Author’s Note: This story was written for my good friend Jenna, and the basic idea for the story came from her. Happy Anniversary sweetie! (or should that be ‘Happy Three Anniversaries’ since it took me three years to write it?) This takes place after S2E14 ‘Manhattan’. Specific spoilers for everything up to that point, and maybe some mild spoilers for things that happen after that episode, but my story takes a completely different turn than the show did. There is a reference to my previous OUaT story ‘Dishonesty Comes With a Price’, but you don’t have to read that one first to get this story.
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 PART ONE
The somber trio drove over the line into Storybrook with mixed feelings about being home.
Rumplestiltskin gently took the scrap of material that had bound his memories to him off his shoulders, and set it on his lap. He ran his fingers over it. If Baelfire were small enough to wear this still… He refused to finish the thought. His son was a grown man now, and he had no desire to relive his childhood. He didn’t even want to use his given name. It’s not Baelfire, it’s Neal now. My son hates me. Rumple sighed heavily, and wished again that he’d been able to talk his son into returning to Storybrook with them.
“Hey Henry,” Emma said, interrupting Rumple’s thoughts, “We’re gonna be home soon. Did you want to stop at Granny’s for a late lunch.”
Henry kept his gaze focused on the scenery passing by, and refused to look at his mother in the rear view mirror. “No thanks. I just want to go home.”
Emma cringed at the cold politeness in her son’s tone, and forced herself not to apologize again.
Rumple didn’t blame the child for giving Emma a cold shoulder. If he weren’t so despondent about his own relationship with his child, he’d have the energy to be angry with her himself for lying about Henry’s father.
A few minutes later, Emma parked the car between the loft she was currently still sharing with her parents, and Mr. Gold’s store.
Henry jumped out of the car, and ran towards the loft before Emma realized what he was doing.
She turned weary eyes to Rumple and said sincerely, “I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way you wanted them to.”
“Me too,” he said absently, and got out of the car.
Emma watched him limp towards the store, and then closed her eyes for a moment, listening to the silence of the car to calm down before facing her family.
Her mother was at the door to greet her with a hug. Emma hugged Snow back tightly, and tried not to feel jealous when she saw Henry’s arms wrapped around David’s shoulders. Her father was kneeling on the ground, and holding her teary eyed son close, and Henry was in the middle of telling David his woes.
“…but he hates his father,” Henry said, “so he said he couldn’t come back with us, even though he wanted to spend more time with me. And Emma wouldn’t let me stay with him, even for one night because she said he’s not a good person. But people change, I know they do, and it’s not fair that she won’t even give him a chance, especially when she lied about who my father was the whole time!”
David and Snow exchanged a look. They’d agreed to divide and comfort, so Snow gently guided Emma out of the loft, and shut the door behind them.
“He hates me,” Emma whispered.
Snow wrapped an arm around Emma’s shoulders, and started moving them away. “No he doesn’t hate you. He’s just upset, and he needs some time to cool down. He’s in good hands. Right now, I want to focus on you.”
“Yes you. You just saw the father of your child for the first time in twelve years. The man who broke your heart.” Snow squeezed Emma tightly. “So we’re going to go to the diner, and you’re going to tell me all about it.”
For the first time since seeing Neal’s face two days ago, the queasy feeling in Emma’s stomach receded. “I’d like that.”
While they were walking to the diner, Rumple stood in the middle of his cold empty store, and wondered how he could go on. The love of his life, Belle, didn’t even remember him thanks to Hook, and his son hated him. Hook and Cora were still after him, and the boy who would be his undoing was his grandson. He looked around at his shop, looking for some kind of fix for his all encompassing loneliness, but found none. Without Belle or Bealfire in his life, nothing mattered, not even magic.
Slowly, he made his way to the back room, and tried to convince himself that there was still hope. Magic had saved him before, and it could do it again.
# # #
That night while the residents of Storybrook slept, Neal cautiously stepped over the line and into their town. When nothing drastic happened, he picked up the pace, and sought out the church. He silently thanked his son again for being such a wealth of information about who had become what when they were cursed.
He crept into the church without being seen, and was about to settle himself on a pew for the night, when a nun came into the main area from one of the back rooms. The woman jumped slightly at having a stranger in the church after hours, but recovered quickly. “How can I help you my child?”
“Blue Fairy?” Neal said, remembering her face.
She looked into his eyes, and after a moment she said, “Baelfire?”
“It’s Neal now.”
She walked up to him to get a closer look. She cupped his face with her hand and said, “What brings you here after all these years Neal?”
“My son, Henry.”
She gestured to a pew, and they sat down together so he could tell her about his recent meeting with Emma, Henry, and his father. Once the story was over, Neal said, “I came to you for protection.”
“Protection from your father? I have no magic in this human form. I don’t know what I could do to protect you, other than saying a prayer, and telling you to leave Storybrook.”
Neal held up the one thing he’d saved from his childhood. The silver clasp his father had given him on his tenth birthday to hold his cloak on. “Henry told me the town had found some fairy dust, and I was wondering if you might still have a little.”
She looked at the clasp, and then gave him a wide smile. “I may have kept a pinch or two for a rainy day.”
# # #
The next morning, Neal left the sanctuary of the church wearing a necklace under his shirt. The silver clasp attached to the necklace felt warm against his chest, and he was filled with hope that it would work to protect him from any magic his father might try to do.
He made his way over to Granny’s, rented a room for a week, ordered some breakfast, and waited for Henry and Emma to show up. The boy had told him that his mother stopped off at Granny’s almost every morning for a coffee before taking him to the bus stop for school.
He’d finished his meal by the time a sullen looking Henry followed his mother into the diner. Emma’s placating voice drifted across the diner as they entered. “…a donut. That sounds good right? You could have any…” She stopped mid sentence, as soon as she made eye contact with Neal. He smiled at her horrified expression.
“Dad!” Henry rushed up to his table grinning. “You’re here! I thought you weren’t going to come because of Mr. Gold.”
Neal couldn’t believe the rush of warm happiness that came over him when he heard his son call him ‘Dad’. He noticed that the diner had become silent, and everyone in it was staring at them. He reached over and ran a hand through the boy’s hair. “Nah. I’m not going to let Rumplestiltskin…” he looked at Emma, “…or anyone else,” he turned back to Henry, “keep me away from my son.”
There were gasps and harsh whispers all around him. He ignored that, stood up, and put an arm around Henry’s shoulders. He walked them both over to Emma. “I’ll be staying here at Granny’s for the next week. We should set aside some time to talk.”
Trying to maintain her cool, Emma nodded and said, “Fine. I’ll be here at five. Alone.” She grabbed Henry’s sleeve, and pulled him over to her side, and said, “Come on, Henry, let’s get you to the bus stop.”
Henry opened his mouth to ask if he could skip, but thought better of it when he remembered how his grandfather felt about skipping, and instead said, “Why can’t I come to dinner too? You guys are going to be talking about me, I should get to come.”
She pulled him out of the diner, without getting herself a coffee, and muttered, “Sorry, kid. Not this time.”
Neal watched them walk away down the street, and wished he could be walking along with them. He was about to go upstairs to get some sleep, when the one person he wanted to avoid came into the diner.
Rumple stopped halfway through the doorway, and stared at his son. “Bae?”
Neal glared at his father. “For the last time, it’s Neal. I’m here for Henry and Emma, not you, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your distance.” Without waiting for a reply, Neal turned and went up the stairs to his rented room, for some much needed sleep.
Rumple stood there for several seconds dumbfounded. The hopelessness he’d felt since leaving his son in New York slowly dissipated. His son was here. His son had come home. He may have done it for Emma and Henry, but that wasn’t important. His son was finally within his grasp, and there was no way he was ever going to let him slip through his fingers again. He quickly turned on his heel, and rushed back to his store. He had things to prepare.
# # #
Three days later, Neal lay awake in his bed, and worried about what his son was going to think of him once they got to know each other better. It had taken days, and several awkward conversations, but Emma had finally been convinced to let Henry spend a little time with Neal. Tomorrow, Neal was supposed to meet Henry and Emma at he bus stop after school, and then he got to spend five hours with the kid. On the one hand he couldn’t wait, but on the other hand, he dreaded the thought of Henry asking him some tough questions about what had gone on between him and Emma.
He closed his eyes and tried to relax enough to fall asleep, when he felt an unusual warm spot on the right side of his chest. He opened his eyes, and could see a spot of light glowing through the sheet.
He sat up quickly, and tossed his covers off. The clasp that the Blue Fairy had sprinkled with fairy dust was glowing a brilliant shade of blue. Neal put his hand over the clasp, and pressed it against his chest, hoping with every last fiber of his being, that whatever his father was trying to do to him wouldn’t work.
A few minutes later, he felt the clasp cooling against his skin. He lifted his hand, to look at the tiny object. It lay harmlessly against his chest with no trace of a blue glow. He climbed out of bed, checked himself over, and gave a triumphant “Yes!” to the empty room.
Giddy with relief that the protection amulet had worked, Neal felt the urgent desire to see his father and gloat. The man had basically accosted him every morning at Granny’s diner, trying to get him to talk, but Neal had brushed him off every time, because he knew the man had something up his sleeve.
Neal yanked his jeans on over his boxers, and slipped a tee shirt over his head. This couldn’t wait for morning. He stuffed his bare feet in his boots, and stalked off towards his father’s store.
He tried to yank the front door open, but it was locked. He walked around the building, looking for another door. He found a side door, and pulled it open with a satisfied smirk, expecting to find his father’s shocked face on the other side of the door. Instead he saw a small figure dart away from him, and hide behind a large desk.
Neal had never been to his father’s shop, but the lights were on, so he had no trouble seeing that this was the back room of the store. There was nothing for sale here, just a comfortable place to relax or work magic. Some small bowls and jars of ingredients sat on the large desk next to some old books and papers, and his father’s expensive dress shoes lay empty in front of it.
Neal’s eyebrows drew together in a frown. Had his father somehow found a portal to another land? Had he changed places with someone else? Neal shut the door behind him, and said, “Hello? Who’s there?”
“Please, kind Sir, I mean no harm,” a frightened voice called out from behind the desk. “I’m not a thief, I swear it.”
Neal walked towards the desk, and said, “It’s okay kid, don’t be scared. I know you’re not here to steal anything.” Once he was close enough, Neal leaned over to look behind the desk, unprepared for the sight that greeted him. Cowering on the other side of the desk was a young boy who looked to be ten or eleven. Mr. Gold’s suit jacket hung down from his shoulders, and the pants lay on the floor next to him. A pair of familiar brown eyes looked up at him in terror.
Neal shook his head in disbelief, and whispered, “What’s your name?”
“It’s Rumplestiltskin, Sir. I… I have no memory of how I came to be here, but I… I know I didn’t mean to intrude in your home. If you’ll please just let me go, I’ll never bother you again.”
He glared at the younger version of his father, as the pieces fell together. “How old are you?”
“Thirteen?” Neal said with doubt, finding that hard to believe. He was about the same size as Henry, and he was eleven.
The boy nervously backed away a step. “Yes, Sir. I’m small for my age.”
Neal shook his head, and scanned the papers and bowls on the desk. He muttered to himself. “Serves him right that the spell backfired. I told him I didn’t want to be thirteen again, and he was going to do it to me anyway, and make me forget.”
The boy started slowly edging his way towards the door, and away from the large angry man.
Neal saw the movement and snapped his eyes to the boy. “Don’t move!”
Rumple started to shake, and tears welled in his eyes. “Please, Sir, please let me go. I know nothing of spells or magic. I haven’t yet seen the sorcerer who lives here, and I want to be gone before he arrives.”
Neal took a good look at the kid, and had a powerful flashback of his first few moments in this strange new land when he’d been thirteen. It had been terrifying to say the least, and even though he was livid with his adult father, this version of has father had done nothing to deserve his anger.
Neal took a deep breath, and said, “Listen kid, I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m going to help you. The sorcerer who lives here isn’t going to be coming home any time soon. You’re not going to be able to get home without my help, because you’re in a whole new land.” He waved the boy over and said, “Come on, take a look outside. You’re not in the Enchanted Forrest anymore. You’re in Storybrook.”
Rumple’s eyes darted back and forth between Neal and the door. He desperately wanted to get away, but if the man was telling the truth, there was no where to run.
Neal said, “Go see for yourself.”
Rumple edged his way towards the door, while keeping his eyes on Neal. Once he made it to the door, he opened it, and rushed outside. The sight that greeted him filled him with dismay. He was not in the Enchanted Forrest. While his eyes were trying to take in all the odd sights in this strange land, the man came outside, and stood a few feet away.
“Look kid, I know this is scary. When I was your age, I came to this land from the Enchanted Forrest too.”
“You did?” Rumple said with shock.
“I did.” Neal looked at Rumple’s naked legs sticking out from under the ridiculously big shirt, tie, and suit jacket. “First things first, let’s go back into the store, and see if there are any clothes that might fit you.”
“I have no money for cloths, Sir, but if I could maybe borrow a needle and thread, I can fix the clothes I’m wearing to fit me better.” Rumple could not afford to be indebted to anyone if he ever wanted to find a way home.
Neal laughed out loud at the idea of his father sewing his own clothes. He shook his head, and said, “I ought to let you do it, but we just don’t have that kind of time. In case you didn’t notice, it’s the middle of the night.”
“But I have no…”
“Don’t worry about the money. The owner of the store is my father. I’ll pay him for the things we take the next time I see him.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that, Sir.”
“Stop calling me Sir. It’s giving me the creeps. My name’s Neal.”
“But… I…” Rumple had no valid response to that. He couldn’t call the older man by his given name; that was incredibly disrespectful. But not doing as he was told was just as disrespectful, especially since the man was obviously wealthy if his father owned a store.
Neal saw the conflict on the boy’s face, and remembered what he’d wished for when he came through the portal. He took a step towards the boy and said, “Until we find a way to get you home, you’re going to have to let someone help you figure things out, and I’m the only one offering. You’ll be… my apprentice.”
“Your apprentice, Sir?”
“Yeah. You help me with my trade, follow my instructions, and in return I’ll give you room and board, along with a small wage.”
“What is your trade?”
“Depends on the week, but for now I’m looking after my father’s store while he’s away.”
Rumple thought over his options carefully for a few seconds, before holding a shaky hand out in front of him. “I accept the apprenticeship, Sir Neal, until such time as I can find my way home.”
Neal took his father’s tiny hand, and shook it once. “It’s a deal.”
