”
Neal looked over at Belle in the doorway of the room with his eyebrows raised.
“He told me he was ill,” she said.
He kept his back to both of them and said condescendingly, “No. I said I was sick, not ill. I’m sick of everything. Sick of this house, sick of this town, and sick of happy endings all around me when I don’t get one.”
The room was silent for a few seconds, and then Neal said calmly, “Belle could you give us a few minutes of privacy please?”
With those words, Rumple quickly rolled onto his back to get his rear end out of swatting range, and glared at his son. The man seemed awfully fond of swatting when he thought the Dark One was talking.
“Of course,” Belle said, “I’ll just go get started on breakfast.” She quietly shut the door behind her as she left.
Once the door was shut, Neal turned his attention back to his father. Rumple was relieved to see concern, not anger, in his son’s eyes. Neal grabbed one of Rumple’s small hands and squeezed it gently. “What happened?”
Scowling, Rumple pushed Neal’s hand off his, and said, “What do you mean what happened? Nothing happened.”
Neal regarded him for several seconds, while Rumple tried not to fidget. “If nothing happened, then why are you being so unpleasant? You were fine last night.”
He sighed and admitted the real reason he was upset. “I’ve been in this body for a month now, and it doesn’t seem as though we’re any closer to finding a solution now than we were a month ago.”
Neal looked at the calendar on Rumple’s wall to check the date, and said with raised eyebrows, “A month.”
“A full month.”
Neal turned back to Rumple, and said, “A month’s not so bad, Papa.” He saw the boy scowl and put a gentle hand on Rumple’s shoulder. “I know it’s hard on you, it’s hard on me too, and I know you hate parts of it, but you can’t lose hope. You should try to focus on the positives. Belle is here with you, I’m here with you, Hook isn’t trying to kill you anymore, and Emma will be able to change you back eventually.”
Rumple left Neal’s hand on his shoulder this time, but turned his gaze towards the window. “Yeah, eventually.”
“She’s improved quite a bit since you started,” Neal defended her. When Rumple shrugged and didn’t answer, Neal said, “You know what I think you need?”
Rumple’s eyes darted back to Neal’s with worry. He quickly said, “I don’t need anything. I’m just having a bad day. Is that not allowed in your happy little world?”
With a glint in his eye, Neal grinned, and said, “I think you need an attitude adjustment.”
Before Rumple could respond or worry about that statement, Neal had leaned down, put both his hands on the sides of Rumple’s ribcage, and started tickling. Rumple gasped with surprise, and then let out a very undignified squeal. He tried to push Neal’s arms away with no success. He tried to squirm away, only to have Neal hold him down with one large hand while the other one continued to assault his ribcage and armpit until he shrieked and eventually laughed.
“Aaah! Bae! Bae stop!” He yelled as he squirmed.
Neal did stop tickling, but kept his hand on Rumple’s chest to keep him in place. “Are you still in a bad mood?” Neal asked with a smirk.
Rumple had to force the smile off his face, “Don’t be ridiculous Baelfire. Of course I’m still in a bad mood. I’m not actually a child, remember? My mood won’t change just because you accost me and make…Ah!”
Neal started tickling again, and said over the shrieking, “Wrong answer, Papa.”
Rumple kicked his feet under the blankets, and tried to twist out of Neal’s grip. “Bae! Stop! Ah! Bae!”
Neal stopped again, and said with a grin, “Feeling more positive yet?”
“Yes!” Rumple answered quickly, not caring if it were true or not.
Neal’s grin turned into a gentle smile, and he carded his fingers through Rumple’s hair. He said with sincerity, “Look, Papa, I know you’re unhappy in this body, but I swear it’s only temporary, and if you weren’t in this body, I might still be avoiding you instead of getting close to you again.”
A surge of hope for the future, and love for his son, helped Rumple to smile genuinely. He finally felt like getting up to face the day, even if he did have to suffer through the Art Festival. He sat up and said, “I suppose that is something to be grateful for.”
“Yep.” Neal grinned, grabbed Rumple’s waist, and tossed the small boy over one of his shoulders. Rumple yelped with surprise, as Neal stood up and carried him towards the hallway.
Rumple pushed on Neal’s back so that he wasn’t dangling down, and said, “What in the world are you doing, Baelfire?”
“Taking you down to breakfast,” Neal said as if it were an everyday occurrence.
“But… why are you carrying me?”
“Fun?” Rumple had no idea where his son had gotten that idea. “Fun for whom?”
Neal shrugged with the shoulder that Rumple wasn’t over. “Henry likes it.”
“Just because a ten year old enjoys it, doesn’t mean I will. I’m not actually ten, remember.”
“Hard to forget.” Neal started walking down the stairs, and said, “Henry brought something to my attention yesterday while you and Emma were practicing. He thinks you’re much too serious to pull off being a child. He thought I should try ‘having fun’ with you more.”
“Hence the tickling and carrying?” Rumple guessed.
“Seemed like a good place to start.”
“I’ll be sure to thank Henry personally,” Rumple muttered, while thinking about revenge.
Neal walked through the living room towards the kitchen and said, “Give your grandson a break. He’s trying to make you happy.”
“I suppose,” the boy conceded.
Neal arrived at the kitchen with Rumple still over his shoulder, and smiled at Belle’s shocked expression. “I’m cheering him up,” he said.
“That’s debatable.” Rumple muttered, and the squirmed. “Put me down, Papa, I’ve got to use the restroom before I eat.”
Neal finally set Rumple on his feet, and as the boy was walking towards the bathroom, he heard Neal reassure a concerned Belle that Rumple wasn’t sick, and that he wasn’t in trouble.
# # #
Regina woke to the aroma of brewed coffee. She took a deep breath, stretched her arms above her head, and opened her eyes to the sight of Hook standing beside her bed holding a tray of food for breakfast. Her eyes raked down his body, taking in the bare chest, the chiseled shoulders, the prosthetic hand, and the low slung pajama pants that threatened to fall off his hips at any moment. Her eyes dilated, and she couldn’t help but want him again, even though they’d had sex twice the night before.
“You’re up early.” She said.
He set the tray down on her nightstand, and said, “It’s hard not to wake before dawn after a few years of fishing.” He picked up the coffee and held it out to her.
She pushed herself up to a sitting position with her pillow against the headboard, and took the coffee from him. “It’s going to be a long week next week when you’re gone. I’ll miss you.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized that she’d just admitted something that could leave her vulnerable, and regretted it. She took a sip of her coffee to avoid looking in his eyes.
“I’ll miss you too,” He said with a smile while picking up his own cup of coffee. “Especially after last night.”
Avoiding anymore of that conversation, Regina gestured to the plate filled with fruit, scrambled eggs, and toast. “What’s this?”
“Breakfast. Fit for a queen.” He sat down on the edge of the bed so they were facing each other.
Regina’s body tensed. Did he know? Had he gotten his memories back? “Fit for a queen?” she asked without looking at him.
“Should I have said fit for the mayor?” He set his coffee down, stabbed a slice of strawberry with a fork, and held it next to her lips.
She relaxed marginally, and met his eyes. After searching them for a few seconds, she smiled seductively, opened her mouth, and let him feed her.
He raised one eyebrow and said, “You keep looking at me like that, and you’re going to miss out on breakfast while it’s still warm.”
She set her coffee back on the tray, stuck her fingers into the waistband of his pajama pants, and pulled gently to try and get him to move closer. “I’m not hungry for food.”
He groaned, set the fork down on the tray, and moved closer to her. He balanced himself with his prosthetic hand on the bed, and leaned over her until their lips met. His good hand skimmed the covers over her thighs, brushed the silk of her red negligee on her stomach, and then cupped her right breast.
She moaned into the kiss, and ran her hands through the spattering of hair on his chest.
He pulled back suddenly, and said, “Wait. Don’t you have to be at the festival in…” He looked at the clock, “…about an hour and a half? I thought you were giving a speech.”
She grabbed a fistful of hair on the back of his head, and roughly pulled him in so their lips were almost touching. “They can wait. I can’t.” She kept her hand in his hair, and pressed her lips to his in a crushing kiss.
He pressed his entire body down on top of her, and roughly kissed and nipped at her mouth, jaw, and neck giving her a bit of a stubble burn in the process. He reached back with his good hand, and grasped her wrist. He gently tugged at it until she let go of his hair. He pressed her wrist to the headboard above her head, and held it there as he took his mouth off hers.
“Demanding little wench aren’t you?” he said. “I’ve half a mind to say no.”
After a very unladylike snort of laughter, she pushed her hips up to grind against his and said, “You can try.”
He hummed and pretended to think it over. “Maybe next time,” he said before leaning down to kiss her again.
# # #
Emma woke up when something bounced up and down on her bed. She cracked one eye open, and saw her son kneeling beside her with a grin. He bounced up and down again in excitement.
“It’s time to get up,” Henry said. “It’s the festival today.”
She groaned, grabbed her pillow, and pressed it over her head to hide. Her voice was muffled as she said, “Ever hear of sleeping in on a Saturday kid?”
Henry bounced off the bed, and said, “Breakfast is ready,” on his way down the stairs.
Emma tried to fall back to sleep, but the sounds of her family talking and laughing downstairs got her up. She slipped on a bathrobe, and went downstairs. She found Snow at the stove dishing up oatmeal, while David and Henry were at the table eating. Snow handed her a bowl, and Emma went to sit next to Henry, while Snow got her own bowl and followed her to the table.
“Can I have ten dollars to spend at the festival?” Henry asked, as soon as Emma had swallowed her first bite.
“Sure, I don’t see why not,” Emma said.
“Great.” Henry grinned and ate another bite.
“Just make sure we don’t have a repeat of last year,” Snow said, directing a serious glance at her grandson.
“I know,” Henry said with a small pout. “Trust me, I learned my lesson.”
“Last year?” Emma asked. “What happened last year?”
“Henry ate too much junk food, and got sick right in front of the school’s booth.”
“I’m surprised Regina would let that happen,” Emma said.
“She didn’t,” Henry admitted. “I told her I needed twenty dollars for a toy, but really I spent it all on junk food while she was busy giving her speech. I was grounded for three days.”
“Ouch,” Emma said with sympathy.
“The puking was way worse than being grounded. I don’t want a repeat of that. Not ever.”
David reached over and ruffled Henry’s hair. “Some lessons teach themselves.” He turned to Snow and asked, “When is your shift up?”
“I’m supposed to be watching the booth from nine to noon.”
David turned to Emma. “Then I think I’ll take the first shift for the sheriff’s booth. You and Henry can spend some time with Neal, and then you can relieve me around noon.”
“Sounds good to me,” Emma said.
# # #
The Charmings walked to the park since it was only three blocks from their loft. David and Snow headed in different directions once they got to the park to help set up their respective booths. Emma and Henry stood by the small fountain in the center of the park and waited for Neal, Belle, and Rumple to show up while looking around at everyone rushing around getting their booths ready.
Emma saw them first, and waved at Neal while he was scanning the area. He waved back with a smile, and went to her. Neal gave Emma a kiss, and then playfully ruffled Henry’s hair in greeting.
“Morning, Emma,” Belle said with a smile.
“Hi, Belle. Paul.” Emma said.
With a grin, Henry said to Rumple, “What do you want to see first?”
Rumple sighed. “Whatever you want to see is fine with me.”
“Aren’t you excited to see any of it?” Henry asked.
Unable to fully explain how mind numbingly dull this festival would be to him, Rumple simply shrugged. He’d been around for hundreds of years. He’d seen other worlds full of magic. There was nothing new or exciting about seeing Geppeto’s ‘new’ puppets, the nun’s ‘new’ candles, or Granny’s ‘new’ baked goods. In fact he could have seen all of those things at a festival when he’d actually been a boy.
Scowling at the lack of enthusiasm, Henry looked around at the booths to figure out what he wanted to see. He noticed his friend Grace, and her father Jefferson walking towards the festiva, and decided Grace would be much more enthusiastic about the whole thing. He turned to his mom, pointed at Grace, and said, “Can I go say hi to Grace for a few minutes?”
Emma saw Grace and Jefferson, and had to really think that one over. Jefferson was not to be trusted, but she didn’t want to deny Henry time with Grace, because the little girl was very sweet, and she was one of Henry’s only true friends. “Alright, but you need to stay where I can see you, okay?”
He rushed off as he said, “Thanks, Mom.”
Neal looked down at Rumple, and noticed him glaring at Jefferson. Rolling his eyes he said, “Hey Paul.”
Rumple turned his scowl to Neal.
“I’m sure Belle would like to see the school’s booth. They’re selling off a bunch of old library books.”
Rumple’s frown melted when he saw Belle’s entire face light up.
“Really? That’s fantastic.” Belle said with excitement. “What do you think, Paul? Would you like to go see that booth?”
With a genuine smile he said, “Of course, Belle.”
“The park isn’t that big. You two stay together, and I’m sure we’ll find you at some point before lunch.” Neal said. “If not we can meet back here at noon.”
“Is that alright with you Paul?” Belle asked.
“Sounds perfect,” Rumple said, realizing he certainly could enjoy the festival by witnessing Belle’s excitement and joy.
Emma and Neal looked at each other for a few seconds before Neal said, “Alone at last.” She giggled as he leaned down to give her a deeper kiss than the one before.
The rest of the people and the sounds of the festival faded into nothing, and for a few seconds it was just the two of them lost in their own little world. When the two of them broke apart breathing hard, Neal said, “I love you.”
“I love you,” She said, meaning it with her entire soul. Then she cleared her throat, straightened her shirt, and tried to get her wits about her. “But if we make Henry wait much longer, he’s gong to pout.”
Neal grinned, and said, “You’re right. Come on.” He held out his hand to her and they both headed towards Jefferson.
Emma scanned the area a few times, and got an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Where’s Henry?” she asked, gripping Neal’s hand tighter.
# # #
Henry had been talking to Grace for a few seconds when he caught a glimpse of flowing purple in the corner of his eye. He turned to look between the booths, and saw Cora materialize next to a large oak tree.
Over the past month, Cora had rarely ventured out of Regina’s house. She’d only been present twice when he’d gone to visit Regina, and for one of those two times, she’d only stayed for about five minutes. It seemed extremely odd for her to show up at a public event like this when ninety percent of the town held a grudge against her. When Cora started moving around the outside of the booths instead of heading into the festival, Henry knew he had to see what she was up to.
Grace was in the middle of telling him how she’d saved up to buy one of Gepetto’s little puppets, when Henry cut her off and said, “Sorry, Grace, I hear my mom calling.” He took a few steps back and added, “But maybe I’ll see you later and you can show me which puppet you got.”
“See you later.” She gave him a big grin and a wave, before taking her father’s hand and heading towards Gepetto’s booth.
Henry ducked down in between the two booths, about to go track Cora, but then froze. He thought about what had happened the last time he’d wandered off and cringed. He looked back at his parents, and saw them kissing. They would clearly be busy for a few minutes, so he figured he could risk it. If he didn’t follow Cora now, they might never know what she was up to, and he wouldn’t be gone for very long, anyway. The festival was becoming crowded now that most of the booths had opened up, so if they said they couldn’t see him, he could claim that he’d seen them the whole time.
Having made his decision, he rushed behind the booths to see where Cora had gone. He saw her in the distance, and ran to catch up.
# # #
Cora hid behind a tree and surreptitiously watched her daughter and Hook walking towards the festival. The two were holding hands, smiling, and talking as they headed her way. At the edge of the fairgrounds, one of Regina’s staff members saw her and pulled her away to get ready for her speech. Hook gave her a kiss and watched her go with a grin.
He turned to go the other direction, towards the growing crowd waiting to hear the speech, and came face to face with Cora. After getting over his surprise, he smiled and said, “I’m glad you changed your mind about coming. I’m sure Regina will be pleased to see you.” He gave her a tiny bow and held out his arm for her. “Would you like to watch your daughter’s speech with me?”
“Not this time,” she said, and waved a hand in front of his face. Some purple smoke circled in the air around his head.
Henry was hiding behind a tree in the distance, and put a hand over his mouth to keep from gasping and drawing attention to himself. He kept watching, waiting to see what she’d done to Hook.
When the smoke dissipated, Hook blinked a few times, shook his head, and put a hand to his temple. He glared at the woman and said, “What did you do to me, witch?”
“I’ve restored your memories.”
Hook’s face contorted in confusion while the thoughts and memories of the past month slid into place alongside the memories of his entire life. He glared at Cora and said, “Why?”
“Why what Killian? Why did I give you your memories back, or why did I take them away in the first place?”
“Yes!” he hissed, while taking a menacing step towards her.
“Mostly for Regina.”
That gave him pause, and he looked in the direction Regina had gone.
“She likes you,” Cora said. “Maybe loves you, but you needed time to focus on her instead of your vengeance, and you never would have done that if I’d let you keep your memories. This way you had time to see if you were a good match. And you do seem to be.”
He ran a hand through his hair, not sure how to respond. He had certainly enjoyed his time with Regina. In fact, he was hard pressed to remember a better month in his life prior to Milah’s death.