Rumple followed Neal back into the store, and soon Neal was rifling through a box of old clothes that was behind the counter. He found a pair of pants that looked like they would fit the boy, and held them out for Rumple’s inspection. “Here, try these on.”
Rumple stepped into them, held them up with a hand, and gave him a nod. “These will work fine with a strip of rope to keep them up, or if you had a needle and thread, I could adjust them to fit.”
Neal searched the box for a belt of some kind, but came up empty. He did have a small sewing kit in his travel bag, and decided he’d have to let the kid sew his clothes after all. “I have a needle and thread you can use in my room.” He searched for some shoes that might fit the kid, and soon found a pair of tennis shoes that were only a couple of sizes too big. “Those will have to do for now. Let’s go.”
Rumple silently followed Neal down the block to Granny’s with his eyes wide open, taking in all the strange sights.
Neal made it to his room without running into anyone. He opened the door, and flipped on the light.
Rumple immediately hunched down in fear and covered his head with his arm. He whimpered, “You didn’t tell me you were a sorcerer as well.”
The man raised an eyebrow, trying to figure out what the kid was talking about. “I’m not a sorcerer. Get in the room, you’re going to wake other people up.”
Rumple scurried through the doorway, and scrambled to the other side of the kitchen table to put something between him and the man. He was much too afraid to flat out call the man a liar, but he felt the need to point out the obvious. “If you’re not a sorcerer, then how do you control the fire in those little globes.”
Neal shut the door behind them, hoping they hadn’t woken anyone up, and pointed to the light switch on the wall. “With this. You can do it too. This land is very different from yours, and things that will seem like magic, truly aren’t. Every person in this land, even a tiny child, can turn the lights on and off. Come over here, and give it a try.”
Rumple shook his head no, clearly afraid.
“You agreed to follow my instructions. We made a deal. You’re going to have to get used to this modern world quickly, so come over here and learn how to work the lights.”
Very slowly Rumple made his way over, and with some encouragement, turned the lights off and then on again.
# # #
The next morning, Neal opened his eyes to the sight of his thirteen-year-old father sewing clothes by hand at the kitchen table, in the dim light of dawn. Not wanting to alert the boy to the fact that he was awake, Neal simply watched him for a few minutes.
He was surprised to see the boy up so early, after they’d both stayed up so late the night before. He’d gone through the hotel room, explaining how everything worked. He couldn’t help but smile as he remembered the look of wonder on young Rumplestiltskin’s face when he explained indoor plumbing.
Watching the boy diligently working on his clothes made Neal remember what his father had been like before he turned into the Dark One. The other villagers had treated his father as a coward and a joke, but the man had always shown his son love and affection no matter what. That was why Neal had been so desperate to come to this land in the first place, so he could get that man back.
He watched Rumple put a knot in his sewing, and bite the thread off. Not wanting to frighten the boy, Neal closed his eyes, shifted in the bed, and stretched out noisily before opening his eyes again.
“Good morning Sir… I mean Neal.”
Neal sat up and said, “It’s early. How long have you been up?”
“I’m unsure. I found it difficult to sleep without the sounds of the farm in the distance. This place is…” Rumple was going to say unnaturally quiet, but didn’t want to offend the man who had promised to help him. “…quiet. Except for that stationary chamber pot. I used it in the middle of the night as you said I should, and I thought for sure the thunderous whooshing sound would wake you, but you slept on undisturbed.”
Neal tossed the covers off, and stood up. “You’ll get used to the noises after a few days.” He gathered some clean close out of his travel bag, and said, “Stay put. I’m going to take a quick shower, and then we’ll get some food.”
“Yes, Si… Neal.”
Ten minutes later, Neal was done in the bathroom, and waved Rumple over. “Come here, I want you to take a shower before we go.”
“I had a bath just two weeks ago.” Rumple protested, still somewhat afraid of the description Neal had given him of the shower the night before.
“Yeah, that’s gross. You’ll shower ever day here. Come on, we’re in a hurry.”
Reluctantly, Rumple went over, and let Neal explain how to work the shower, and which bottles of product to use on which body parts.
Ten minutes later, Neal knocked on the bathroom door. “Almost done in there?”
The water immediately turned off, and Rumple called out. “Yes, Sir. I’m terribly sorry for taking so long, it’s just that…”
When the boy trailed off, Neal finished for him, “It feels too good to stop. It’s okay. I remember my first shower too. You can have another tomorrow, but for now dry off, and get dressed.”
When Rumple came out of the bathroom, Neal looked him over. He’d done an amazing job with the needle and thread. The brown pants fit him perfectly, and the dark yellow dress shirt that used to be a man’s size medium, now had much shorter sleeves and was synched at the waist.
Neal pulled a couple of granola bars out of his travel bag, tore the first one open, and said, “Here, eat these while we walk. People are going to be staring at you, and they may try to talk to you. You don’t speak to anyone unless I tell you it’s okay. Got it?”
Feeling too anxious to eat, Rumple took the offered food and said, “Yes, Neal.”
“Stay right next to me, and keep up.”
Rumple nodded, and the two headed out.
# # #
Emma woke from a deep sleep, when someone knocked loudly on the loft door. She sat up quickly, checked that Henry was still sleeping beside her on the bed, and then got to her feet. She took a step towards the door, but realized her father was already half way there. She turned her eyes to her mother, who was sitting up in the bed across the room, and then glanced at the clock.
Emma whispered, “Who would come over at six AM?” and headed towards the door.
David opened the door, and found Neal standing on the other side with a child he’d never seen before. “Neal?”
Glancing behind him, Neal whispered urgently, “Can we come in?”
David seriously disliked Neal for crushing his daughter’s heart, and leaving her to rot in prison, but after several conversations with Snow, Henry, and Emma, he’d generously agreed not to smash the man’s face in. He stood back, and gestured for them to come in with a tilt of his head. David looked out in the hall to make sure no one was following, and then closed it behind them.
“Neal?” Emma said. “What are you doing here, and who’s the kid?”
Neal looked at the boy and said, “Tell her your name.”
“It’s Rumplestiltskin, Miss.”
Emma got a little closer to examine the boy. David turned on the light, and Snow got out of bed to look for herself.
Before anyone commented, Neal said, “The boy doesn’t remember how he got to this land. The last thing he remembers is going to sleep on the farm in the Enchanted Forrest where he’s being raised by spinsters.”
Henry sat up in bed, and said, “Mom? What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure.” Emma focused on Neal and said, “How did this happen?”
Neal dug his necklace and silver clasp out from under his shirt. “I think my father was trying to do a spell on me, but this protected me, and there was some kind of backlash onto him.”
Henry came into the room with everyone else, and stared at Rumple.
“Your father was doing a spell on you?” Rumple asked. “But… I thought you said you were watching the store for him while he was away.”
“Well…” Neal wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell his father the truth of the matter or not.
David made the decision for everyone. “Neal will be watching the store while Mr. Gold is away. Have you guys had anything to eat yet today?”
Rumple looked down at the uneaten granola bars in his hand.
Without leaving room for them to answer, David turned to his wife and said, “Snow, could you make the boys some breakfast, while Neal, Emma, and I talk outside for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” she said, and put one hand on each of their shoulders. “Come help me in the kitchen boys.”
Neither boy looked very happy to be shuffled away into the kitchen area, but only Henry dared to complain. “But I want to go with you guys.”
“No.” Emma and David said in unison.
Henry scowled at them, but let Snow pull him into the kitchen.
As soon as they were in the hallway with the door shut behind them, Emma said, “What should we do?”
David shrugged. “Leave him like this. He’d be a lot easier to deal with.”
Emma could see his point, but doubted he’d thought it out fully. “Yeah, but he can’t live by himself like this, and who would take him in?”
They both looked at Neal, who held his hands up in a stopping motion. “No way. I just found out I was a father a few days ago, and I’m here to get to know my son, not to raise my father. I don’t have the money for that much therapy.”
Emma said, “He’s more vulnerable to attack like this too. We don’t know what Hook and Cora have up their sleeves, but I know it isn’t good, and if they see him like this…”
With a grave expression, David nodded. “Agreed. So we need to reverse the spell.”
“Yeah, but how are we going to do that when the one person who can tell us what spell he did, doesn’t remember doing it?” Emma asked.
“I don’t think telling him who he really is will help,” Neal added. “It would probably just scare him and he might try to run.”
David sighed and said, “Regina?”
Emma sighed as well. “She is trying to turn over a new leaf, and Henry believes her.”
Neal shook his head. “Henry’s adoptive mother? The Evil Queen? That’s a horrible idea.”
David’s hands balled into fists. “Well if you’ve got another suggestion, then please share.”
“The Blue Fairy.” Neal said.
“Mother Superior?” Emma asked.
Neal nodded. “She’s the one who made the amulet for me. We should go to her first, and ask her if she knows how to help.”
David and Emma shared a look, and then David said, “Okay, that’s where we’ll start.”
Emma said, “What about Rumple? Do we take him with us, or does one of us stay behind to watch him?”
“Take him so the Blue Fairy can see what the magic did.” Neal said.
Emma said to David, “Neal and I can take Rumple, Snow will take Henry to school like usual, and you can check the station to make sure nothing else has gone wrong overnight.”
David nodded in agreement, and so did Neal. The three adults went back into the loft and saw Snow making pancakes with the boys.
Henry immediately went to Emma and said quietly, “What’s going on, Mom?”
She took him out to the hall, and quickly explained the plan, and let him know he couldn’t tell anyone about Rumple.
“Wait, why don’t you ask Regina?”
Emma said, “That will be the next step, if the Blue Fairy can’t help.”
“I could go ask her while you guys are seeing the Blue Fairy.”
She gave him a smile. “Nice try kid, but you’re going to school.”
Henry sighed. “Okay.”
# # #
Later that day, Rumple sat in the sheriff’s office thinking about his day so far. He’d been amazed at the way that Henry boy spoke to the adults around him. It was as if he believed that he was their equal. The panned cakes they’d given him to eat were so good that he’d eaten until he was almost ill. Then they’d gone to Mr. Gold’s store to gather up the papers and books that were on the desk where he’d first arrived, and finally they’d gone to see the woman dressed in black, who was obviously not a fairy. She’d been kind to him, and let him dust the pews while she spoke privately with Neal and Emma. Then they’d come to the sheriff’s office, where the three adults had done a lot of whispering amongst themselves, while Rumple sat quietly, trying not to be a nuisance.
Eventually the three adults made some kind of decision, and came over to talk to Rumple.
Neal started, “The woman we saw today is going to try and find a way to get you back home. It may take her a few days to work that kind of magic, so you’re going to be staying with me while we wait.”
“Thank you, Neal, that’s very generous of you. Do you think she’ll be able to do it? Get me home I mean?”
Neal and Emma exchanged a glance. Emma said, “We hope so.”
David said, “But in the mean time, we’re going to have to give you another name.”
“Another name, Sir… but… why?”
“Rumplestiltskin is a very strange name for someone in this land.” David said. “We want you to have a name that will blend in, because there are some people in Storybrook that might try to do you harm, if they knew you were from the Enchanted Forrest.”
Emma saw terror in the boy’s face, and said, “We won’t let anything happen to you, even if someone does find out where you came from, but it would be easier to keep you safe if no one knew.”
Feeling shaky, he said, “W… What shall my name be then?”
“Something short and common, like John, Eric, or Adam.” Neal said.
David nodded in agreement and said, “Those are fine. Which one do you like?”
Rumple liked his own name. He didn’t want another.
Emma said, “How about Paul? That’s short and common, and it almost sounds like the middle of your name. Rum Paul Stilt Skin, instead of Rum Pull Stilt Sink.”
Rumple smiled at her with gratitude, “Yes, I like Paul. That will be fine.”
Neal nodded and said, “Good. The other thing we’re going to do to keep you safe, is tell everyone that you’re my son.”
“Being an apprentice at your age is fine in the Enchanted Forrest, but here in this land it’s not. We have to tell people we’re related, or they’ll be suspicious.” Neal said. “We want you to avoid as much contact as possible with the people of Storybrook, but if you’re in a situation where you have to say something, You tell them that your name is Paul, and that you’re my son.”
Rumple didn’t like the idea of lying to everyone he met, but the idea of people wanting to harm him just because he’d come from the Enchanted Forrest, was enough to make him agree. “Yes Sir, Neal. I understand, and I’ll do it. I give you my word.”
“Okay, then that’s settled,” David said. He stood up and said, “Emma, do you want to do the honors over at Granny’s, or should I.”
Emma stood as well. “I’ll go. I’m sure I’ve got more practice lying, and Granny will be less likely to ask prying questions if I seem upset about Neal having a second child that I didn’t know about.”
“Just don’t forget to bring back lunch, I’m starving.” Neal said.
She pointed to her dad and said, “Ham and swiss?”
He nodded with a smile.
She pointed to Neal and said, “Grilled cheese with tomato?”
He stared at her for a second and then said with a small smile, “I can’t believe you remembered.”
Blushing bright red, Emma turned to Rumple and said, “Would you like a sandwich with ham, turkey, or beef?”
A little overwhelmed at the apparent wealth of these people, Rumple said, “I like beef the most, but you don’t have to get me a midday meal. I could wait until evening.”
“Three meals a day is standard here,” Neal said, while Emma headed out to spread the rumor of Neal’s other son.
# # #
Emma was there to greet Henry when he got off the school bus. Henry looked around for Neal, hoping that he’d be there, but not really expecting it. Emma put an arm around his shoulders and the two of them started walking towards the sheriff’s office. She said, “How was school?”
“Hard to sit through when I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going on with you guys.”
“We’ll talk when we get inside.”
Henry nodded, but couldn’t wait to ask, “Do I still get to spend some time with Dad today?”
She bit her lip, not liking the answer, but she had promised. “Yes.”
When they got to the sheriff’s office, Henry saw Neal and Rumple there along with David. Emma filled Henry in on the plan for keeping Rumple’s identity a secret.
“That’s a good plan,” Henry said with a smile. He looked at Rumple and said, “I’ve always wanted a brother or sister. We’ll have fun together, even if it’s only for a few days.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Rumple said with a smile.
Henry turned to Neal and said, “Can Rumple come with us tonight?”
Neal had been prepared to give Henry the bad news that Rumple had to tag along with them, and here the boy was asking if it could happen. His son was amazing. Neal smiled and said, “Sure.”
Henry turned to his mom and said, “Can we go now?”
Emma gave them a tight smile and nodded. She glared at Neal and said, “Have him home no later than seven PM.”
Neal gave her a nod. “I will. I promise. Thank you again, for letting me do this.”
David said, “Why don’t you boys go wait by the door, I want a word with Neal before you three leave.”