“But also,” Cora said after a moment, “I wanted to enlist your help to bring down the Dark One.”
Scowling, Hook said, “I was trying to kill him when you did this to me!”
She waved a hand at him in a shooing gesture. “You were on your way to getting stuck in prison for the rest of your life. The Charmings and Neal would never have let you kill the Dark One while he was in the body of a child, and you were so full of hate, you couldn’t consider anything other than a direct attack. No finesse whatsoever. But if you could talk Regina into helping, I know the three of us can come up with a solid plan.”
“To what end,” he asked suspiciously. “So that you can become the Dark One?”
“Better me than him,” she said defensively. “I won’t abuse my power the way he has.”
Henry was about to run back to his parents to warn them what had happened, when Hook surprised him.
“No,” Hook said with finality.
“No?” Cora asked. She wasn’t clear on exactly what Hook was saying no to.
He looked back the way Regina had gone before turning to face Cora. “No. It’s hard to believe, but I think… no I am in love for the first time in over a hundred years, thanks to you, and I’m not about to ruin that. What we’ve got here in this town right now, this peaceful coexistence is perfect just the way it is. Regina loves Henry, and I’ve become quite fond of him myself. I’ve gotten to know Baelfire as an adult, and the crocodile is quite harmless as a child. I’ll discuss it all with Regina, but I won’t lie to her or go behind her back.”
Henry’s eyebrows went up in shock. He wouldn’t have guessed that Hook would side against Cora with his memories back, but the man had sounded sincere. Henry didn’t wait to hear what Cora had to say. He turned and rushed back to the festival to warn his family.
# # #
Henry darted back between the booths into the main part of the festival, and looked for his folks. They weren’t where he’d left them. A tinge of worry hit him as he scanned the area. He saw them walking away from him towards the area where the speech was about to start. Henry called out, “Mom!” and rushed up behind them.
Emma and Neal spun around at the same time. Their dual worried expressions gave Henry pause, but he didn’t have time to worry about what it meant, because Emma knelt down and pulled him into a fierce hug.
“Where have you been?” She held him at arm’s length to check him over. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Henry’s stomach sank, and hoped his news would distract them. “I saw Cora walking behind the booths, and I wanted to see what she was up to, so I followed her.”
Emma and Neal exchanged an alarmed glance.
Henry started to speak again, “She went over to…”
“Wait a minute.” Neal said, holding a hand up in a stopping gesture. “Let me get this straight. Your mother told you to stay in sight, but instead you purposely followed the most dangerous person in Storybrook without telling anyone where you were going?”
Swallowing hard while his stomach churned, Henry decided getting to the point quickly would be an excellent idea. “Uh… Cora gave Hook his memories back.”
Neal’s face registered shock for half a second, before he whispered, “Papa.” He started to frantically search the immediate area, and said, “We need to find Rumple and Belle.”
Emma immediately stood and scanned the area as well, while keeping one hand on Henry. “Over there,” she said, pointing towards a booth in the distance.
Neal ran, while Emma and Henry followed behind.
Rumple was enjoying Belle’s enthusiasm for the books she was looking at with Snow at the school’s booth, when he saw Neal rushing towards him. He barley had time to register alarm before Neal was picking him up in a hug. After half a second of hesitation, he hugged Neal back and said, “What’s wrong?”
Neal looked at Belle, and knew he needed to get her out of the way so they could talk without freaking her out. He said, “Could you do me a favor, and go tell David to come see us for a minute? He’s at the sheriff’s booth at the other end of the festival.”
“Of course,” she said with a worried expression, and headed in that direction.
“What happened?” Snow asked.
“Tell us what happened,” Neal said to Henry while putting Rumple down.
“I saw Cora behind the booths, and she hasn’t been out of Mom’s house for a long time, so I wanted to see what she was doing. I followed her, and she went to talk to Hook. While I watched she did some kind of reversal spell and gave him all of his original memories back.”
Rumple’s eyes started darting around the area, and he unconsciously took a step closer to Neal.
Henry continued. “She tried to talk him into siding with her and Regina to kill the Dark One, and take his power for herself. But Hook refused.”
“He refused?” Neal asked, not quite believing that.
With a nod, Henry said, “He said he loved Regina, and he said he liked me and Neal, so he wouldn’t help her.”
“He’s a manipulative, lying pirate,” Rumple said. “We can’t trust him. Maybe he knew you were there.”
They all heard Regina’s voice booming over the park through a microphone. “Welcome residents of Storybrook to the third annual Art and Music Festival in the Park.”
While Regina was talking David jogged up to them with worry on his face. “What’s wrong?”
Neal saw Belle a few feet away walking towards them, and said, “Snow will fill you in. We need to go see the crowd at Regina’s speech. Whether Hook is lying or not, he’s probably watching Regina. Let’s head that way, and see if we can spot him before he spots us.”
Belle caught up to them and put an arm around Rumple to protect him, even though she wasn’t sure why everyone looked so worried.
The group headed towards the speech with Snow and David in the back so that Snow could whisper the situation quickly in his hear.
Neal scanned the crowd. Hook wasn’t hard to spot up near the front, apparently enraptured by Regina’s dull speech. Cora was nowhere to be seen. He turned to Emma and said, “You all stay here and let me go talk to him alone first.” He turned to David and said, “If he attacks, get them all to safety.”
“Bae…” Rumple said with worry, not liking that idea at all.
David shook his head. “I’ll come with you. Help you fight him off if he does attack.”
“Why would Killian attack you?” Belle asked. “He’s always been nice to us.”
“He found out some information that might make him angry.” Neal said, trying to keep it vague and simple. He turned to David and said, “I don’t want him to feel threatened or backed into a corner if we both confront him. And the two of us have unresolved history anyway. I’d like to talk to him alone.”
After a short pause to think it over, David looked at Snow, who nodded. With a sigh, he said, “Okay.”
“Be careful,” Rumple said.
Neal nodded, gave Emma a quick kiss, and went to go talk to Hook. He made sure to walk up front and approach Hook from the side so that he didn’t startle the pirate. To his utter amazement, when Hook saw him coming, the older man grinned, walked into his personal space, and pulled him into a hug.
“Baelfire, it’s been a long time.” Hook said quietly.
Confused, Neal slowly put his arms around Hook and patted his back once, indicating the hug should end.
Everyone noticed when Regina’s speech faltered, and people turned to look at what was distracting her.
Hook let Neal out of his embrace, but put an arm around his shoulders. He noticed the quiet first, and then realized everyone was staring at them. He looked up a Regina and gave her a wink and a smile. “Finish your speech love, we need to talk.”
Regina shook herself out of her stupor, and gave the crowd her professional smile, made a light joke, and continued her speech.
Neal raised one quizzical eyebrow and said, “Hook?”
“Yes, it’s me. Cora gave me my memories back just before the speech. I remember my past, and I remember what has happened this last month.” He squeezed Neal’s shoulder and added with sincerity, “Milah would be so proud of the man you turned into. Hell, even I’m proud, and I had very little to do with it.”
A warm blush spread across Neal’s face, and he didn’t quite know how to respond. He shrugged and said, “You probably had more to do with it than you think. I was only on your ship for a week or two before you sold me out, but… you don’t know how many nights I spent wishing I could go back to the ship.”
“Aye, lad, probably as many as I spent hating myself for selling you out, and begging Milah’s forgiveness in my prayers.”
Neal felt himself tearing up, and took a deep breath to contain it.
Regina wrapped up her speech, and the crowd cheered. Hook took his arm off of Neal to clap enthusiastically against his prosthetic hand.
Realizing he was out of time, Neal cleared his throat and said, “Killian, my father is…”
Hook turned to Neal and said with a subdued smile, “The Dark One has nothing to fear from me when he’s in the body of a child, you have my word.” He looked up at Regina on stage. “I’ve more important things to think about.” He turned back to Neal, held a finger up and added, “However, if he gets his adult body back, I make no such promise. I can say that I won’t start anything, but if he does start something, I’ll finish it.”
Neal nodded, thinking that was more than fair. “Thank you.”
Regina started walking off the stage, and Hook said, “Sometime soon, maybe tomorrow, I’d like to get a beer with you and catch up, but for now,” Regina walked up to them with a fake smile plastered on to cover her worry. “Regina and I need to talk.”
“Of course,” Neal said, “I’ll see you both later.” He headed back to his family with a relieved smile.
“What’s going on?” Regina asked Hook.
Hook glanced around at all the people and said, “Do you have anymore obligations right now, or can we go home for a little while to talk.”
Looking distinctly worried, she said, “We can head home.”
He took her hand in his, and some of her nerves settled as they walked toward her house.
Once they were a block away from the festival, Hook said, “Cora confronted me right before your speech.”
She gripped his hand harder. “What did she say?”
“She gave me my memories back,” he said gently.
Regina gasped, and stopped walking. “You… you remember…”
“Everything.” He let go of her hand, and cupped her face with his hand. “I remember everything. Who I was, who I’ve been this past month, and who I am now.”
She searched his eyes, looking for anger, but didn’t see any. “What now?” she asked.
“Now I can tell you that I’m hopelessly in love with you. Not just my alter ego, but every part of me is in love with you.” He leaned down to kiss her, and wrapped his arm around her waist to pull her close.
She kissed back enthusiastically. He pulled back and said, “Now the question is how do you feel about me being… me, and how will this change our relationship?”
She pulled him down for another kiss, and then said, “I’m glad you’re back to the real you, and I like our relationship just the way it is.”
“Me too.” He raised an eyebrow and said, “Shall we consummate this new facet to our union back at the house?”
“Absolutely,” she said with a grin.
While Regina and Hook were having their discussion a block away, Neal was busy reassuring his family that Hook wasn’t going to be a threat. He wanted to get into specifics, but left it at that since Belle was with them.
David took the hint and said, “As long as there’s no immediate threat, I should head back to my booth.”
Understanding immediately, Snow smiled at Belle, and said, “I need to get back to my booth, too. Would you like to come with me, it didn’t look like you were done when we got pulled away.”
Belle looked at Neal who gave her a nod. “Go ahead. I’ll bring Paul over there in just a minute.”
“Alright,” Belle said with a smile.
Snow and Belle walked away, but David stayed next to Emma and Henry to hear what else Neal had to say. Once Belle was out of hearing range, Neal said, “Hook has all of his memories back. He knows exactly who he is, and he’s still in love with Regina, so he’s not going to cause any problems.” Neal made eye contact with Rumple and said, “He swore to me that he wouldn’t harm you while you were in the body of a child. He said once you become an adult again, he won’t start anything, but if you start something, he will fight back.”
“Pirates are notorious liars Bae,” Rumple said, “and Hook is the worst of the worst. You can’t seriously be taking his word on that.”
“I don’t see that we have much of a choice.” Rumple opened his mouth to protest, but Neal held a hand up to stop him. “I’m not saying that we trust him, and we will take precautions. We’ll keep a close eye on him, and on you, to keep you safe, but we can’t just lock him up because he might hurt someone.”
Neal looked to both Emma and David and said, “Unless you guys think I’m wrong.”
David shook his head. “No, I think you’re right. Until he does something, we should leave things as they are.”
“He tried to kill me! He shot Belle!” Rumple said, “Doesn’t anyone here remember that?”
“Love changes a person,” David said simply.
Rumple scowled. “That’s a platitude, not something any rational person should take into account while making logical decisions about a problem.”
“Papa,” Neal chided. “That was uncalled for. Apologize.”
Rumple crossed his arms and glared at Neal.
Neal glared back and said with authority, “Apologize or we can find someplace private to have a discussion.”
Rumple blanched and shook his head no.
Neal continued, “Love does change people. It changed you. So apologize.”
Glaring daggers at the ground, Rumple muttered, “Sorry.”
Neal nodded and then turned to Henry, “Speaking of private discussions, you and I need to go have one since you ran off on your own again to follow Cora of all people.”
Henry gulped and stepped closer to Emma while shaking his head. Emma put her arm around Henry’s shoulders and said, “Neal, you know how I feel about that.”
He took her free hand in his and said, “Emma I love you. I love Henry, too, and I want to be a real father to him. He needs boundaries, or he’s going to end up getting himself killed, and you know that your parents agree with me.”
“We do,” David assured them.
Neal continued, “It’s not going to be abusive, it’s going to be a few smacks on his backside. If you don’t believe me ask my father if he thinks I’m abusive when I deal with him.”
Wincing Rumple muttered, “Could this day get any more humiliating?”
“Please say no, Mom,” Henry said, hugging her middle.
Neal kept his eyes on Emma and said, “I guess the real question is; do you trust me to be Henry’s father, or not?”
Emma bit her lip and looked to David. He nodded at her. She looked down at Rumple. He glared and said with exasperation, “My son is many things, abusive isn’t one of them.”
She looked down at Henry, who shook his head no.
“Cora could have hurt him today,” Neal said.
Emma closed her eyes and finally nodded. “Okay.”
“Nooo,” Henry whined loudly.
“Sorry kid,” Emma shook her head, “but I’ve talked to you about running off on your own so many times that I’ve lost track, and it hasn’t done any good.”
Neal said to Emma, “Thank you for trusting me. Can I use the loft for a few minutes?”
Emma looked at David, who said, “Go ahead. It’s unlocked.”
“Thanks.” Neal turned back to Emma and said, “Can you make sure Rumple gets back to Belle? I don’t want him alone until we’ve gotten to know this new Hook better, and know how Cora is going to react to his rejection.”
Neal hooked a finger towards Henry and said, “Come here.”
Henry shook his head and backed up a step.
“This is happening, so unless you want me to carry you across the festival, I suggest you do what I say.”
With an exaggerated pout, Henry slowly slunk over to Neal’s side.
Neal put a hand on the kid’s shoulder to guide him, and started walking towards the Charming’s loft while David went back to his booth, and Emma took Rumple back to Belle.
During the walk to the loft, Henry tried pleading his case, but Neal wasn’t swayed. Once they were inside the loft with the door shut, Henry couldn’t keep the tears at bay any longer.
“It’s not fair,” he whined while tears rolled down his face, “I was trying to help.”
Neal walked to the kitchen table, turned one of the chairs around to face the living room, and sat down. “It is fair,” he said. “You knew what the consequences were for running off on your own, and you did it anyway. Hopefully I’m going to convince you that it wasn’t worth it.” He gestured Henry over with a wave of his hand.
Still crying softly, the boy walked towards his father, but stayed out of reach.
Neal stood, took his son’s arm, and pulled him to the chair and over his lap. Once he had the kid secured with an arm around his waist, he said sternly, “You don’t disobey your mom. She told you to stay in her eyesight, and you purposely left the area where she could see you.” He raised his arm, and gave the boy eight firm slaps.
Henry yelped loudly with each smack, kicked his legs, and broke down into loud sobs once they stopped.
Wincing at his son’s crying, Neal paused for a second. He wasn’t smacking all that hard, so he knew the tears were more about Henry’s emotions than actual pain, but he still hated hearing them. He reminded himself that Henry could be missing or worse right now if Cora had found him following her, and reluctantly said sternly, “When you see a potentially dangerous situation you come and tell an adult about it, you don’t go investigate the danger on your own.” He brought his hand down on the kid’s rear end eight more times before he stopped.
“Okay, it’s over,” Neal said while pulling the boy up to sit in his lap. He wrapped his arms around Henry, and kissed the top of his head. Henry immediately burrowed into his father’s chest, and cried himself out. A couple of minutes later, when Henry was down to sniffles, Neal said, “Ready to go back?”
Henry shook his head against Neal’s chest.
“Okay, we can stay here a few more minutes, but not too long. Your mom is going to be worried about you until we get back.”
“I don’t even want to go to the festival anymore,” Henry said.
Neal could practically hear the sullen pout that accompanied those words. He rubbed Henry’s back and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s a family activity, and you don’t get to skip it just because you’re not in the mood anymore, especially since you brought that on yourself. Your only option now is to decide what kind of attitude you’re going to go back with. You could be grouchy and unhappy for the rest of the day because you got spanked, or you could try to accept it, put it behind you, and enjoy the rest of the festival.”
Henry didn’t respond, and Neal could tell he was still pouting. He hugged Henry close one more time, and then pushed him to stand beside him. He put his hands on Henry’s shoulders to keep him in place, and looked him in the eye. “Your choice kiddo. Personally, even when it hurt, I always preferred a spanking to being restricted to the house for days. If I hadn’t just spanked you, how long do you think your mom would have grounded you?”
Henry wiped at his face with his hands, glared at the floor, sniffed loudly, and shrugged.
“Take a guess.”
“All weekend,” he said softly.
“Right. So instead of dwelling on the pain that’ll be gone in an hour or two, think about all the fun things you’re going to get to do this weekend since your punishment is over and done with.”
Henry shrugged again, but Neal could tell that his son was thinking that over. Neal patted his shoulder before letting his hands drop and said, “Okay, go blow your nose and then we’re heading back.”
While Henry went to clean up, Neal stood and put the chair back, hoping that his son would cheer up sooner rather than later, so they could all enjoy a little bit of the festival together.