Once the boys were a few feet away, David invaded Neal’s personal space, and whispered, “If anything, and I mean anything happens to my grandson while he’s in your care, nothing will keep me from making you suffer.”
Neal swallowed once, and nodded his head.
“David.” Emma said with some irritation.
David stepped back and called out to the boys, “You two have fun, and be good.”
Emma watched them leave, and felt a wave of irrational jealousy. David came over, and wrapped her in a hug. “Henry’s going to be just fine.”
Emma leaned her head against his shoulder, and actually felt comforted, by his words, and his presence. “Thanks.”
# # #
Once they were out on the sidewalk, Henry said, “What are we going to do, Dad?”
Still trying to recover from David’s threat, Neal cleared his throat a couple of times, and then said, “I’m not sure. I figured we’d go to Granny’s for dinner later, but other than that I don’t have any plans. I thought I’d ask you what you’d like to do. We could go over to the park for a while.”
Henry shook his head. “I want to go explore Mr. Gold’s store while he’s gone.”
Neal frowned. Of all the things Henry could have asked to do, why did he have to pick that? “My father wouldn’t like us being there without him.”
Henry gave Neal an eye roll, and said, “I know. That’s why today is the perfect day.”
“Why would today be perfect if he’s not here?” Rumple asked, not understanding that logic at all.
“Come on, Dad, when are we going to get another opportunity like this? Who knows, maybe we’ll find something useful to help Paul get back home.”
Neal shook his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Pleeeease?” Henry asked, and took Neal’s hand in both of his as they were walking. “Please can we just go for a few minutes?”
Neal felt his resolve slipping away. “Well… Okay, but only for a few minutes.”
Rumple could not believe what he was seeing. Neal had just given in to the child’s wheedling.
“Great!” Henry gave Neal a quick hug and said, “Thanks Dad.” Then he turned to Rumple, grabbed his arm to pull him along quicker and said, “Come on, you’re gonna love it. There’s all kinds of cool stuff to see.”
Rumple had to admit Henry’s enthusiasm was infectious. With a tentative smile, he glanced back at Neal to see his reaction. Neal was grinning, and had picked up his pace to match Henry’s.
They went through the unlocked back door, and into the main part of the store. Neal turned the lights on, and watched Henry lead Rumple around, yammering on about all the things in the store, and speculating on where Mr. Gold had acquired them. After half an hour of watching the two boys talking, and having fun, Neal decided he’d indulged himself long enough. Reluctantly he said, “I’m going to the backroom, to look for anything that might help Rumple get home.”
Rumple and Henry were busy looking at a couple of puppets, and Henry absently said, “Okay.”
An hour later, they hadn’t even explored half of the stuff in the store, when Rumple felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He suddenly felt nervous, but couldn’t say why. He looked all around, and gave a startled gasp when he saw a dark haired man staring at him intently from the store’s glass front door.
The man glared at him with hate and called out, “You’re no son of Baelfire. You can’t hide from me little crocodile.” The man tried to pull the locked door open, and when that didn’t work, he slammed the glass with the metal covered stump of his other arm. The glass didn’t break, but a tiny spider web of cracks appeared in the spot he’d hit.
Rumple was petrified. He had no idea why this man bore him ill will, but he clearly meant him harm.
“Crap!” Henry said when he saw Captain Hook glaring at them. Hook hit the glass again, causing more damage. Henry grabbed Rumple’s arm to pull him towards the back room, and shouted, “Neal! Hook is here! He’s after us!”
They made it through the door to the back room just as some glass shattered to the floor. Neal was there, waiting for them, and to Henry’s surprise, his father was holding a gun.
“Both of you go stand right by the back door, but don’t go out unless I tell you.”
Both of them did as they’d been told, and Rumple whimpered to Henry, “Why is that man after me?”
“He thinks you’re someone else,” Henry answered.
Hook burst through the door, and stopped mid stride when he saw the gun pointed at his chest. “Bealfire,” he sneered, “it’s been a long time.”
“I’m just barely able to keep myself from shooting you, so shut up if you want to live to see another day.”
Hook smiled and raised an eyebrow. “You’d kill a man in front of your child?” He glared again and said, “I guess that makes you more like your father than I would have guessed. Your mother would be ashamed.”
“Don’t you dare talk to me about my mother!” The gun in Neal’s hand shook, as he tried talking himself out of shooting the man.
“I loved her!” Hook shouted. “I’ll speak of Milah whenever I wish!”
Neal started to squeeze the trigger.
“Dad?” Henry said urgently, “Calm down. We need to call Mom. She’ll know what to do.”
Neal took a deep breath, and relaxed his trigger finger. “You’re right. Do you have your cell phone?”
Henry pulled it out, called his mom, and quickly told her what was going on. He hung up and said, “Mom and David are on the way.”
Hook looked at Rumple with hatred and said, “Prison won’t stop me. I will find a way to kill you.”
“Kill me?” Rumple’s voice wavered as he said it. “Why? I’ve done nothing to you.”
Hook quickly looked back and forth between Neal and Rumple. “What trickery is this? Am I to believe he knows nothing of the past?”
Neal couldn’t deal with young Rumple freaking out if Hook told him the truth, so he kept his eyes on Hook and said, “You boys go outside, and wait right by the door for Emma and David.”
Rumple opened the door and went out, but Henry said hesitantly, “Okay, but you won’t kill him, right?”
“Henry,” Neal said as calmly as possible. “This isn’t the time to question me. Go outside right now.”
“But…”“Now!” Neal shouted.
Henry rushed out the door, and shut it behind him. Rumple had squatted down with his back against the wall. He had his head in his hands, and he was visibly shaking. Henry was annoyed with Neal for yelling at him, but seeing how frightened Rumple was, snapped him out of it. Henry went over and squatted down next to him. “Hey, it’s going to be alright. My mom would never let Captain Hook hurt you.”
Rumple looked over at him with tears on his face. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why does he want to hurt me in the first place? I’ve never even seen him before.”
Henry shook his head, “I told you, he thinks you’re someone else, but…”
“Now that he’s seen you, I don’t think we can wait for the Blue Fairy.” He looked down the road towards Regina’s house. They’d all accused her of doing something that she hadn’t done. They’d all turned their backs on her when she was trying so hard to be a better person just for Henry because she loved him. And now the adults in his life were all making that same mistake again. They wouldn’t give her the benefit of the doubt, and he knew she could find a way to turn Rumple back.
Henry stood up and held a hand out to Rumple. “Come on. I’m going to make sure Hook can’t hurt you.”
Rumple wiped the tears off his face, and let Henry pull him up to standing. “How will you do that?”
“We’re going to go see my adoptive mother.” Henry took a step in that direction, but Rumple put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
“But Neal told us to wait right here.”
At that very moment, Emma came running around the corner of the building with her gun in her hand. She went straight to the boys, and said, “Are you guys okay?”
“Yeah, Mom we’re fine.” Henry said. “Hook’s inside, and Neal has a gun on him.”
“You two stay right here, and if you hear any gunshots, you run straight to Granny’s. Understand?”
The boys both nodded.
Emma opened the back door a crack and looked inside. David had gone through the front, and already had his gun pointed at Hook. Emma went in and shut the door behind her.
Henry pulled on Rumple’s arm, and hissed, “Let’s go.”
Rumple shook his head. “But we’re supposed to wait right here.”
“Do you want to get back home or not?” Henry said with irritation.
“Of course I do!”
“Well my mother, Regina, knows more about magic than anyone else in town, but if we don’t go right now, we’re not going to get the chance.”
Henry pulled strongly on Rumple’s arm, and the older boy reluctantly followed him around the corner to the back of the building. “But won’t everyone be very cross with us?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Henry said, and started jogging towards Regina’s house.
“What do you mean it doesn’t matter?” Rumple asked with disbelief while trying to keep up in his overly big tennis shoes. “Aren’t you afraid that Neal will thrash us when we go back?”
“Hit us. Box our ears. Beat us with whatever’s handy.”
Henry’s eyebrows went way up on his forehead in shock, and he stopped jogging. “No! Of course not! He wouldn’t do that, he’s not that kind of guy. Adults can’t do that sort of thing to kids in this land. If anyone tried, my mom would put them in jail.”
Now it was Rumple’s turn to be shocked. “Jail? But Neal is your father. He can do as he pleases to you.”
“No.” Henry said with certainty. “He can’t.” He looked behind them, to make sure they weren’t being followed, and said, “Come on. We need to hurry.”
After reassuring Rumple that no one would hit them, Henry couldn’t help but think about how his grandfather might react to what they were doing. Henry cringed, and figured Rumple deserved fair warning. “But… Well I guess if David finds us before Mom or Dad, he might spank me, but he wouldn’t spank you. I don’t know if Mom would try to put him in prison for that or not.” Henry certainly hadn’t told her what had happened, and if David had told her, Henry hadn’t heard about it.
“Spank you? As a mother would a toddler?” Rumple asked with horror, and almost tripped. “That’s so… so humiliating. You’re eleven!”
Scowling, Henry said, “Yeah, well tell that to my Grandpa.” He turned down a side road, and said, “We can get to her house this way.”
# # #
Henry barged into the house he’d grown up in without knocking, and called out, “Mom? Mom, are you here?”
“Henry?” Regina came out from the kitchen smiling. “What brings you…” She paused when she saw the other boy standing in her living room, and said, “Who’s your friend.”
“This is Rumplestiltskin.”
Regina’s eyes narrowed, and she took a closer look at the boy.
Henry continued. “Mom, I need you to listen carefully to what I’m saying, okay?” Her sharp eyes turned to his. He said carefully, “Rumplestiltskin is thirteen, and he just came here from the Enchanted Forest last night. He showed up in Mr. Gold’s store, so we think Mr. Gold did some kind of spell, and they somehow traded places.”
Regina looked over at Rumple with a smile that showed her teeth. “Is that right? How interesting.”
Rumple didn’t trust her smile, and took a small step back.
Henry walked towards her and took one of her hands in his. He said, “I know everyone blamed you for killing Dr. Hopper, when he wasn’t even dead, and you hadn’t done anything wrong. And I know you’ve been trying to change for me. I came here, so we can prove to everyone that you have changed. I want you to tell us how to get Rumple back.”
Regina had been thinking about all the ways she could take advantage of this situation, but when she looked into Henry’s eyes, she found that she didn’t want to disappoint him again. She ran her hand through his hair, and said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
Rumple didn’t feel any sort of relief at hearing she was going to help him. The longer he watched her interact with Henry, the less he trusted the words she was saying.
Henry hugged her tight around the middle and said, “Thanks, Mom. I knew you’d help.”
She hugged him back and kissed the top of his head. She missed him so much it hurt. The thought of sharing him with Emma, David, Snow, and Neal made her blood run cold. Henry was her son, and no one else had the right to take him away from her. When she thought about them, she realized Henry was there by himself. With a frown she gently pushed him away and said, “Does anyone know you’re here?”
“Well… Not exactly?”
She closed her eyes and sighed. Why did she always have to be the bad guy? Pinning him with a glare, she said, “Henry, we’ve talked about this, and I know David and Emma have talked to you about it too. You can’t just leave without telling someone where you’re going.”
Rumple felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. Even the untrustworthy woman could tell they’d done something wrong by coming here. Neal would be very displeased.
“I know,” Henry said with irritation, “but it was important. Hook saw Rumple, and he was going to kill him, so I had to do something.”
“Hook?” Regina said with worry, and looked towards her front door. Cora and Hook had left hours ago to search the library once more for clues to the dagger’s location, since they still hadn’t been able to decipher the map that they’d found.
“Yeah, David and Emma have him in custody, but who knows how long they’ll be able to keep him there. We need to get Rumple home today.”
Regina looked at her son, and didn’t want to deny him. There were no guarantees with magic. If something ‘went wrong’ with her reversal spell, no one would automatically blame her for that. “I’ll see what I ca do. Putting together a spell like that will take a couple of hours. You boys make yourselves comfortable, and I’ll call Emma to let her know you’re here.” She started for the kitchen.
Rumple was going to protest, not really wanting her help, but Henry spoke first, “That’s okay, I’ll call her on my cell phone. I don’t want you guys to get in a fight about me again.” He put his hand in his jacket pocket to get his phone, but the phone wasn’t there. He left his hand in the pocket as if he’d meant to put it there.
“Alright, that’s fine.” Regina said absently as she went to the kitchen. Her mind was already occupied with the spell she was going to create, and what she was going to tell her mother.
Henry searched all of his pockets and found his phone missing. He’d never intended to call Emma, but he was irritated that he’d lost the phone. This would be the third one this year. He was sure it had fallen out while they were running, so maybe they’d find it on the way back. He checked to make sure his mother was out of sight in the kitchen, and gestured for Rumple to follow him.
Rumple scowled at the deceitful boy, who was stealthily making his way to the front door, and couldn’t decide what to do. Henry was obviously doing things that the adults around him did not want him doing, so Rumple felt he should stand up to the boy and tell him he wouldn’t follow. But on the other hand Regina made him almost more afraid than Hook due to her false smiles, and he didn’t want to remain in her house any longer than necessary.
When Henry saw that Rumple wasn’t following, he urgently whispered, “Maybe they haven’t noticed we’re gone. If we hurry back, they may never know we left.”
That statement swayed Rumple, and he quickly followed Henry out the door. The two started running back towards the store. Rumple said, “I thank you for trying to help me Henry, but we should not have done this.”
“Just wait,” Henry said with confidence, “You’ll see. My plans always work out for the best.”
# # #
Minutes later, both boys were slightly out of breath, as they rounded the back corner of Mr. Gold’s store. Nothing appeared to be any different than before they left, and Rumple felt a stir of hope that no one had noticed. The boys stood by the door for a few seconds catching their breath.
When he wasn’t gulping in air anymore, Henry pulled the door open a crack, to see if everyone was still there. The only people in the back room were David and Neal. David had his back turned to the door, and his cell phone to his ear, while Neal was facing the door. Neal’s eyes snapped to Henry the second the back door moved, and Henry knew without a doubt that they’d been caught.
“Henry, thank God.” Neal said, as he took three large steps to the door. He pushed the door open, and saw Rumple there as well. Neal was still angry about the things his father had done in the past, but when they’d discovered the boys missing, something in his heart had shifted. The fear of losing his father, in either form, had shoved his pain and anger towards the back, while worry and love took the front seat. He pulled Henry into a rough hug with one arm, and used his free hand to grab Rumple by the front of the shirt, yank him close, and then hugged him with the other arm. “Are you guys okay? What happened? Where were you?”