# # #
Emma finished painting a cat on the arm a five-year-old girl visiting the sheriff’s booth, gave the girl a sticker, and then sighed as the girl went back to her parents. She craned her neck around to look behind the sheriff’s booth towards the sidewalk that led to the loft and frowned with worry. A hand on her knee startled her out of her thoughts.
With a sympathetic smile David said, “He’s gonna be fine.”
She had her doubts, but gave him a small nod, and focused on the three-year-old boy who was walking up to the booth. By the time she’d finished painting a ‘doggie’ on the little boy’s cheek, she could see Neal and Henry in the distance walking towards the festival. She handed David the paintbrush and said, “I’ll be back at noon to relieve you.”
He pulled her into a quick hug, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Want some fatherly advice?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile as he let her go.
“Don’t undo what Neal just did by coddling Henry the rest of the day. Henry deliberately chose to disobey you. He needs to stop doing that before he gets himself seriously hurt.”
“I know you’re right,” she said, “but it’ll be tough not to.”
“And remember, no matter how bad or guilty you feel for letting it happen, Neal feels twice as bad for carrying it out.”
She hadn’t thought about it from that angle before, but she instantly knew it was true. She nodded solemnly. “Thanks, David.”
With mock offence he said, “What? I don’t even get a ‘Dad’ when I give you fatherly advice?”
She chuckled. “Thank you, Dad.”
“Better.” He gestured towards the approaching pair and said, “Go on. I’ll see you at noon.”
She walked down the street to meet them. She pulled Henry into a one-armed hug, and then looked closely at Neal’s face. She could tell he was on edge, ready to defend his actions even though he felt bad about what he’d done. To his shock, she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss while she kept an arm around Henry’s shoulders.
“What was that for?” He asked slowly with a furrowed brow.
She shrugged. “You looked like you needed it.” She looked down at Henry who was quietly pouting. “Hey kid?”
“You know I love you right?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Good. If you run off on your own again and put yourself in danger, you’re going to be grounded for a week, whether your dad spanks you or not, because you’ve done this too many times.”
Henry winced at her pronouncement, and glared at the ground while Neal’s eyes went wide with surprise.
After a little pause she prompted the kid. “You got that?”
Keeping his eyes down Henry nodded.
She kissed the top of his head and said, “Alright then, let’s go see the festival.”
An hour later Emma was watching Henry animatedly talking to Grace while sharing his cotton candy, and marveling at how quickly kids bounced back to normal.
# # #
Hook and Regina walked back to the festival, grinning at each other like teenagers in love. A block away from the festival, one of the townspeople saw them coming, and quickly picked up her child and rushed off in the opposite direction. Regina’s smile faltered, as she wondered exactly how long it would take for the citizens to forgive her for her past misdeeds. She hadn’t done anything evil in over a month, and some days that had been truly difficult.
Hook immediately noticed her change in mood, and knew what she was thinking. Just before they stepped into the park from the sidewalk Hook stopped, pulled her in close, and whispered in her ear, “I love you, Regina, all of you. I love the good and pure parts of you, the evil nasty parts of you, and everything in between. We’re two of a kind, you and I. We’ve done our share of evil, and we’ve done our share of good. I love you both ways, my queen. You never have to be ashamed of your past though my eyes.”
He leaned back to see her face, and knew he’d said the right thing.
She put a hand on the side of his face and said with sincerity, “I love all of you, too.”
He gave her a quick kiss, and said, “Let’s go make nice with the locals, and prove that I’m not a threat.”
“Are you a threat?” She asked, searching for the answer in his eyes.
“Only if you want me to be,” he said with a wink. She grinned, and they walked into the festival hand in hand, ready to face any opposition together.
They spotted Neal, Emma, Belle, Rumple, and Henry halfway through the festival.
Henry saw them first, and was about to rush over to Regina to say hello, but then thought twice about it when he remembered Hook had his memories back. He remembered the hatred he’d seen in the man’s eyes when he was trying to attack Rumple, and stepped back towards Emma.
Neal noticed them next. He put a protective and restraining arm around Rumple’s shoulders, and then waved the pair over. He wanted to get this confrontation out of the way quickly. He leaned down and whispered in Rumple’s ear, “We’re going to talk to Hook. Try to be civil so we can all live in peace. If he attacks, you run to the blue fairy for help.”
Rumple scowled up at his son who wasn’t paying attention, and then gave the pirate a death glare.
Emma said tentatively, “It looks like the two of you worked everything out?”
With a genuine smile Regina said, “We did.”
“I’m happy for you both,” Emma said.
“Me, too,” Neal added.
Completely ignoring the look Rumple was sending his way, Hook focused on Henry and said, “I’m sure your father has told you that I have my memories back now, yes?”
“I want you to know that I remember everything we’ve done together over the past month, and I find that I genuinely enjoy your company. Maybe the next time you visit your mom, the three of us can take the Jolly Roger out for a spin around the harbor.”
“Really?” Henry asked. “That would be awesome.”
Instantly worried that they’d sail off into the sunset with her kid, Emma put a hand on Henry’s shoulder and said, “We’ll see.”
Hook gave Emma an overly polite smile and added, “You’d of course be welcome to join us, Swan, along with Baelfire.” He glared at Rumple and said, “But the little crocodile will have to stay home.”
Rumple hissed, “As if I’d set foot on the ship where you and my wife used to…”
“Paul!” Neal said sharply, trying to alert him to the fact that Belle was staring at them all with confusion and maybe a little fear.
“Crocodile?” Belle asked, but no one was listening.
Hook scowled down at the man in a child’s body and said, “As if I’d let you set foot on the ship where you murdered her.”
“Okay, that’s enough!” Neal said, glaring first at Hook, and then down at Rumple. “That was a long time ago, and we’re all moving forward, not dwelling in the past. Both of you have found love with other people. She was my mother, and thanks to the both of you I grew up without her. If I can forgive you both, you should be able to live in the same town without slitting each other’s throats. I think you both owe me that.”
Both Hook and Rumple had the decency to stop glaring at each other and focus on Neal.
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Belle said. “But someone needs to explain it to me, right now.”
Regina flicked a hand towards Belle, and the confused woman put a hand to her temple.
“I… I don’t feel well,” Belle said, right before fainting. As she started to fall, Regina reached out a hand to magically lower her to the grass gently.
“What did you do!” Rumple yelled as he shoved away from Neal’s arm and rushed to Belle’s side.
“Calm down, I’m trying to help,” Regina said with exasperation. “You all seem hell bent on arguing about things she can’t remember and doesn’t believe, so I put her to sleep for a few minutes. When she wakes up, she’ll think it was all a hallucination or a dream, and you guys won’t have to make up some ridiculous explanation. You’re welcome.”
Rumple had Belle’s head in his lap, and glared at Regina. He wanted to rant at her and demand that she never use magic on Belle again, but at the same time, he knew how difficult their argument would have been to explain, so he settled on just glaring.
Belle stirred and blinked her eyes. “What… what happened?” she asked as she sat up.
“You fainted,” Rumple said while holding her hand.
“I fainted?” Belle asked.
“It must be the heat,” Neal said, leaning down to help Belle stand. “Maybe you should take a little break and sit down.” He gestured towards a bench by the fountain in the center of the park.
“Yes, I probably should sit down for a moment.” She accepted his help, and soon had her situated in the bench, with Rumple hovering at her side.
“Are you alright now?” Rumple asked anxiously. “Did you hurt yourself in the fall? How is your head? Does it hurt? Do you want to go home?”
She smiled at him gently and brushed her fingers through his hair. “I’m perfectly fine Paul, don’t worry, nothing hurts. Your father is right, I probably just got a little too hot from all this walking around. And I didn’t eat much breakfast. Once I’m rested, maybe we can get some lunch. That should help.”
“Yes, of course. We’ll go look at the food booths as soon as you’ve rested.”
While Rumple was busy with Belle, Neal walked back over to Emma, Henry, Hook, and Regina.
Hook immediately said, “I’m sorry, Bae. I should have done a better job of keeping my temper in check.”
“It’s okay. My father has that effect on a lot of people.” Neal turned to Regina and said, “Thanks, by the way. I do appreciate your help with Belle.”
Surprised, Regina said, “You’re welcome.”
Neal put his arm around Emma’s waist and said, “What do you say, Emma? Should we all go sailing on the Jolly Roger sometime next week?” He looked over at Hook and said, “While Belle keeps Rumple at home of course.”
Hook nodded at him.
“Can we, Mom?” Henry asked hopefully. “Please?”
With some reservations, Emma nodded. “I suppose we can do that.”
Hook smiled at Henry’s enthusiasm. “Maybe we should buy a couple of the wooden swords at the toy booth. I can show some moves while we’re at sea.”