Rumple had almost passed out when he saw Neal’s large hand grabbing for him. Being pulled into a hug was the last thing he’d expected to happen, but now that he was past the shock, it made him feel even worse about disobeying the man.
Henry heard David telling someone over the phone, “No, they’re here! Looks like they came back alone, and they’re not hurt. Call off the search, while I find out what happened, and then we’ll bring them to the office.”
Neal put one hand on each of the boy’s shoulders and stepped back so he could see their faces. “Are either of you hurt?”
“No.” Henry said, while Rumple said, “No, Sir.”
Feeling very ashamed, Rumple tried to gather up the courage to confess, but Henry beat him to it.
“I took Rumple to see Regina.”
Neal’s eyes opened wide with shock, and he let go of both of them, and took a step back. “You did what?”
Henry darted his eyes over to David, to see how he’d taken the news. David wasn’t shocked at all. He was pissed. Henry tilted his chin up a notch, turned to Neal and said, “She’s going to help him get home, just like I knew she would if you guys had given her the chance.”
Aghast at the belligerent tone Henry was using, Rumple said, “We’re very sorry for leaving when you’d told us to stay. Henry was only trying to help me get home.”
While Neal was trying to recover from his shock, David walked up to Henry. Henry tried to take a step back, but David grabbed his upper arm and held him in place. He knelt down on one knee so they could be at eye level. Henry’s stomach did a flip at the familiar position, and the expression on his grandfather’s face.
David said calmly, “How many times have you been told not to go off on your own?”
Feeling close to tears now, Henry shook his head. “I don’t know, a few, but I came right back.”
“That doesn’t make it okay, Henry. You scared all of us.” David pulled Henry’s cell phone out of his shirt pocket and held it out to him. “We found this on the pavement by the side door. We thought you’d both been kidnapped. We thought Cora had you.”
Henry’s chin wobbled, and he tried valiantly not to cry. His voice was barely above a whisper when he said, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to scare anyone, I was trying to help.” A tear escaped, and slid down his face.
David slipped the phone back into his shirt pocket, wiped Henry’s tear away with his thumb and said, “I know your heart is always in the right place, but that doesn’t excuse what you did. You don’t get to do something you know is wrong, even when you’re doing it to accomplish something you think is right.”
Neal had watched the exchange between David and Henry, and had to agree with everything David had said. He still found it difficult to believe that Henry had decided to go to Regina on his own, but apparently this wasn’t unusual behavior for his son. He’d also kept an eye on his young father, and couldn’t help but notice how terrified the boy seemed. The boy was pale, and looked as though he might pass out.
Rumple was thoroughly ashamed of himself for following Henry’s lead. He’d known they were supposed to stay put, but he’d let the promise of home sway his decision, instead of making the younger boy listen to reason.
David kept a hand on Henry’s arm, and stood up to face Neal. “Could you take Rumple into the front of the store for a few minutes? I need to speak with Henry alone.”
“No, Grandpa, please,” Henry whispered urgently. A couple more tears slid down his cheeks, which had turned bright red.
“Why?” Neal asked. “What do you need to say to him that I can’t hear?”
“I’m going to spank him,” David said.
Neal’s eyes darted between Henry and David a couple of times, and could tell Henry wasn’t surprised by what David had said. That led him to believe it had either happened before, or that it had at least been threatened before. He looked over at Rumple, and saw that he wasn’t particularly surprised either, just nervous.
“Grandpa,” Henry whimpered. “Please don’t.”
Neal wasn’t necessarily opposed to spanking in theory, but the thought of someone spanking his kid upset him, even if Henry deserved it. And he did reluctantly agree that Henry deserved it. The thought of spanking Henry himself came to mind, but that was even more upsetting then the thought of someone else doing it. Neal’s mother had spanked him several times when he was a small boy, but his father never had, not even when he became the Dark One. His father had always been kind and gentle, even when he’d done something that his friends would have gotten a beating for. When he was young, he’d thought that was proof of his father’s love, but now in this moment, he wondered it was proof of his father’s cowardice.
Hating himself, Neal nodded once and gestured for Rumple to come with him to the front.
Rumple couldn’t keep silent anymore. He refused to be a coward as his father had been. He walked into David’s personal space, looked him in the eye, and said, “Please Sir, if Henry is to be spanked, I offer myself in his place. He only did it to try and help me, and I’m older, so it was my responsibility to stop him from doing something that I knew was wrong.”
Neal was utterly shocked at his father’s bravery and selflessness. He would have never guessed that young Rumple had it in him.
Henry just stared at Rumple in awe. He’d never had a friend stand up for him like that.
David was shocked as well. He’d known Rumplestiltskin as the Dark One for some time, and he knew him as Mr. Gold, but he couldn’t picture either version of the man offering himself up for another, unless it was Belle. David put his free hand on Rumple’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. “That’s very brave of you, Rumple. You’re a true friend. But it wouldn’t be right to punish you for something Henry instigated.”
“We did it together Sir, and I could have stopped him” Rumple said. “I’m just as much to blame, if not more, because I’m the eldest.”
David thought that over for a moment. “You’re right, you both did something very dangerous, so you should both be punished. You’ll receive a spanking as well.”
Rumple pouted, but nodded once in acceptance, believing that to be fair.
“Grandpa, you can’t!” Henry said.
Neal shook his head and hissed, “He will kill you, David. And I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean it literally.”
“Who will?” Rumple asked.
David ignored Rumple and glared at Neal. “If you want to be a part of Henry’s life, you’d better get used to doing the right thing. In this case, the right thing is punishing them both. We don’t know how long Rumple will be with us, but it could be a while, and I know that if he goes running off with Henry on another one of these adventures, he could get himself killed before we get the chance to send him back. So if you don’t want me doing it, then you’d better step up.”
Neal shook his head again, but Rumple looked at him with pleading eyes, and said, “Yes, if I’m to be spanked, then Neal should be the one to do it. I’m his apprentice, I’m staying with him, and it’s him that I disobeyed.”
Neal closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. If he let David do it, there was no doubt in his mind that Rumple would find a way to kill David once he got back to normal. There was also no doubt in Neal’s mind that his father would never hurt him, no matter what he might do to the younger version of the man. He opened his eyes, and reluctantly said, “I’ll do it.”
“You will?” Henry squeaked. “But… But… You’re not that kind of guy!”
Neal cocked his head to the side and tried to figure out what ‘kind of guy’ Henry thought he was. That led him to wonder what kind of guy he wanted to be for his son. He walked over to Henry, and gestured for David to let the boy go, which he did. Neal put both hands on the boy’s shoulders, and leaned down slightly to look in his eyes. “You’re right. Neal’s probably not that kind of guy. Neal’s a thief. Neal’s the kind of guy who let your mother go to prison for something I did. Every day I get to spend time with you, I think I should be a little more Baelfire, and a little less Neal. I was a better person when I was Baelfire, and Baelfire is the kind of guy who would spank you for what you did.”
Henry shook his head no, not wanting to believe it.
“Yes, he…” Neal shook his head. “…I am that kind of guy, so you’d better keep that in mind when you’re thinking about disobeying me like you did today.” With his lips pursed in distaste, Neal turned Henry towards David, and gave him a solid swat before letting him go.
“Ow!” Henry yelped, and spun around to face Neal with both hands covering his butt. He stared at his father with a mixture of disbelief, and betrayal.
David put a hand on Henry’s shoulder, and gave Neal a nod of approval. “If you two could excuse us for just a couple of minutes. It would be cruel to make Henry wait any longer. You can have the room when we’re done.”
Trying not to let his son’s expression crush him, Neal put a hand on Rumple’s back, led him out of the room, and shut the door behind them. Once the door was shut, Neal leaned against he wall, closed his eyes, and pulled an unsuspecting Rumple into a hug, because Neal needed the comfort.
As soon as the door was shut, David knelt down on one knee again, and put a hand on each of Henry’s upper arms. “This behavior has to stop, before you get yourself killed. Emma has told you not to run off on your own, Regina has told you not to do it, Snow has told you not to do it, and I’ve already spanked you once for a situation almost exactly like this one.”
Henry cried quietly through the lecture, hating the disappointment he saw in David’s face, and knowing there would be no reprieve from the upcoming punishment. When he felt David pulling him over his knee, he couldn’t help but whimper, “Nooo!”
David started spanking with careful swats that were meant to sting without causing any real damage.
“Owww!” Henry howled with each smack. The last time he’d been spanked, the surprise of what was happening had distracted him from noticing the sting of each swat, but this time that was all he could think about. Tears ran down his face, his legs kicked involuntarily, and after the fifth swat, he put a hand back to cover as much of the injured area as he could. “No more! Please Grandpa! I’m sorry!”
David captured Henry’s hand in his, and held it to the side, a few inches away from the target area. He slapped his hand down again on the back of Henry’s pants while thinking about how frightened they’d all been when they discovered the boys missing.
“Owww!” Henry cried loudly and squirmed as each of the next ten swats landed.
David let go of the captured hand, and gave Henry a few seconds to realize the spanking was over, and then gently flipped him over, sat him on his raised thigh, and pulled him into a hug.
Still crying, Henry pressed the side of his face into David’s chest, and put both hands on his bottom to try and rub out some of the sting. Through his tears he said, “That was mean! It really hurt, and I’m telling Mom!”
With a sigh, David rubbed the boy’s back and said, “You go ahead and tell your mother if it makes you feel better, but if you think she’ll stop me from doing it again, you’re wrong.”
Henry wiped at his face with the sleeve of his shirt. “You don’t know that. Maybe she’ll put you in jail for hitting me.”
David chuckled and said, “Not likely, kiddo. You do realize that I told her about the last time, right?”
Henry pushed himself away from his grandfather’s chest to look in his eyes. “You did?”
David brushed some of the hair out of Henry’s sorrowful eyes, and said with sympathy, “I did. She wasn’t happy about it, but after discussing it with me, and with your grandmother, she agreed it was the right thing to do.”
“That sucks,” Henry said as his eyes welled up again. With both his mom and dad being okay with spanking, it felt like no one in the world was on his side.
David bit his tongue when he saw the fresh tears. He shifted the boy closer, stood up with Henry in his arms, and carried him to the door.
# # #
Neal loathed every second of listening to Henry getting spanked. The urge to go in and stop David had been almost impossible to ignore. The spanking had lasted for less than a minute, but by the time it was over, Neal knew he could never let someone else spank his kid again. If Henry did something deserving, Neal would be the one doing the spanking. He hadn’t expected to feel so strongly about it, but the need to protect and comfort his child was overpowering.
Rumple had been caught off guard when Neal pulled him into a hug, but once he’d realized what was happening, he didn’t mind. It was maybe even a little nice. His father certainly had never been particularly affectionate, so it simply wasn’t something he was used to. When he heard the first smack, he closed his eyes. He hadn’t quite believed that they were planning on giving him the punishment of a four-year-old, but apparently it was true. He scowled when he heard the unholy fuss Henry was making over a few smacks. The boy was clearly coddled too often.
Neal let Rumple go when they heard the door open. David walked through, carrying Henry, who had his face buried in David’s chest. Neal glared daggers at the man. David understood the look, and didn’t let it phase him. It was the same look Emma had given him when he’d told her about Henry’s first spanking.
“We’ll wait here,” David said, while rubbing a hand up and down Henry’s back. He hoped that would prompt Neal to take care of Rumple instead of starting an argument with him about what had just happened. Neal clenched his jaw, tore his eyes away from the other man, and ushered Rumple into the room, shutting the door behind them with a soft click.
Once they were alone in the back room, Rumple fidgeted nervously, waiting for some kind of instruction. Neal looked down at his father, who seemed very small in this moment. He patted Rumple’s shoulder in comfort, before walking over to pull the chair out from behind the desk. He sat down and waved for Rumple to come to him. Cringing when he realized the man meant to put him across his lap, Rumple took a tentative step forward and said, “I know I deserve to be punished, Sir, but…”
“It’s Neal, not Sir.”
“Sorry. Neal, don’t you think going across your lap for a spanking is a bit childish? I’ll be a man next year.”
Neal smiled at that. It was difficult to think of a fourteen-year-old as an adult after all the time he’d spent in this world, and there was some humor in Rumple’s statement, since the boy might be turned back into an actual adult in a couple of days. Neal put his elbows on his knees and said, “What do you suggest instead?”
Amazed that the man was asking his opinion, Rumple paused to think about it. It would hurt his pride a lot less if he weren’t over a lap. “I’ll bend over the desk.”
Neal thought about it for a second, but quickly discarded the idea. Even if Rumple didn’t know it, they were family, and in Neal’s eyes the figure before him was very much a child still. He gestured to the boy again. “Come here.”
Unsure if his suggestion had been taken into consideration or not, Rumple squared his shoulders and walked up to Neal. Once Rumple was close enough, Neal pulled the boy even closer, picked him up, and sat him down on his lap.
“S… Neal?” Rumple said, uncomfortable to be sitting on anyone’s lap at his age.
Neal wrapped one arm around the boy’s back resting his hand on Rumple’s hip. “Look, I know you don’t know me very well, but I’m not going to put you over a desk. You know why?”
Rumple shook his head.
“Because that’s not how my father would have treated me. In fact, my father never even spanked me.”
Rumple’s eyes grew big. “Never?”
“Never,” Neal said seriously. “But my mother did. She spanked me plenty of times in front of my father, too. He never disagreed with her about it, until the day she told me to bend over the kitchen table, and asked him for his belt. My father suddenly stood up and flat out told her no, surprising both of us. My parents went outside to talk for a few minutes, and when they came back in, my mom put me over her lap, and spanked me with her hand, like she always had before. I have no idea what my father said to her, but I do know that she never spanked me any other way.”
“Not even when you were thirteen?”
“My mother was gone by the time I was thirteen, and my father used other methods of punishment.” A few instances stood out in his mind, and because one was similar to what Rumple had just done, he decided to tell him. “One time some friends dared me to go into the woods by our village and bring back a forest flower as proof. I did it, even though my father had told me never to go into the woods, and I was supposed to be weeding the garden that day. When I came out of the woods holding the flower, my friends were all gone, and Papa was standing there waiting for me. He didn’t hit me, he didn’t yell, he knelt down, hugged me close, kissed the top of my head, and told me how relieved he was that I was safe. As we walked home together he told me that I’d lost some of his trust, and that I’d have to stay within his sight at all times for the next several days until he trusted me again.”
Immediately seeing the connection, Rumple looked down at his lap and said, “I am sorry I left with Henry. I knew it was wrong.”