“Sure, but Dad’s already teaching me to sword fight,” Henry said with pride.
Hook raised an eyebrow. “And who do you suppose taught him?”
After a small pause, Henry said, “You?”
“Aye. But I only trained him for a few weeks. If I train you, you’ll be able to best him in a fight within the month.”
Neal laughed and said, “We’ll see about that.” He looked back at Rumple and Belle and said, “We should probably go make sure she doesn’t remember anything suspicious.”
“Go ahead,” Regina said.
Emma turned to walk away with Neal, but instead of following them, Henry went to Regina and gave her a quick hug. “Thanks for helping, Mom.”
Surprised by the sudden affection, it took her a moment to hug him back. She held him tight and said, “You’re welcome.”
He pulled away, gave Hook a wave, and ran back to Emma and Neal.
Hook saw the hurt in Regina’s eyes and put his arm around her waist. “Give it time. They’ll all come around, and then we’ll get him fifty percent of the time.” He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “In the meantime, how do you feel about working on our own little bundle of joy?”
Shocked she leaned back to look at his face. “Are you serious?”
“Aye. Wouldn’t you like more children?”
“Well… yes, but… isn’t that too fast?”
He shrugged. “It’s not too fast for me. I know what I want, and I want a family with you. But I can wait until you’re ready too.”
“We aren’t even married.”
“We could remedy that,” He said with sincerity. Then he smirked, “But we are evil, so maybe we should give the town a scandal to gossip about. It might take their minds off of some of our… more violent past deeds.”
She just stared at him, not sure how to respond. But deep in her heart, she already knew she’d eventually say yes to him.
“Come my queen, let’s see what they’re selling for lunch at Granny’s booth. I’m ravenous.”
He led the way towards the food booths, while Regina’s mind raced.
# # #
The festival was winding down, and most of the people were packing things up, and shutting down their booths. Neal was pleased to see that Henry had apparently fully recovered from their ‘talk’, because the kid was running around the mostly empty park playing tag with Grace while Rumple stood aside and looked on with disdain.
Emma walked up to Neal and said, “Sheriff’s booth is all put away.”
He put his arm around her waist, and looked towards the school’s booth in the distance and said, “Looks like Bell and Snow are almost done too.”
“Do you guys want to have dinner with us?” Emma asked. “Afterwards, you could drive Belle home while I practiced magic with Rumple.”
Neal was about to say yes when Henry ran up to Rumple, slapped him on the arm and called out, “You’re it!”
Rumple scowled, “I’m not playing your ridiculous little chase game, Henry.”
“Don’t be such a grandpa,” Henry taunted as he slowly backed away.
“Come on, Paul, it’s fun,” Grace yelled from several feet away.
Rumple rolled his eyes and was about to say no when Henry said, “Afraid you can’t catch us?”
Rumple glared and darted towards his grandson. Henry squealed in delight and ran away from him.
Neal and Emma looked at each other, and burst out laughing at the kids’ antics. Once their laughter died down, Neal pulled her in for a kiss. When they pulled apart he said softly, “You should marry me.”
Emma’s eyes opened wide with shock, and a split second later, Neal’s opened wide with shock too as he realized the implications of what he’d just said in the spur of the moment.
“Are you serious?” Emma asked carefully.
Neal recovered from his shock almost instantly, and gave her a grin before getting down on one knee in front of her.
“What are you doing?” Emma asked in a panic, even though she knew very well what he was doing. She blushed and looked around at the people left in the park, and realized some of them were already watching. “Oh God,” she muttered, not sure if she wanted this to happen or not.
Neal cleared his throat, and took her left hand in both of his. “Emma Swan, I’ve loved you for over twelve years, even if we spent most of that time apart. I don’t want to waste anymore time. I want us to be together for the rest of our lives. Will you marry me?”
A hush settled over the park as everyone waited for her answer.
“I… I…’ Her eyes darted around the park, looking for an escape or an answer to the question. She found Snow’s eyes in the crowd, and her mother gave her an encouraging smile. David was next to his wife, and gave his daughter a slight nod to let her know he approved. She sought out one more pair of eyes before making her decision. When she saw that Henry was grinning at them, she had her answer.
She looked back at Neal, who was starting to look distinctly worried, and said, “Yes. Yes I will.”
A loud chorus of cheers went up around the park, as Neal stood, pulled Emma in close, and gave her a lingering kiss in front of everyone.
# # #
Over the next three hours Rumple’s mood steadily deteriorated. The one-month anniversary of the magical mistake that had made him a child again had been just as torturous as he’d thought it would be. The festival had been excessively dull and routine, the simpletons he’d forced himself to be polite to made him seethe with hatred, but the thing that really stuck needles in his heart were the happy couples. Hook and Regina made him livid to the point where the only thing that kept him from lashing out was picturing himself as an adult ripping Regina’s heart out while forcing Hook watch. Then watching his son propose to Emma only highlighted his own lack of romance.
He tried to be happy for his son. He understood that being happy was the emotion he was supposed to feel, but instead all he felt was crushing jealousy and depression. Literally everyone he knew had now gotten their happy ending, and he was still miserable; stuck as a child with no magic, no romantic love, no autonomy, and no future to look forward to.
Neal and Belle, the only two people who might have improved his bad mood, were too caught up in the excitement of the proposal to notice, and he tried to fake some cheer for their sake.
He’d suffered through a dinner with the Charmings where the talk had centered on the engagement and future wedding plans. Then after dinner Neal had taken him aside and explained that he was going to take Belle with him to help pick out an engagement ring while he left Rumple with Emma to practice magic. That only served to remind Rumple of how little progress he’d made with Emma.
Now he was in the backroom of his store trying to teach Emma how to magically light a candle for what felt like the millionth time.
Emma looked away from her candle leaned back in her chair, and said with a sigh, “Maybe we should call it a night.”
Rumple slapped his hand down on the desk near the candle. “No! Do it again!” He snapped his fingers and pointed the candle. “Focus!”
With a frown, she took a deep breath, sat up straight, and focused back on the wick of the candle.
“Good.” Rumple had repeated these words too many times to count, but he said them again anyway, “Feel the heat at the core of your body radiating away from your body. Visualize the heat as a red aura all around you. Gather that heat with your mind, and focus it onto that wick with your eyes.”
She glared at the little wick, and tried to follow his instructions. But yet again, after five minutes of staring, nothing at all had happened. Her shoulders slumped, and she looked at her watch so she wouldn’t have to see his irritated face.
“Neal should be here any minute now,” she said.
“Yes, but he isn’t here yet, so you will try it again.”
Frustrated, she glared at him and stood up. “Look, I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time with this particular bit of magic, especially since levitation came so easy to me, but doing the same thing again and again isn’t working. We need to try something else.”
Rumple pursed his lips and said, “I don’t think the problem is with the exercise I’ve given you, I think the problem is with you. Levitation came easily to you because you were actually focused on learning magic instead of your hormones.”
Taken aback, she said with confusion, “What do you mean?”
He scowled. “I mean, Miss Swan, that maybe if you’d concentrate just a little more on what I’m trying to show you, and a little less on bedding your boyfriend every night like a wonton whore, you’d actually be able to light the God damn candle by now!”
Both Emma and Rumple turned to see Belle standing in the doorway with a very cross look on her face.
“Belle?” Rumple was surprised to see her there, because Neal was the only one who ever came to pick him up.
Without another word Belle walked up to Rumple, grasped his upper arm to hold him still, and gave his rear end four very firm spanks.
“Belle!” He squeaked, and looked up into her angry face with shock.
She let go of his arm, and wagged a finger in front of his nose. “Don’t you dare speak to Emma that way, young man. I can not believe the filth I just heard coming out of your mouth. Your words were cruel and completely uncalled for.” She put her hands on his shoulders, turned him to face Emma, and said, “You go and apologize this instant.” She urged him forward with another solid smack to his behind.
A tiny “Ah!” escaped his lips, as he was propelled forward a step. He looked up at Emma, and his face turned bright red. A couple of tears slid down his cheeks as he said, “I’m sorry Miss Swan. I was angry and I took it out on you. I didn’t mean it.”
Extremely uncomfortable with what had just happened, Emma refused to look at Rumple and muttered, “That’s okay Ru… Paul. I know it’s frustrating, and I accept your apology.”
Rumple tentatively looked back at Belle.
She gave him a curt nod and said, “That’s better.”
Emma caught Belle’s eye and said, “Are you here to pick up Paul?”
Belle nodded. “I came to tell you both that Neal is waiting for you at the loft. You go on ahead Emma, Paul and I will be there in just a couple of minutes.”