“Apology accepted. But it was a dangerous thing to do, and since you’re my… Since I’m the one who found you in this land, it’s my job to keep you safe until we can get you home. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep you in my sight at all times for the next couple of days until I can trust you again, so we’re going to go with my mother’s method of correction.” With those words, he stood the boy up, maneuvered him to his right side, and looked him in the eye. “And if it’s a little embarrassing for you to have a child’s punishment, then maybe that will help the lesson stick.”
Flushing with shame, Rumple nodded once in understanding.
Neal quickly pulled Rumple across his lap, and started swatting his backside at a fast pace, wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible.
Rumple grunted once at the first swat, and then held his breath for the next few. He put one hand on the floor, and grabbed one of the chair legs with the other, and held tight. The fast pace of the smacks made it very difficult to lie still, but he tried. His legs twitched a little, and muffled sounds of distress came from his throat. At least the quick swats helped him not to think about how humiliating it was to be across someone’s lap having his bottom smacked. The last time that had happened to him, he’d been six.
Neal was surprised at Rumple’s stoicism. When Neal was young, he’d never tried to be still or quiet during a spanking, and it made him wonder if he was leaving enough of an impression. He’d originally planned to give him the same number of swats that Henry had gotten, but he’d already given him ten, and the kid hadn’t let out a single yelp. Neal aimed the swats a little lower, hitting the right sit spot four times in a row, and then put matching swats on the left
Rumple hissed, and whimpered a few times, finding it more difficult to keep quiet. A couple of tears spilled down his face, and he hoped it would be over soon.
Once Neal had given him a total of twenty swats, he stopped, believing it would be more than enough to make young Rumple think twice before disobeying again. He patted Rumple’s back and said, “All done, you can get up.”
Rumple surreptitiously wiped his cheeks with a sleeve, embarrassed that the childish punishment had caused him tears, and then pushed himself off Neal’s lap.
Before the young version of his father could step away, Neal pulled him into a hug, and maneuvered him so that Rumple was sitting in his lap again. After a few moments of silent comfort, Neal said softly, “You took that surprisingly well. I hope it made an impression on you, because I’d hate to have to do it again, but I’d hate it even more if someone like Hook or Cora got a hold of you and hurt you.”
Being in Neal’s arms, comforted Rumple more than he thought it should. When Neal said he’d hate it if someone hurt him, Rumple felt a kind of familial bond that he hadn’t felt in years. He hugged Neal back and said, “I promise not to disobey you again. When I agreed to be your apprentice, I promised to follow your instructions, but I didn’t do that today. I’ve done a poor job of upholding my end of our deal, but from this point on, I swear I will do my best to do as you tell me.”
“I appreciate that, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You made one mistake, and you’ve already paid for it, so you’re forgiven. We can start with a clean slate.”
“Thank you, Neal. You’re a kind and generous master.”
Neal cringed. “That’s worse than ‘sir’. You may be my apprentice, but I’m not any kind of master craftsman, so please don’t call me that.” That wasn’t exactly true. Neal was exceptionally good at his trade, and could probably be called a master at it, but thievery wasn’t something he was proud of, or willing to teach anyone else.
He set the boy on his feet, moved the chair back to where it had been, and put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder to lead him to the door.
# # #
As soon as the door to the back room had shut, David had carried Henry to the front of the store. He patted the kid’s back once, and said, “Henry?”
“You need to apologize to both Neal and Emma.”
“Okay,” he said in a small voice.
“Good boy.” David squeezed him close for a second, and then said, “How about we clean up some of this glass before we go?”
Henry lifted his face from his grandpa’s chest, and looked at the glass on the shop floor. “I saw a broom and dustpan behind the counter earlier.”
David set the boy down, and said, “Go get them while I look for a garbage can.”
They worked together to clean up the mess, and as Henry was pouring a dustpan full of glass into the garbage, they overheard the faint sounds of smacking. Henry’s eyebrows went up in surprise before scrunching together in a tiny glare. “You shouldn’t have told Neal to do that. It was all my idea. Rumple didn’t even want to go.”
David shook his head. “He shouldn’t have gone with you. He’s the one Hook, and Cora, are after. If Neal can keep him safe later by being a little hard on him now, then yes he should do it.”
Henry pouted and shook his head. He felt guilty for getting Rumple in trouble, and knew he’d be apologizing to him as well. Then he realized there was one more person on the list. He looked up at David and said, “I should apologize to Regina too.”
David raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“She uh… told me to stay in the living room, and to call Emma to let her know where I was. I told her I would, but… well I was lying.”
David and Regina didn’t agree on much, but in this instance, he had to admit that was what he would have told Henry to do as well. He handed Henry his cell phone and said, “Sounds like you have a call to make.”
With a sigh, Henry took the phone and called Regina. By listening to Henry’s side of the conversation, David gathered that Regina had already spoken with Emma, and knew Henry was safe. Henry gave a sincere apology, and then listened for a few minutes, while Regina was apparently lecturing him.
While Henry was on the phone, David finished cleaning up the glass, and noticed Neal and Rumple coming out from the back room. Once Neal was closer, David said, “I doubt anyone would dare steal something from Mr. Gold, but we should come back here later tonight and put some boards up on the door to keep the animals out.”
“That’s a good idea,” Neal said. He hadn’t given any thought to the store, but now that he was thinking about it, he agreed whole heatedly. Many thefts were crimes of opportunity. People who would never dream of breaking into a store might not have the same moral guidelines about taking something from a store that had no door on it.
Henry finished his call, and David nodded towards the sheriff’s office. “Let’s go. We’ll discuss our next move with Emma and Snow.”
As they were walking down the sidewalk with David in the lead, Henry fell in step beside Rumple and said quietly, “I’m really sorry I got you in trouble too. I had no idea Grandpa or Neal would even consider spanking you. I hope we can still be friends.”
“Of course we can. Our friendship was never in question,” Rumple said. He thought that Henry was a little bit spoiled, but he didn’t think the other boy was in any way malicious. ”I know you were only trying to help me.”
“Thanks,” Henry said with a grin.
Behind them, Neal overheard their exchange, and smiled. He walked up beside Henry, and put an arm around his shoulders. “Our first day together was kind of a disaster.”
Henry leaned against Neal’s side as they walked. “Yeah. Sorry I didn’t stay where you told me to.”
“I know you are. I’m sorry Hook wrecked the day for us.” Neal reached over and put his other arm around Rumple’s shoulders and said, “For all of us. How about we try it again tomorrow night if Emma lets us?”
“Yes! That would be great. Mom will let us, I’m sure she will.”
Neal shook his head. “I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you. You didn’t see her face when we found out you both were missing. You’ll be lucky if she let’s you go to school without a bodyguard.”
Henry sighed, and started thinking about ways to convince his mother to let him spend time with his dad.
# # #
Emma had felt sick with dread when she’d realized Henry was missing, and the feeling had only slightly subsided when she heard he was safe with David. Snow had quickly dispersed the search party they were putting together, while Emma had dealt with the call from a frantic Regina. Then Snow had sat down to wait, while Emma had booked and fingerprinted Hook, who made sleazy innuendoes the entire time.
When a sheepish looking Henry finally walked into the sheriff’s office, she rushed to him and hugged him tight. “You’ve got to stop with the disappearing act, kid. It’s going to give me a heart attack.”
Henry hugged her back and said, “I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
“I’m pretty sure that worrying about you is in my job description as a parent,” Emma said, still holding him tight.
David cleared his throat once and said “Henry.”
Emma loosened her hold on the boy so he could face his grandfather. Henry turned his eyes to David, who gave him an expectant look.
With a sigh, Henry looked his mom in the eye and said with a pout, “I’m sorry I disobeyed you.” He turned his eyes to Neal for a moment and added, “both of you.” He looked back at Emma, and said, “I promise it won’t happen again.” Henry glanced at David to see if that met his approval, and the man gave him a nod.
Emma took a close look at Henry’s face, and could tell he’d been crying recently. She instantly suspected that David had spanked him again, and gave her father a furious glare. She pulled Henry into another hug, and said, “It’s okay, Henry, I know you were just trying to help.”
David rolled his eyes. He was not looking forward to another talk with his daughter about his ‘barbaric and outdated’ method of punishment.
While she was holding Henry, her eyes fell on Rumple, who seemed to be standing awfully close to Neal. The boy peeked around Neal and then immediately pulled his head back. When he saw Emma looking at him, Rumple said very quietly, “I apologize as well.”
Quirking an eyebrow, she turned to see what Rumple was trying to hide from. Hook was pressed up against the bars, staring intently at the spot where Rumple’s head had just been. She could clearly see the bloodlust in his eyes.
Neal had also noticed Rumple’s reaction, and saw the look Hook was aiming at young Rumple. He put a hand on Rumple’s back and pressed the boy against his body to keep him blocked from Hook.
“Let’s go talk at the loft,” Emma said.
“What about…” Snow said, and turned her eyes to Hook.
“Call Ruby. She’ll watch him,” Emma said. “And see if she can bring us some take out for diner, too.”
# # #
When they got to the loft, Snow started putting the boxes of food on the table, while David got out plates and silverware. Once everyone was sitting at the crowded little table with food on their plates, David looked at Emma and said, “How long can you legally keep Hook locked up?”
“He shot Belle, and threatened to kill Rumple. We can keep him there without bail until his trial date, which hasn’t even been set yet.”
Snow said, “I’d be more worried about him breaking out, than the legality of keeping him locked up.”
Emma nodded in agreement. David turned to Henry and said, “What exactly did you tell Regina, and what did she say?”
Henry swallowed a bite of food and answered. “I told her that Rumple just arrived here last night, and that we think Mr. Gold did a spell to make them change places. Regina said she’d try to find a way to reverse the spell and send Rumple home.”
Rumple tugged on Neal’s sleeve. When Neal looked his way, Rumple whispered, “Regina frightens me. Her words did not match her face. Must I accept her help?”
Neal whispered back, “No, I won’t force you.” He noticed most of the food on Rumple’s plate hadn’t been touched. Neal patted the boy’s hand and said, “Eat your dinner.” Neal focused on David and said, “Do you trust Regina?”
“Grandpa, that’s not fair!” Henry complained. “How will she ever change if you never give her a chance!”
Rumple could not believe Henry was still talking back and raising his voice to the adults after getting spanked less than an hour ago. Rumple kept his own eyes on his plate, and took another bite of food, even though he wasn’t particularly hungry after the emotional turmoil of having someone threaten to kill him.
David said, “I do think Regina is trying for your sake, Henry. But an opportunity like this to harm Mr. Gold might be too good for her to pass up.” He turned back to Neal and said, “I think your first move should be to go see the Blue Fairy again and see if she has any news. Then if she hasn’t come up with anything, you should go by yourself to see what Regina has come up with. Then have the Blue Fairy check over whatever Regina tells you before letting Regina anywhere near Rumple.”
“She was already right in front of him today, and she didn’t hurt him at all,” Henry said.
Snow shook her head, “She was caught off guard. She won’t be the next time.”
“Henry,” Emma said, cutting off his next argument. “What’s the harm in being cautious? Regina needs to earn our trust. After everything she’s done to all of us, including you, it would be stupid of us to trust her just because she wants us to. Give it some time.”
With a sigh, Henry nodded.
Neal said, “Rumple and I will go see the Blue Fairy first thing tomorrow morning, and then we can come back here to let you guys know what’s going on.”
“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” Henry said, “I don’t have school. I could go with you.”
Neal looked at Emma, to see what she thought. Emma said, “I guess Henry and I could tag along if you don’t mind.”
He smiled. “That would be nice.”
# # #
Regina was working on a spell when her mother came into the kitchen.
“Mother, you’re finally home. I have news.”
Cora scowled, “If it’s about that fool, Hook, I hope you’ve got him locked in the basement. I waited for over an hour, and he didn’t show up at the rendezvous.”
“He’s in jail, and he can rot there for all I care. We have something much more important to discuss.”
Cora hadn’t seen her daughter this excited since finding her in Storybrook. “What is it?”
“Rumplestiltskin made a fatal error,” Regina said.
Cora raised an eyebrow.
“He accidentally turned himself into a child, and wiped out his adult memories.” Regina’s grin reminded Cora of the Cheshire cat.
Cora frowned. “I don’t see how that works in our favor. He can’t be killed unless we have the dagger, and if his memory is truly gone, no amount of torture will help him recall where he put it.”
“That’s why…” Regina held up a vile with liquid in it, “…I’m going to help him get his memory back.”
Cora carefully looked at her daughter, before smiling herself. “But not his adult body.”
“I’ll make sure of that. I saw him today. He’s quite small for thirteen. If his body hasn’t reached the age of maturity, he won’t be capable of performing magic.”
Cora was now sporting a grin as well. “He’ll be easy to capture and torture for all kinds of information, including the location of the dagger.”
“Once we’ve gotten what we want from him, we can finally kill him, and frame him for the death of every other adult in Henry’s life.” Regina went on, imagining the very near future. “Henry will be hurt of course, but he’ll come home to me, and I can help him get through his grief. I’m the one who raised him for eleven years. I’m the one that should be important to him. I’m the one he should find comfort in.”
Cora understood the frantic note in her daughter’s voice. She walked to her, and enveloped her in an embrace. “There, there Darling. I know it hurts, but the end is in sight. Soon you will have your son back home where he belongs, and you’ll finally have your revenge on those that hurt you.”
Regina lay her head on Cora’s shoulder.
“It’s late,” Cora said. “Let’s get some sleep, and look at the spell with fresh eyes in the morning, to make sure it’s perfect before we give it to him.”
Regina nodded, and headed to her room, to dream of Henry coming home to her.
# # #
The next afternoon, Rumple sat at the kitchen table in the loft, while David, Snow, and Neal stood in the kitchen whispering. Rumple watched Neal closely, trying to figure the man out.
The night before, David, Neal, and Rumple had all gone to Mr. Gold’s store and put up some boards to cover the entrance. Rumple had enjoyed working with the two of them to accomplish a task. They’d let him help hold the boards, and they’d let him nail a couple of the boards in place. Rumple had felt almost like Neal’s real apprentice.
Then when Neal and Rumple had gotten home, Neal had insisted again that Rumple sleep in the large bed next to him instead of on the floor. What master let their apprentice sleep in the same bed? He’d also told Rumple not to get out of bed until six the next morning, whether he was sleeping or not, because he needed his rest. When Neal had said that, Rumple feel less like an apprentice, and more like a member of the man’s family.