“Sure.” Emma rushed out as quickly as possible.
Rumple sniffled, wiped the tears off his face with a sleeve, and rubbed his bottom while feeling very sorry for himself. If Neal had just swatted him in front of Emma, he would have been livid, but because it had been Belle, the sweetest and most loving woman he knew, all Rumple felt was ashamed of his own behavior.
Belle quickly took the step that separated them, and knelt down so she could be at his eye level. She put her hands on his shoulders and said softly, “Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
He bit his lip and shook his head. He’d love to talk to her all about his frustrations, but it wouldn’t make any sense to her.
She sat down on her heals, and gently pulled him down to sit on her lap. She wrapped her arm around his shoulders and ran her fingers through his hair.
“Is it about your dad asking Emma to marry him? I thought you liked Emma.”
Rumple leaned into her, pressing the side of his face against her chest, and closed his eyes. “I do like Emma, and I am happy for Bae.”
“Then why were you so upset?”
With his eyes closed, surrounded by the smell and feel of her, he could almost imagine his life the way he’d always dreamed of. “I want to be an adult, so I can be with you,” he confessed, knowing she wouldn’t understand.
Her movements stilled as she processed that information, and Rumple immediately tried to turn the truth into a plausible lie.
“I mean, if my dad marries Emma, then he won’t need you to look after me anymore, but you remind me of my mother, not her. I don’t want you to leave.”
She hugged him tight, and he knew his lie had worked.
“Even if your dad decides he doesn’t need me to help out at the house, I’d still want to be a part of your life,” she said. “Spending time with you is the highlight of my day. I love you.”
Belle leaned down and kissed the top of Rumple’s head. She opened her mouth to tell him that he needed to at least give Emma a chance to be a part of his life, but before she got the chance, the boy’s entire body tensed, and a gasp of pain escaped his lips.
She leaned back to look in his face, and said, “Paul? What’s wrong?”
He could feel his body changing, and knew the spell had been broken. Before the pain of his rapidly growing body overtook him, he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. “I love you too, Belle.”
He pushed himself out of her arms, lay down on the ground, threw his head back and screamed. His body writhed in pain as he grew thirty years in the span of one minute.
While the boy grew into a man right before her eyes, a deluge of memories came flooding back into Belle’s head, making it impossible to give her full attention to either event. Paul wasn’t Paul, he was Rumple, but Rumple was a man not a boy, and now the boy was no longer a boy, but a man. She shook her head, trying to process it all.
Rumple lay on the floor panting for a few moments once the metamorphosis had stopped.
Once he was able, he croaked out the word, “Belle?”
She shook her head again, and focused on his eyes. “Rumple?”
“You remember?” His eyes opened wide with shock, and he struggled to get himself into a sitting position.
She helped him to sit up, and moved closer to him.
“I do. I remember everything.”
“Everything?” He ran his fingers down her cheek, and searched her eyes for the truth.
She leaned in and kissed him the way they used to kiss, before she’d forgotten who she was. He pulled her closer, and kissed her back desperately.
When they pulled apart he said sincerely, “I’ve missed you.”
She put her hand on the side of his face. “I’m here now, and I have no intention of leaving your side.”
He pulled her into another kiss, pouring all the love he felt for her into it. She reciprocated for a few minutes, but then put a hand on his chest, and gently pushed them apart.
“Plenty of time for that later. Right now…” she looked down at the clothing that had ripped as he’d grown, “…we need to make you presentable, so you can go show your son that you’re back.”
“Bae…” he said, switching focus. Him and his son had a lot to talk about. He looked down at his tattered clothes and said, “I have more than one change of clothes in the closet over there.” He pointed to the door on the far wall.
“You take those off, and I’ll find you something,” Belle said.
# # #
Neal waited impatiently for Emma to open the door to the loft. He held her engagement ring up, so she could see it first thing, while the rest of the family stood back by the table.
“Does it seem to be taking longer than usual?” He looked back at David, Snow, and Henry.
“Yes,” Henry said emphatically while bouncing on the balls of his feet.
Snow smiled and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “That’s only because you’re excited. It’s not taking any longer than usual.”
Neal sighed and turned back towards the door just as Emma rushed in.
She stopped short when she saw the gorgeous diamond ring that Neal was holding up. He grinned and said, “Ready to make it official?”
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
He took the step that separated them, slid the ring onto her finger and said, “You’re beautiful,” before leaning down to kiss her.
When they pulled apart, Henry said, “Do you really like it, Mom?”
“I love it,” she said as she admired the ring.
Neal looked back at the door and said, “Where’s Rumple?”
Emma winced slightly and said, “He’s gonna be a few minutes.” She looked over at the rest of the family and said, “We should probably talk in the hall.”
“Okay,” he said with some concern.
“We’ll be right back,” Emma said as the two of them walked into the hall.
“What happened?” Neal asked once they’d shut the door behind them
For the next couple of minutes, Emma told Neal how Rumple had been behaving during the entire training session, how he had snapped at her in the end, and how Belle had responded.
Neal went from irritation at his father’s impatience, to anger at his father’s horrible insults, and finally to awe at the story. “She actually swatted his butt?”
Emma nodded. “Pretty hard by the look of it.”
“Wow, I wouldn’t have thought she was capable of it.” He shook his head. “But I’m glad she did. He seems to respond much more sincerely to her censure than to mine.” He kissed his fiancé on the forehead. “Hopefully it will be enough to keep him in check the next time he’s around you, because if he doesn’t he’ll be answering to me.”
They both heard a noise coming from the entrance to the building, and turned to see Rumple and Belle walking in.
“Papa?” Neal said.
Rumple grinned as he walked towards his son. “It’s me, Bae.” When he was close enough, he pulled Neal into a strong hug.
“But… how?” Neal asked as he tentatively hugged his father back.
“True love’s kiss,” Rumple said, as he patted Neal on the back and let go. He wrapped his arm back around Belle’s waist and said, “Henry was right. Belle kissed the top of my head, and broke my spell. Then before I changed, I kissed Belle’s cheek, and broke her spell.”
“You have your memories back?” Emma asked with joy.
“I do!” Belle said with a grin.
“That’s fantastic news!” Neal said.
Emma grinned. “We should tell everyone.”
“I’d say this calls for some Champaign,” Neal said.
“That sounds lovely,” Belle said while looking at Rumple.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Rumple said, and they all went into the Charming’s loft to celebrate the good news.
A couple of hours later, after the Champaign was gone, and Henry was asleep on the couch in spite of his excitement, Rumple said, “I think we should be getting home.”
“Oh, right…” Neal frowned. “I guess I should get my room back at Granny’s.”
“Nonsense, Bae,” Rumple said. “You should stay with us until the wedding.”
“Yes please do stay with us, Neal,” Belle added. “The house is huge, and it will feel empty without you.”
Neal wasn’t sure what to say. On the one hand it seemed weird to be staying at his father’s house now that the man was an adult, but on the other hand, he’d gotten used to living there.
“At least stay tonight,” Rumple said. “It’s late, and you drove us to the festival this morning in your car. Besides, we all need some time to adjust.”
“Alright, I’ll stay tonight at least,” Neal agreed. He knew he’d need to have a conversation with his father about what their relationship would look like now, and that would be easier to do if he were already there in the morning.
They all said their good nights, and soon Neal, Rumple, and Belle were in the car headed for home.
# # #
Later that night after a slightly awkward discussion on sleeping arrangements in which it was decided that Neal would stay in the master bedroom for the evening, while Rumple stayed in Belle’s room with her, everyone said their good nights and went to bed.
The instant the bedroom door was shut behind them Rumple and Belle made up for lost time, stripping off clothing as they kissed and made their way to the bed. Soft words of love and affection accompanied their bodies coming together as one, making Rumple feel truly whole again for the first time in months.
After they were both sated and Rumple was just about to drift off to sleep with Belle in his arms snuggled against him, she said, “Rumple?”
She propped her head up on her hand so she could look him in the eyes to talk. “This isn’t something that you’re going to want to hear, but it’s something that we need to talk about.”
Not liking the sound of that, he opened his eyes and gave her his full attention. “What is it, Belle?”
“I have loved spending time with you this past month. Part of that is because I love you, no matter what form you’re in. But another part of that is because Neal was forcing you not to act on the Dark One’s impulses.”
His eyes narrowed, but she forged on anyway. “I think that needs to continue between me and you.”
“You want to… to…” he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“Spank you when you’re out of line?” she supplied. “Well, I don’t really want to, but I think I should, yes.”
She propped herself up even further so she could look straight on into his face. “It’s not ridiculous. I want you to think long and hard about our current situation. Life is good in this moment. Neal is here in town, and he wants to spend time with you. Henry is here, and he likes spending time with you too. I’m here, and we’re together. Hook, Regina, and Cora are going to be so busy with their own lives, that if you don’t antagonize them, we can all live peacefully in this town together for years to come. With Neal and Emma getting together, maybe you can be a grandfather all over again.”
When she paused, he said, “Yes, I agree with all of that, but I fail to see how that has anything to do with you spanking me.”
“The Dark One influences you to follow your anger and act irresponsibly. I didn’t realize how much that was true until I saw the change in you over this past month. One impulsive act by the Dark One could end the peace we have in this town. All of the hope and joy for the wonderful future we have in front of us could be ruined before you even realized the Dark One was in control. But if you knew there would be consequences for that, you’ll be less likely to follow through on it. If I can stop you at the first signs of anger, it will never get to the point where you do something big that you later regret.”
He frowned in thought, and then shook his head. “Even if I agreed with you, and I don’t, the only reason Bae could control me when the anger took over was because he was so much bigger than me when my body was younger. If I was truly angry, there’s no way you could stop me mid-rant.”
“I could if you gave me your dagger.”
“My dagger?” He was so surprised, he could barley formulate a response.
She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “I would never use it against you for any other reason my love. Only if I saw the Dark One take over, and you refused to listen to me.”
Rumple shook his head. He could never give that much control to anyone, not even the love of his life. “I can’t.”
She lay her head on his chest again and snuggled into him. “I love you, but I won’t live with you if you let the Dark One run amok. We can try this arrangement without the dagger, but the first time you refuse a spanking that I think you deserve, you’re either going to give me the dagger, or I’ll be moving out.”
He glared at the top of her head. “I didn’t agree to any arrangement.”
“You will,” she said with confidence. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is within your grasp. Think about the choices you’ve made in your life, and the things you regret. Don’t make this moment one of those regrets. Take the night to think it over.”
“I am not going to let you spank me!” he hissed, angry with her presumptuous attitude about the entire discussion.
She sighed with regret. “Then I’ll move out in the morning.”
“You can’t move out!” His voice went up as his anger built. “I won’t let you!”
Moving as quickly as she could, Belle tossed the covers of them, sat up on her knees, and used all of her adrenaline-fueled strength to roll him onto his stomach. He gasped in surprise, and before he even thought about fighting back, she had grabbed his right wrist, shoved his arm behind his back, and then straddled his upper back and sat down facing his lower half to pin him.
“Belle!” he protested. “What are you doing?!” This behavior was so out of character for his girlfriend, that he found it difficult to process.
While keeping a tight grip on his right wrist with one hand, she used the other to start smacking the naked butt in front of her as hard and as fast as she could.
“Ah! Belle, you can’t!” He tried to shove himself up with one arm, to dislodge her from his back, but she yanked his captured wrist further up his back in response. “Ow!” he hollered, and stopped trying to push himself up.
She stopped spanking for a moment and turned her head to the side so he could hear her. “Don’t you dare move until I’m finished spanking the Dark One into submission. My sweet Rumple would never threaten to keep me prisoner, especially after my time in that psychiatric ward. Only the Dark One does that.”
All of his protests died, along with his urge to fight back. She was right. He sincerely didn’t want to admit it, and he hated that she was right, but deep in the center of his heart where some good still remained, he knew that the real Rumple would never threaten to hold her hostage.
She turned back to his rear end, and started spanking again.
Without his anger to keep him company, he was left with nothing to focus on except the pain and his own remorse. He tried to remain stoic but that only lasted for a couple of minutes. After a month’s worth of getting spanked as a method of correction, the apologies were almost automatic.
“I’m sorry! Ow! Belle, I’m sorry! You’re right! That was the Dark One, not me! Ah! Belle, please listen! I’m sorry!”
She stopped, and for the next few seconds, the only sounds in the room were of the two of them breathing hard from their exertions. Once she’d caught her breath, Belle let go of his captured wrist and said softly, “I hate doing this to you.” She started rubbing the reddened skin in front of her. “It goes against my nature to hurt you because I love you, but I refuse to watch you self-destruct when the Dark One takes over.”
Some tears slid down his face. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She got off his back, sat beside him on the bed, and rubbed his shoulders. “I know you are, and you’re forgiven.”
“No,” he said, but then shook his head. “I mean yes, I am sorry that I threatened you, but that’s not what I was talking about.” He wiped the tears off his face, and rolled onto his side so he could look at her. “I’m sorry that I’m like this, and that you have to go against your nature to…” he looked away and frowned in distaste, “…to keep me from letting the Dark One take over.”
She lay down on the bed, pulled the covers back up over them, and held out her arms. He lay his head on her chest, and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“It sounds to me like you agree to this arrangement between us?” she said once they were comfortably snuggled together.
He winced before answering. “Yes.”
“We’ll need to come up with some kind of warning signal for when we’re in public, a code word or a gesture to let you know that you’re starting to get out of line. Then a second word or gesture that lets you know you’ve stepped over that line, and are due a spanking the instant we’re alone.”
Blushing with shame, he nodded against her chest.
“The very first time you refuse to take a spanking when I think you deserve it, we’ll have to talk about the dagger.”
He shook his head.
She ran her fingers through his hair. “I know it’s a terrifying thought for you, but tonight I had surprise on my side. I won’t be able to physically force you to take a spanking if you know it’s coming.”
He knew she was right, and even though he hated the thought of her being able control him, he hated the thought of the Dark One taking over and destroying his potential happiness even more. With a regretful sigh he said, “You won’t need the dagger.”
“Rumple,” she chided, “We both know that isn’t true.”
He pushed himself up so he could look at her. “No, I mean you won’t need the dagger to control me against my will.” He took off his pinky ring, and held it out to her. “I can do a spell on this that will give you temporary power over me when you say a specific phrase. It will only last for about fifteen minutes at a time, but that should be plenty of time for you to help me realize the Dark One is taking over.”
“That’s perfect.” She put both her hands on his face, and pulled him up to kiss her. “And very brave of you.” She kissed him once more, and then guided his head back to her chest. “We’ll do that tomorrow. For now, I think we both need some sleep.”
He slipped the ring back on his finger for now and said, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
# # #
Neal was making some coffee when his father and Belle came into the kitchen the next day.
“Good morning, Neal,” Belle said with a smile.
“Morning, Belle, Papa.” Neal acknowledged each of them with a nod and a smile, and poured them each a cup of the coffee.
Belle said, “Why don’t you two sit down and talk while I make us some breakfast.”
Both men sat at the kitchen table, and after a few seconds of increasingly awkward silence, Rumple said, “Bae, I…” Rumple shook his head and said, “Neal, I’d really like for you to stay here with us until you get married.”
Neal’s eyebrows shot up. That was the one and only time he could remember his father calling him Neal when it was just the two of them. He’d wanted his father to call him by his chosen name for a long time, but now that the man had offered that up, he wasn’t sure he liked the way it sounded. He looked down at his coffee with a frown.
“Papa?” Neal said, uncertain if he was about to make the right decision.
Rumple put a hand on his son’s shoulder, “What is it?”
Neal looked his father in the eye. “You can call me Baelfire. Neal doesn’t sound right coming from you.”
“Thank you, Bae.” Rumple squeezed Neal’s shoulder once before letting his hand drop. “What about living here?”
“Are you sure?” Neal asked. “I mean isn’t it kind of… awkward after everything that happened between us this past month? I’d understand if you needed some time and space to get past all that.”
Rumple shook his head, leaned forward, and grasped Neal’s shoulder again. “I’m absolutely positive that I want you to be here with me, Bae. I don’t want time or space away from you. Is it awkward to think of you spanking me just last week? Yes, obviously it is. But I understand why you did it, and I love you for taking care of me when I was small, even if I hated it at the time.”
Feeling close to tears, Neal said, “Thank you, Papa.”
“I love you, Bae, and I want to build a new relationship based on trust and mutual respect.” He gave his son a quick smile, “So you’ll stay?”
Neal grinned and nodded. “Yeah, I’ll stay here for a month or two before the wedding, but you and Belle have to take the master bedroom. I’ll take the one you were sleeping in when you were smaller.”
“Excellent.” Rumple stood, pulled Neal up with him, and gave his son a tight hug.
While in his father’s embrace, Neal said, “I love you too, Papa. It’s good to have you back.”
Rumple hugged him even tighter.
A few moments later, Belle cleared her throat from across the room, and the two men let each other go to look her way.
“Who’s ready for some scrambled eggs?” Belle asked as she walked to the table holding a bowl.
Soon the three of them were eating breakfast together, and enjoying each other’s company.