Then earlier today, they’d all visited the woman in black that everyone called the Blue Fairy. Emma and Neal had decided that Emma would ‘baby-sit the boys’ while Neal spoke to the Blue Fairy alone. Henry had loudly complained that they didn’t need to be baby-sat, and Rumple had blushed with shame when Emma brought up their behavior from the previous day. That had certainly made Rumple feel like a child, and not like an apprentice.
Neal’s face had been grim when he got out of his meeting, and he said he wanted to consult with David and Snow before telling the ‘kids’ anything. When they’d arrived back to the loft, Emma had volunteered herself and Henry to go get everyone lunch. Rumple suspected she was taking Henry out of the loft on purpose, simply to keep him out of the discussion.
While Rumple watched the adults talk, he tried to figure out why Neal was treating him more like family than an apprentice, but for the life of him, he couldn’t figure it out. He supposed he should just be grateful that the man’s father was missing, because there was security in knowing Neal had a vested interest in reversing the spell to get him home.
Rumple was startled out of his thoughts when someone knocked on the door. Snow went to answer it.
“Regina,” Snow said with surprise. “What can I do for you?”
Regina held up a small bottle of pink liquid. “It’s not what you can do for me, it’s what I can do for you.”
David and Neal had walked over to the door when they saw Regina, while Rumple had stood and backed away a few feet.
“Is that what I think it is?” Neal asked, holding his hand out for it.
“It’s a reversal spell,” Regina said, and held the vile close to her chest. “Is Henry here? I did it for him. I want him to see it work.”
“He’ll be back in a little while, but…” Neal said, and turned to David.
“We’re not going to give it to Rumple until we’ve gotten the go ahead from the Blue Fairy,” David said.
Regina glared at them. “Are you joking?”
“We just want to make sure it’s safe,” Snow said.
“Safe? You want to make sure it’s safe?” Regina felt her temper slipping and her voice got louder with each sentence. “Safe for Rumplestiltskin? Is that what I’m actually hearing from you? After everything that man has done?”
“Regina,” Snow hissed, trying to get her to stop, before she did anymore verbal damage.
Rumple darted around the kitchen counter, and ducked down to hide after hearing the malicious tone she used to say his name. Between Hook and Regina, he now knew there were things that Neal hadn’t told him about his arrival here.
“Or do you really just want to take this away from me, too.” Regina said with a ferocious glare. “You’re doing everything in your power to turn Henry against me, and the one time I try to do something to help all of you, you’re going to use it to make him hate me even more, aren’t you?”
“Of course not, Regina,” Snow said in a placating tone. “We’d never do that to you. We just want to have it checked out before Rumple takes it.”
The loose grip Regina had had on her temper snapped. She flung an arm out, and all three adults were thrown across the room. “I should have known you’d choose that snake over me.” She twisted her hand in the air, and all three adults slid to the wall, where their bodies stuck like glue. Ignoring them now that they were incapacitated, Regina smiled and came further into the room. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she said in a sing song voice.
Neal desperately fought to get his body off the wall, but it was no use.
“Regina, don’t do this!” Snow pleaded. “Think about Henry.”
Instead of going around one side of the counter, Regina walked over to it, and leaned over the top of it to see the boy on the other side crouched down in terror. Smirking, she held out her hand, and forced his body to stand.
Rumple screamed. Regina smiled, and used magic to pull the petrified boy towards her. Once the boy was directly in front of her, she uncapped the potion, and leaned in to whisper, “I will have my revenge.” She grabbed his jaw, forced his mouth open, poured the potion in, and forced his mouth shut again. She tossed the vial to the floor, and used her free hand to pinch his nose. He pulled uselessly at her hands to try and get them off his mouth and nose. Mere seconds later, he swallowed.
Regina spun her head around, and saw Henry and Emma standing in the open doorway. She let go of Rumple as if he’d burned her, and the three adults against the wall, fell to the ground. “Henry, I…” she said, trying to think of a way to spin what he’d just seen.
Rumple collapsed, and his entire body started to convulse.
Neal scrambled across the floor, and pulled Rumple’s head into his lap, so it wouldn’t bang against the floor. He glared up at Regina and yelled, “What did you do!”
Regina only had eyes for her son. “It’s not what it looks like, Henry. I was trying to help, but they weren’t going to let me. Just wait, you’ll see. The potion will bring Rumple back, just like you wanted.”
Henry sadly shook his head no. “Not like this, Mom. I don’t want your help like this. Can’t you see that you’re hurting people?”
Regina shook her head, and said quietly, “No, Henry, you’ve got it all wrong. These people are trying to hurt me.”
Snow had gotten down on the ground next to Neal to try and help Rumple. The boy stopped convulsing, and lay completely still. “No!” Neal said, feeling for a pulse, and finding a very faint one.
David stormed up to Regina and roared, “Leave! Now!”
She stumbled back, and walked towards her son. “You’ll see, Henry. The potion will work.”
Henry hid his face in Emma’s shirt, and wrapped his arms around her middle. Emma put her free hand around him, and held him close. She glared at Regina, shook her head, and moved away from the door so Regina could leave.
Regina held her head up high, and walked out, magically slamming the door shut behind her.
Once she was gone, Henry rushed over to stand by Rumple’s feet, and said, “Is he…”
Neal was holding the back of his hand in front of Rumple’s nose to feel for breath. “No. He’s got a pulse, and he’s breathing.”
Emma set the bags of food on the kitchen table, and went to stand by Henry. She looked at David and said, “What do we do now? Take him to the hospital?”
David slowly nodded. “It wouldn’t hurt. Even if magic was the cause of his seizure, there might still be something Dr. Whale could do to help. What do you think Neal?”
Neal ran a hand through Rumple’s hair, and nodded. He said, “Someone should tell the Blue Fairy, and have her meet us at the hospital.”
“I’ll go,” Snow said. She stood up, and grabbed her jacket.
Neal shifted himself onto one knee, and picked Rumple up in his arms as he stood. Rumple’s eyes fluttered open. He looked at Neal’s face and said, “Bae?”
Everyone in the room froze. Neal looked into Rumple’s eyes and could see the difference in his expression. The innocence that had been there was gone. “Papa?”
Rumple winced in pain, and put a hand up to his head, “What happened?” Before anyone could answer, Rumple opened his eyes wide, and looked at the hand he’d just put to his head. His eyes scanned his own body, being held by Neal and whispered, “No.” He closed his eyes. Everything that had happened to him for the past couple of days came back to him. He shook his head and said forcefully, “No, no, no!” He squirmed and ordered, “Put me down.”
Neal set Rumple on his feet, and let go. When the boy wobbled slightly, Neal steadied him with a hand on his upper arm. Rumple yanked his arm away, and hissed, “Stop!”
Neal let his hand drop, and Rumple saw a flash of uncertainty cross his son’s face. Keeping his voice calm, Rumple said, “There’s no need to treat me like a child now. All of my memories are back.”
“Oh,” Neal said, feeling awkward about everything that had gone on between him and his father.
The longer Rumple stood there the more furious he became. He glared at Neal and hissed, “I can not believe you entrusted my life, and yours, to the Blue Fairy of all people. You know she hates me!”
Neal crossed his arms, and tried not to let his father’s scolding words make him feel like he was ten years old again. Feeling defensive, he said, “No. You hate her. She doesn’t hate you. And if it weren’t for her, I’d be the one stuck in a child’s body, so you’ll have to forgive me if I think I did the right thing.”
“You should have told me the truth about who I was, Bae.”
“No,” David said, “that wouldn’t have done any good. It just would have scared you.”
Rumple’s eyes locked onto David’s and he advanced on the man a few steps. “Don’t!” Rumple shouted. “Don’t pretend that you didn’t have ulterior motives for every single thing you did while I was incapacitated. Do you really expect me to believe that my former jailer had my best interests at heart?”
David advanced on him a step and shouted, “Yes! You’ve known me for years. You know how important family is to me, and like it or not, we’re family now through Henry. Our children were in love. I can’t hurt you without hurting Emma and Henry in the process. I did have your best interest at heart, and I still do!”
Trying to defuse the situation, Snow hung her jacket back up and said, “Maybe we should all be focused on what we’re going to do now.”
Forcing himself not to engage with David, Rumple took a deep breath, and turned a withering glare towards Snow. “We aren’t going to do anything. I’m going to go fix this. It’s no longer your concern.” He stared walking towards the door.
Neal glanced at David, Snow, and Emma to get their reactions to this news. He could tell none of them approved, but none of them were going to try and stop Rumple either. Huffing in frustration, Neal said, “Wait.”
“What?” Rumple said with irritation.
“You’re not going out there alone. Cora is still after you.”
Rumple chuckled. “And how exactly will it help to have you by my side, Bae? You’ll be as useless as you were against Regina a few moments ago.”
“No!” Rumple shouted. “It’s Baelfire!”
Neal clenched his jaw, and took a few deep breaths. He kept his voice down and spoke as calmly as he could. “We had a deal. You agreed to be my apprentice, and follow my instructions until you found your way home, and I say you don’t go out there alone.”
Rumple tossed his hands in the air and said, “I did find my way home!”
“Your mind is back, but your body isn’t,” Neal said.
“You’ve killed people for less!” Neal cleared his throat, and said calmly, “We had a deal. You’ve already broken one deal with me. Are you going to break another?”
Rumple felt those words like a punch to the chest, and all of his anger drained away. He shook his head and whispered, “No, Bae, no. I… I didn’t mean to break our deal back then. It was just…” He looked around at the other people in the room and said, “…a moment of weakness. Can we talk about this in private?”
Neal shook his head. “I want witnesses. Are you going to keep our deal this time or not.”
Rumple sighed, and looked at his boy. The boy he’d been seeking for years was here in front of him, and in an ironic twist of fate, his son was offering him protection from the world at large. There was no way he could deny him. He looked his child in the eye, and said quietly, “I’ll honor our deal. I’ll follow your instructions until my body is back to its adult form.” He held out a hand to shake.
Neal took the offered hand, and shook it once. Instead of letting go after they shook, Neal gripped the hand, and pulled Rumple close. He leaned down to look him in the eye, and said, “I hope you mean it. I don’t think I could handle it if Cora got her hands on you. Not after… everything.”
Sympathetic to the worried look Neal was giving him, Rumple brushed the backs of his fingers down his boy’s cheek and said, “It’s going to be alright, Bae. We’ll go back to my shop, and I’ll do the spell to fix this before Cora has a chance to do anything. Alright?”
Neal nodded, and let go of his father’s small hand. “Alright.” Neal turned to David and said, “Thank you for helping us.” He made eye contact with Emma, Snow, and then Henry too, and added, “All of you.”
Snow said, “That’s what family does. Do you want us to come with you to the shop?”
“No.” Rumple said. He certainly didn’t feel comfortable enough to consider any of them family other than Neal.
“She wasn’t asking you,” David said. “You agreed to follow Neal’s instructions, not the other way around.”
Rumple glared at David. He’d always found the man to be insufferable. He wasn’t particularly bright, he had the tendency to act before thinking things through, and his insistence on doing good at all costs made Rumple’s heart feel heavy in his chest.
“Don’t speak to me as if I were still your prisoner Prince Charming,” Rumple sneered, “You have no…”
“Okay.” Neal interrupted, and put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder. “On that note, I think it’s time for us to go.” He turned to Snow and said, “Thanks anyway, but I think we need to work things out on our own.” He kept a hand on Rumple, and started walking them towards the door. “Come on, let’s go get you back to normal.”
Emma said, “Call us once it’s done.”
“I will,” Neal said, and led a fuming Rumple out the door.
# # #
Neal kept a hand on Rumple’s shoulder as they walked across the street. The silence between them was awkward, both wanting to talk, but not knowing where to start. When they made it to the side door of Mr. Gold’s store, Neal let his hand drop to open the door.
Rumple went in with a purpose, and started to gather supplies on the desk. Neal stood in the middle of the room and watched. Rumple waved his hand towards one of the shelves that was too high for him to reach now, and said, “Grab me the third vile to the left.”
Neal got it for him, and handed it over. When Rumple took it, Neal said, “What’s in it?”
“Ash from the cradle I made you when I returned from war.”
Neal followed Rumple to the desk, and said, “Why do you need it?”
Rumple looked up at his boy with a smile. “Do you remember how we used to make potions together?”
Neal scowled. “Together? I remember you telling me to sit still and be silent, and then you’d talk to yourself about what you were doing. If I interrupted, you’d make me leave the room.”
Rumple nodded with a fond smile, and then gestured to the chair behind the desk. “Have a seat, Bae. Be still and silent, and I’ll talk through what I’m doing.”
Not liking his father’s presumptuous tone, Neal knew he needed to remind him that their relationship had shifted for the time being. He crossed his arms, and said, “The same chair I sat in to spank you yesterday?”
Rumple’s entire face turned bright red, and he glared at the currently older man. “Yes,” he said with barely restrained anger, “that’s the one.”
Neal glared back and said, “Maybe we should talk about that.”
Rumple turned his glare to the desk chair, and said, “Maybe we shouldn’t.”
With a sigh, Neal said, “Let me rephrase that. We’re going to talk about that. Right now, before you do your potion.”
Rumple’s eyes snapped back to Neal’s. He hissed, “What do you want me to say? That I’m angry about it? I am. That I want to kill David for putting the idea in your head? I do. That it makes me uncomfortable to even think about? It does.”
Neal shook his head. “Yesterday you thought you deserved it. I want you to look me in the eye, and tell me if you still think so.”
Glaring at the older man, Rumple spat out, “Yes. The boy I was at the time deserved it, and I loath myself for being that boy."
Confusion played across Neal’s face. “Why?”
“I was weak, pathetic, and needy. Just thinking about who I was makes my skin crawl.”
Neal shook his head, took the two steps that separated them, and put both hands on Rumple’s shoulders. The man got down on one knee so they could be eye to eye, and he said with utter faith, “No, Papa. You’ve got yourself all wrong. You were honorable, brave, and true. I’d almost forgotten what you were like before the Dark One, but seeing you that way made me remember. That version of you is the father who raised me for thirteen years. That version of you is the man I miss. That version of you is the man I tried to get back when I went through that portal.”
The man in the child’s body felt his anger slipping away along with the walls he’d built up around his heart to block out emotional ties. Rumple cupped Neal’s face with his hands. “Baelfire, my boy, I have regretted not jumping through that portal with you every single day since then. I’m so sorry you had to navigate this world without me.”
Neal wrapped his arms around his father and hugged him tight. He whispered, “Me too.”
Rumple held his son, and carded his fingers through the man’s hair. After a few seconds, Rumple said, “Come, Bae, let’s get this potion done.”
They let go of each other, and Rumple gestured to the chair again. “I do need you to sit still and be quiet for this. I need to concentrate on what I’m doing. The slightest mistake could end in disastrous results.”
Neal reluctantly got up, and went to sit in the chair.
For the next half an hour, Rumple got lost in his work. He talked through what he was doing and why, but other than that ignored Neal completely.
Neal closed his eyes a few times, and just listened to his father speaking. It was easy to imagine the older version of the man doing the same thing. It was all comfortably familiar.
Once the potion was complete, Rumple looked up at Neal and said, “That’s it.”
“Do you drink it?”
Rumple nodded, and lifted the vial to his lips.
“Wait!” Neal said. “What if it doesn’t work?”
Rumple rolled his eyes. “It’ll work.” He downed the liquid in two swallows.
Neal stood, and walked over to Rumple, to catch him if he started having another seizure. For several seconds, the two simply stared at each other, waiting for something to happen.
“How long should it take?” Neal asked eventually.
The boy’s face suddenly contorted in rage. “That bitch!”
“Regina!” Rumple shrieked. He knocked several bottles onto the floor with a sweep of his arm across the desk.
Neal took a few steps back. He’d seen his father like this several times. The fits of rage had become more and more common the longer he’d been influenced by the Dark One. The rage had never been directed at Neal, but it had terrified him just the same.
“What about Regina?” Neal asked.
Rumple picked one of the books up off the desk and threw it across the room. “She knew! She knew I couldn’t do magic yet!” He kicked the leg of the desk repeatedly with the toe of the tennis shoe that was too big for his foot. “If I’d been but a week or two older, she couldn’t have stopped me!”
As the fit went on, Neal started to see his father’s actions through the eyes of an adult, instead of through the eyes of the child he used to be, and he realized for the first time, that this fit of rage was nothing more than a tantrum.
“Hey!” Neal grabbed Rumple by the upper arm, and gave him a tiny shake. “Knock it off! Settle down, stop kicking things, and talk to me like a rational adult.”
Shocked into being still, Rumple looked up at Neal’s irritated face. A scowl slowly appeared on the boy’s face. In a condescending tone, he said, “The potion didn’t work. I can’t fix myself, because this body is too young to perform magic. Someone else will have to do it for me, but there isn’t anyone else. I don’t trust Regina or the Blue Fairy, no one trusts Cora, and Emma is too inexperienced.”
Neal let go of the boy’s arm and said, “Emma? Emma can do magic?”
“Yes, but I’ll have to train her for months before she can do anything this big.” Rumple walked over to the desk chair, sat down, folded his arms on the desk, and lay his head down on them. “I’m stuck like this for months, Bae. Months!”
Neal walked over to him, and rubbed his back in comfort. “That’s not so bad. Working with Emma could be a good thing. Henry could come too, and it will give us all time to get to know each other. What’s a couple of months after centuries?”
Rumple turned his head to the side, so he could look at Neal. “It’s bad, because I’m vulnerable like this, and Regina knows it, which means Cora will know it too. They’ll use this opportunity to try and hurt me, either separately or together. Unless…” Rumple sat up, and said, “That’s it!”
“I need to go see Jefferson.”
“The Mad Hatter?” Neal asked.
“There’s magic here now. He can make a new hat.” Rumple stood up and started pulling Neal towards the door. “I can go back in time to before Belle forgot who I was, and she’ll give me a kiss. True loves kiss will reverse any spell!”
“Just hold on a minute,” Neal said, stopping them. “If true loves kiss can reverse any spell, why don’t you just go to the hospital and kiss Belle now?”
Rumple shook his head. “She doesn’t remember that she loves me. It wouldn’t work.”
“But if you kissed her, wouldn’t she get her memories back?”
Rumple thought that over for a few seconds. “I don’t know. It depends on her emotional state when I did it. Maybe if she were asleep.” He smiled at Neal and said, “We can try that as soon as we’re done speaking with Jefferson.”
Neal shook his head. “I didn’t agree to go see Jefferson.”
Frowning, Rumple said, “What do you mean you didn’t agree? I need to see him.”
“Not unless I approve, and I don’t. I want to talk it over with David, Snow, and Emma first.”
“What!” Rumple was almost at a loss for words. “Are you actually telling me that you’re going to keep me from seeing my old colleague until you discuss it with my former enemies?”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.” Neal crossed his arms. “I don’t know this Jefferson person, and I certainly don’t trust him. I’m not going to take you to see him without talking to David and Emma first.”
“That’s ludicrous! I’m telling you that I trust him. That should be enough!”
Neal shook his head. “I’m sorry, but your judgement about keeping yourself safe is clouded by your desire to get your adult body back. I’ve made my decision. Let’s go back to the loft.”
“No! If you won’t take me to Jefferson’s, at least take me to the hospital so I can see Belle.”
With a tired sigh, Neal said, “Are you breaking our deal, or are you coming with me to the loft?”
Practically vibrating with pent up frustration, Rumple said, “I’ll go with you to the loft.”
# # #
When they arrived at the loft, David was the one who opened the door. He stepped aside to let them in. Snow and Emma and Henry were all sitting around the table, having just eaten lunch.
Henry asked, “What happened?”
“Rumple can’t reverse it,” Neal said. “He’s physically too young to perform magic.”
“Oh,” Henry said, and then asked with a smile, “Does that mean I might be able to do magic when I get older, too?”
Emma put an arm around Henry’s shoulders, wanting to protect him from that possibility.
“Yes,” Rumple said, and then turned his attention to Emma, figuring she would be the most sympathetic. “Since I can’t turn myself back into an adult, I need to go see Jefferson.”
“Jefferson? He’s crazy,” Emma said.
“And violent,” Snow said, thinking of her kidnapping.
“And untrustworthy,” David said.
Rumple rolled his eyes. “No, he’s not. We’ve known each other for years, and he was loyal.”
“Jefferson isn’t crazy or violent,” Henry said with a scowl. “He’s a good Dad. I see Grace every day at school, and she’s always telling me about the stuff they do together.”
Surprised that Henry was the one to stand up for him, Rumple smiled at him, and then focused on Emma. “There, you see. Not crazy, violent, or untrustworthy.”
Neal cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention and said to Henry, “Just because Jefferson is a good father, doesn’t mean he’s not crazy, violent, and untrustworthy towards every other person in the world.” He turned his eyes to Rumple and added, “I know from personal experience.”
Rumple glared at his son, and then shook his head. He turned to David and said, “I’m vulnerable in this body, and none of you have the magical ability to protect me from Cora or Regina. I need to get back to my adult body as quickly as possible, and Jefferson is the best option for getting that accomplished.”
“How could Jefferson help?” David asked.
“I want to go back in time to before Belle forgot who she was, so true love’s kiss can reverse the spell.”
“But the hat is broken,” Snow said.
“Now that there’s magic in Storybrook, he can make a new hat,” Rumple said.
Emma shook her head. “I don’t know if that’s true. There was magic in Wonderland and he couldn’t do it. It may drive him a little crazy to try and fail.”
“And crazy can lead to unpredictable and dangerous,” Neal concluded, glad he’d trusted his gut and checked with Emma first.
“No,” Henry said, “According to the book he went mad last time because he couldn’t get home to Grace. It wouldn’t dive him crazy this time.”
Rumple smiled and, “Exactly right, Henry. Thank you.”
“Do we even want there to be another hat here in Storybrook?” Snow asked. “Think of all the problems the last one caused.”
“We’d all have a way to get back to the enchanted forest,” David said.
“But at what cost?” Snow said.
Rumple grunted in frustration. “This discussion is ludicrous! I know Jefferson better than any of you, and I’m telling you he can be trusted, and he can make a new hat.” He looked directly at Snow and said, “And having something of power isn’t the problem dearie, the problem is letting that power fall into the wrong hands. Like yours and your husbands.”
“Hey!” David said, and would have gone on if Neal hadn’t acted.
Neal grabbed Rumple’s upper arm, pulled him to the kitchen table, and pushed him down to sit in a chair. He pointed a finger in his face and said, “Stop it. That was the Dark One talking, and I’m never going to agree when he starts talking. We’re all trying to help you, whether you like it or not, so maybe you should try listening to our opinions instead of making snide comments. Jefferson is not our only option, and you know it.”
Shocked by the manhandling, and the scolding tone, Rumple simply stared at his adult son, along with everyone else in the room. After noticing the look, Neal cleared his throat, and said calmly, “You’re not going to contact Jefferson at this time, and that’s final.” He turned to Henry and said, “That goes for you too. Got it?”
Henry nodded, his eyes opened wide with surprise.
Neal turned back to Rumple who was now clearly fuming, but keeping his mouth clamped shut. “Did you hear me?” Neal prompted.
Rumple ground out the word, “Yes.”
After a few seconds of strained silence, Emma said, “You mentioned another option.”
“You’re the other option,” Neal said.
“I’m the other option?” Emma asked.
Pushing past his irritation, Rumple smiled at Emma and said, “There aren’t many that have the innate ability to use magic. You’re one of the few. I can help train you. Teach you how to harness your power. You should be able to turn me back within a few months.”
“But… Me?” Emma said.
“That’s awesome, Mom,” Henry said.
“I don’t like it,” David said.
“There’s a surprise,” Rumple muttered, before turning and speaking to the man as if he were slow witted. “She already has magic inside her. Nothing you do can change that. Nothing I do can change that either. Learning how to use her magic can only be an advantage for her.”
Neal said to Emma, “I thought it might be something we could do together. You, me, Henry, and Rumple. We could… reconnect.”
Emma couldn’t help the way her heart fluttered at those words, or the slight blush in her cheeks.
“That’s the perfect solution,” Henry said with a grin. “Please say you’ll do it, Mom.”
Emma glanced at Snow, who gave her a tiny smile and a nod. She looked to David, who crossed his arms, frowned, and also gave her a curt nod of reluctant approval. She turned to Neal and said, “I’d like that.”
# # #
When Regina got home, Cora was waiting. “Well? Is it done?”
Cora thought her daughter sounded a little shell shocked, and went to put an arm around her. “What happened?”
“Henry was there.” Regina looked into her mother’s eyes. “He saw me forcing the potion into Rumple. He hates me.”
“Oh nonsense,” Cora said, patting her daughter’s shoulder. “Henry doesn’t hate you, he loves you. He’s a child, and he’s angry. Of course he lashes out at the one person who has always shown him love.”
Regina slowly shook her head. She remembered the way she felt about her own mother when she’d been young, and knew that sometimes a child could hate their parent, even if there was love mixed in there too. “You didn’t see his face. He had disappointment, sadness, and anger all mixed into one scathing look.”
Cora scowled. “You sound as though Henry were the parent in your relationship. Henry doesn’t have to like you or agree with your decisions. Eventually he’ll understand that everything you did was to make a better life for him, and he’ll love you for it when he gets older, even if he hates you for it now.”
Regina tried to believe her mother’s words but found she couldn’t. She did however believe that once Henry belonged to her again, she could make him forget the past few months, and then he’d love her again. She straightened her shoulders, and focused on the task at hand. “How did things go on your end?”
“Just fine.” Cora held up a single strand of gray hair.
“No one saw you?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“It’s not silly to be prepared,” Regina said, and snatched the hair from her mother’s fingers. “You go over the plan one more time, while I do the spell.”
Cora rolled her eyes, but went along with it, and started talking while her daughter concentrated on making a potion. “You’ll make yourself look like Granny, while I make myself look like a man. Then late tonight, you’ll sneak in to the hotel and knock Granny out. You’ll find Bealfire and tell him that a shady looking character from New York is there to see him. You’ll offer to watch Rumplestiltskin so they can talk, and while I’m busy distracting Neal downstairs with offers of a jewelry store heist, you’ll knock the boy out, and put the real Granny in Neal’s room. That way we’ll have hours to extract information from Rumplestiltskin before the Charmings suspect us.”
Regina nodded in agreement, and tried to see any holes in their plan before they put it into action.
# # #
Later that day, Rumple worked with Emma for a few hours and taught her a spell to keep Cora, Hook, and Regina from crossing the threshold of Snow’s apartment, and Neal’s room at Granny’s. Though he hid it well, Rumple was secretly fuming all day. He couldn’t believe that Neal had actually forbid him to go see Jefferson. As the day progressed, Rumple had to wonder about Neal’s motivation. Had he actually done it to protect Rumple, or had he done it to get closer to Emma. Either way, it was insufferable, and Rumple decided he couldn’t tolerate it.
That night Rumple feigned sleep until he heard his son’s breathing even out. He was going to go see Jefferson, and then the man could start work on the hat while Rumple played along with the happy family plan. As he stealthily got out of the shared bed, he tried telling himself that it wouldn’t count as breaking their deal, as long as Neal never found out, but he knew that was a lie. He tried telling himself that the deal was null and void, because his mind was back even if his body wasn’t, but he knew that was a lie too.
He grabbed some of the new clothes Henry had given him, and got dressed as quietly as possible in the bathroom, before sneaking out the front door. He made his way down the hall, and out to the street without any trouble. He started jogging towards Jefferson’s house with a satisfied smirk on his face.
# # #
Neal woke with a start when someone knocked on his door. “Hold on,” he mumbled, and looked to his side to check on Rumple, only to find that the boy wasn’t there. He sat up, shook his head once, and said, “Rumple?”
Someone knocked on the door again. Neal got out of bed, and hissed, “Papa? Are you here?” He rushed to check the bathroom, and had his answer. The pajamas Henry had given Rumple were lying on the bathroom floor. Trying not to panic, Neal rushed to the front door and pulled it open.
Granny gave him an apologetic smile and said, “I’m sorry to wake you Neal, but there’s a man downstairs who claims...”
“Have you seen Rum… my son Paul?” Neal asked, cutting her off.
“Paul?” Granny tried to look further into the room. “No. Isn’t he with you?”
“Damn it!” Neal went to grab some clothes and muttered to himself, “If he went to see Jefferson after I told him not to, I’m going to kill him!” He pulled a sweater over his tank top and some jeans over his boxers while ranting. He turned back to the old woman and said, “Sorry Granny, who did you say was downstairs?”
She shook her head and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing as important as finding your son. Do you want me to help arrange a search party?”
“No!” Neal said, and then after seeing her surprise, he said more quietly, “Sorry, but no, the less people who know about this the better.” He certainly didn’t want Regina or Cora to find out that Rumple was out there on his own ready to be snatched.
“Are you sure? My granddaughter can track anyone.”
He shook his head. “That’s okay, I’m pretty sure I know where he went, but if I don’t find him there, I may take you up on your offer. You should go get some sleep.”
“Well, okay. If you’re sure.”
She turned to walk down the hall, while Neal went to put his shoes on. He thought about calling Emma, but didn’t want to wake her in the middle of the night if he didn’t have to. He put his head in his hands for a few seconds, trying not to feel betrayed yet again. His father had broken their deal. The child in him wanted to yell and scream at how unfair it was, while the adult in him wanted to find Rumple and make sure he was safe. With a tired sigh, he got up and headed out to find his missing father.
# # #
Once Regina rounded the corner of the hallway, she broke into a run. When she made it to the street out front, she tossed off the appearance of Granny with a wave of her hand and a puff of purple smoke.
“What are you doing?” Cora hissed, still disguised as a shifty looking man.
Regina grabbed her arm and whispered urgently, “Rumple wasn’t there. He’s run off to find Jefferson on his own. Neal is coming to search for him.”
Cora waved her hand in the air, and both women disappeared from the sidewalk in front of Granny’s, and appeared a block away from Jefferson’s house. Regina glanced around and said, “That’s amazing. You have to teach me how to do that.”
“In due time, Dear,” Cora said, and changed herself back to her true form.
Regina walked towards the house and said, “Do you think he’s already there?”
The front door opened, and both women darted behind some bushes. They were close enough to hear the exchange, but far enough away that the dark night concealed them from view.
“I don’t want to hear that you’re going to try, dearie. I want to hear that you’re going to do it, and do it quickly,” the little boy said with malice.
“And I don’t want to inadvertently lie to you, you tend to take that personally. I’ll do everything in my power to make a new hat, but I can’t promise that it will work,” the Mad Hatter said.
“I’ll check back in three days time. I’d better see some progress. And remember…” Rumple put a finger to his lips to indicate silence.
“I know, I know. You were never here, now let me get to work.” Jefferson shut the door in Rumple’s face.
“Excellent,” the boy said, and headed down the walkway towards the street. He was almost to the street when Regina and Cora stepped out in front of him, making him gasp in shock. He opened his mouth to yell, but Cora snapped her fingers, and nothing but air came out of Rumple’s open mouth. He felt his throat, and tried to talk, but found he was incapable. He could breath, but his vocal cords were no longer functioning.
“It looks as though you’re at a loss for words my dear Rumple,” Cora said.
Rumple aimed a death glare at Cora, and then at Regina.
“And in such a deliciously vulnerable body, too,” Regina said.
His glare wavered for a second, and he tried to make a run for it. Regina waved her hand in the air, and Rumple was frozen in place. “Don’t rush off just yet. We have some questions for you.”
Cora touched the top of Rumple’s head, and the boy fell to the ground, instantly asleep.
# # #
The closer Neal got to Jefferson’s house, the more nervous he became. Why hadn’t he run into Rumple yet? How far ahead was he? What if Neal was wrong and the kid hadn’t run off to see the Mad Hatter? The worries made his feet move more quickly, and he ended up jogging most of the way. He rushed up the steps, and banged on Jefferson’s front door.
A few seconds later, Jefferson yanked the door open and said, “What now? I thought I told you…” Jefferson realized who was standing at the front door, and immediately hid the hat making materials in his hand behind his back. “Baelfire is it? What can I do for you?”
Neal rolled his eyes, and took a deep breath of relief. “Tell my father I’m here to pick him up.”
“Your father? I’m sorry, but I don’t know…”
Having had enough, Neal slapped his hand on the doorframe and said, “Tell my father if he doesn’t get his ass out here right now, I’m going to come in there and drag him home.”
A tiny voice behind them said, “Daddy?”
Jefferson scowled at Neal and turned to his daughter, “Grace sweetheart, it’s okay. Go on back to your room, and I’ll be right there to tuck you in. I promise.”
“You said that a few minutes ago,” she said with a pout, “but you didn’t come back.”
Jefferson set his stuff down, and gathered Grace up in his arms, and kissed the side of her head. “I’m sorry sweetheart. You can stay here with me this time so I don’t forget.”
He looked at Neal, thought it over for a few seconds and said, “There are loyalties I’m not willing to break.”
Neal had softened the instant he saw Jefferson with his daughter. He looked the man in the eye and said sincerely, “I’m glad he has at least one friend. Just tell him I’ll be waiting here on the front steps when he’s man enough to come face me after breaking our deal.”
Neal turned to sit on the step, but Jefferson stopped him with a hand to his arm. “Wait a minute. He broke a deal with you?”
Frowning, Jefferson looked at his daughter, and then back to Neal. “He left about five minutes ago. I’m surprised you didn’t see him on your way here. He must have seen you and hid.”
Feeling that sick dread in his stomach again, Neal said, “Wait… He’s not here?”
Jefferson shook his head.
Neal put a hand over his mouth, and knew in his heart that Cora had him. He backed away and said, “Okay. Thank you.”
“Is something wrong?” Jefferson asked.
“Cora was looking for him.”
Jefferson blanched, took a step back into his house, and held his daughter closer. “The Queen of Hearts?”
“If he comes back here, will you please call Granny’s and leave word for me.”
Jefferson shut the door and locked it behind him without giving an answer.
Scowling, Neal pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and started to retrace his steps while he called Emma.
“Lo?” Emma said half asleep.
“Rumple is missing.”
He heard the rustle of blankets. “What?”
“He took off to see Jefferson while I was asleep. I just got to Jefferson’s house and he told me that Rumple had left his house five minutes ago. But I didn’t run into him on my way there, and it’s a straight shot from this house to Granny’s. Cora has him.” Neal’s voice broke, and he had to clear it. “I know she does.”
“Okay, let’s just stay calm and think about this,” Emma said. “Where would Cora take him?”
“I don’t know!”
He heard muffled noises on her line, and then she said, “Try the cemetery. Regina has a secret room under ground. If Cora knows about it, she might take Rumple there. It would be the perfect place to torture someone.”
“Okay, I’ll go check it out. Could you please go check my room at Granny’s and see if he’s there?”
“I’m on my way.”
“Thanks.” Neal hung up and ran towards the cemetery.
# # #
Rumple woke up disoriented. He tried to rub his eyes, but couldn’t move his arms. Startled, he opened his eyes wide, and took in his surroundings. He recognized the room immediately. He was in Regina’s secret tomb under the cemetery. His arms were spread wide with both wrists shackled to the wall. Regina was holding him up, while Cora had apparently been waking him up. He shook his head once, and looked down at his feet. They were shackled as well, but at a comfortable distance apart with about six inches of leeway for him to move each foot.
After seeing his eyes open, Regina let go of him so he could stand on his own.
Not prepared to support his own weight yet, Rumple’s knees buckled and both arms were strained as he sagged down. Grunting in pain, he quickly got his feet under him to get the pressure off his wrists.
Cora snapped her fingers in front of his face a couple of times. “Wake up, Rumplestiltskin. It’s time to answer some questions.”
He glared at her and said, “Still taking on impossible tasks Cora?”
She raised an eyebrow and said to Regina, “He’s ready.”
Regina smiled at him and said, “We want to make a deal.”
The child chuckled and said, “Do tell dearie.”
“Tell us where the dagger is, and we’ll leave Baelfire out of it when we kill the Charmings and Emma.”
With a long suffering sigh, Rumple said, “This is why you were always such a disappointing apprentice. No creativity in that one-track mind of yours. No finesse in your planning. No vision beyond the one goal you have in your sights at any given moment.”
“Rumple?” Cora said.
He turned to her.
She dug her hand into his chest, and viciously ripped out his glowing heart. “Do shut up,” she said.
He gasped in pain, and shock. His arms pulled against the restraints automatically to try and cover his chest, and his knees sagged again.
“Mother,” Regina said with irritation.
“We don’t know how much time we have, Darling,” Cora said. “It’s time to stop playing around.” She held the heart up for Rumple to see, and carefully squeezed it.
“Aaah!” Rumple yelled, as excruciating pain filled his chest.
Regina raised an eyebrow, not having expected that noise to come out of her former master. She smiled. Maybe this was going to be easier than they’d expected if the child’s body couldn’t tolerate torture the way his adult body could.
Cora stopped putting pressure on the heart and said, “Tell me where the dagger is.”
Breathing hard, he looked her in the eye and said, “I’ll die before I tell you, and then you’ll never find it. All that power having slipped right through your fingers.”
With an evil smile Cora said, “Now that’s the man I fell in love with.”
“I could say it hurt to watch you become a heartless shrew,” Rumple said with a smirk of his own, “But I’d be lying.”
With the same smile on her face, Cora squeezed his heart again.
# # #
Neal made it to the cemetery in record time, and searched for the entrance to Regina’s secret room. He heard the sounds of a vehicle in the distance, and turned to see headlights coming towards the cemetery. A few seconds later, he saw David jumping out of his truck, and running towards him. He couldn’t express how relieved he was to see the man. Before he could do more than nod at David, he heard the high pitched sound of a child’s scream of pain. A chill ran down his spine, and he ran towards the noise.
Just as Neal was about to rush down the stairs into the tomb, David tackled him to the ground, and clamped a hand over Neal’s mouth. David hissed, “We have no magic to fight Cora. We need a plan.”
The first scream had been short, and there wasn’t a second scream, so Neal was able to nod in agreement. David let him up, and the two men made their way down the stairs to assess the situation with Neal in the lead.
When they got to the doorway Neal opened it a crack just in time to see his father let out another high pitched scream. It took everything he had not to barge into the room to stop them, but he knew David was right, they needed a plan. He was angry on his child’s behalf when he saw Regina there working with Cora. He knew how much faith Henry had that his mother was turning over a new leaf, and here she was torturing the kid’s grandfather. He closed the door as soon as his father stopped screaming, and whispered to David, “Cora and Regina are working together.”
They both heard Regina ask, “Ready to tell us where the dagger is?”
David scowled. They’d given Regina so many chances and every time the woman let his wife and Henry down. Suddenly inspiration hit him, and he whispered, “I know how to save Rumple.” He gestured for Neal to follow him, and went back upstairs. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed his daughter. “Emma?”
“Did you find him?” she asked.
“I need you to grab Henry, get in the car, and drive him over the line out of Storybrook.”
“Why?” Emma said with fear as she started to move.
“Leverage. Call me when you’re in the car on the way, and I’ll explain.”
He hung up and was about to explain his idea to Neal, when they heard another ear splitting scream.
Neal cringed, and as soon as the screaming stopped he said, “I can’t take much more of that. What’s the plan?”
# # #
Before Cora could squeeze Rumple’s heart for the sixth time, Neal burst into the room holding a gun at Cora’s head.
Terror raced down Rumple’s spine when he saw his son arrive. “No,” he whispered. The women could never torture the information out of him, but Rumple knew he couldn’t take it if they started to torture his son.
“Put that heart back in my father’s chest, and leave him the hell alone!” Neal bellowed.
With a flick of Cora’s wrist, the gun went flying out of Neal’s hand, and landed by Regina’s feet. Regina held a hand out towards him, and his body was soon flattened against the opposite wall. “Well, well, well,” Regina said with a smirk, “What do we have here?”
“How could you do this to Henry?” Neal shouted. “You say you love him, you say you want to change, but it’s all been a lie!”
Her smirk disappeared. “I’m doing this for Henry! Rumplestiltskin is dangerous!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Neal yelled. “Have you told those lies so often that you actually believe them yourself?”
“It’s not a lie,” Regina said with certainty. “Don’t think for one second that his affection for you automatically means he has affection for Henry as well. He’d probably be happy to kill the boy himself it he thought he could benefit from it in some way.”
“You don’t know my father at all. There’s still good in him.”
“Now who’s lying?” Regina said.
Neal shook his head. “If you don’t let my father go, I’m going to tell Henry.”
Regina’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “I’ll kill you first,” she hissed.
“No!” Rumple shouted. “I’ll take the deal. Baelfire lives. I’ll give you the dagger.”
“No, Papa, don’t!” Neal said.
“Deal!” Cora said with a grin.
“Not so fast,” a male voice said.
They all turned to see David standing in the doorway holding up his cell phone. He said, “Emma are you there?”
He’d put it on speakerphone so everyone in the room could hear her say, “Just crossed the line.”
“Get out, take a picture, and send it to me,” David said.
“Okay,” her voice said.
“What have you done?” Regina whispered with growing concern.
“Emma has taken Henry out of Storybrook,” David said.
Regina shook her head no. David’s phone beeped, and he held up a picture for her to see. Emma and Henry were standing by the ‘Welcome to Storybrook’ sign in their pajamas. David looked Regina in the eye and said, “If you don’t let both Neal and Rumple go, Emma will take Henry away, and she’ll never bring him back. She used to track people for a living, she knows how to make them disappear.”
“Don’t listen to them!” Cora said. “They’re bluffing! Rumplestiltskin just agreed to our deal!”
Regina kept her eyes on David, trying to see if it was a bluff or not.
“Regina,” David said cautiously, “We haven’t told Henry what’s going on yet. If you let them both go right now, we’ll let you tell him your side of the story first.”
“That’s a generous offer Dearie,” Rumple said. “I’d take it if I were you.”
“Please,” Neal said, “Henry still loves you, despite the things you’ve done.”
Regina turned to Cora and said, “Put the heart back.”
Cora glared at her daughter, “Don’t be so short sighted.”
Regina blinked a couple of times, and said, “Our plan won’t work anymore, Mother. Henry already knows too much, and if you don’t put the heart back, Emma will take him away from me forever. The whole point of this was to get Henry back.”
“No Darling, the whole point is getting the dagger.” Cora flung her free arm out, and Regina went flying across the room. She slammed against the wall next to Neal, and Cora turned back towards Rumple. She squeezed his heart again, making him scream.
“Stop it!” Neal shouted.
Cora stopped squeezing and said, “Tell me where the dagger is, or your son is next.”
Before Rumple could catch his breath, Neal shouted, “Don’t tell her anything! We can’t let her have the Dark One’s power! She’s already a heartless bitch! The dagger will only make that worse!”
Across the room Regina turned frightened eyes towards David, trying to decide on a course of action. She tried to flick her wrist, but couldn’t. With effort she was able to crook her finger towards Neal, and he dropped to the ground.
Without turning around, Cora flung a hand back, and both Neal and David were soon plastered to the wall along side Regina. Cora got her face close to Rumple’s and said, “What’s it going to be?”
“You’re digging your own grave, Cora,” he said with sincerity.
“Very well.” She shoved his heart back into his chest, making him gasp for breath. She yanked her hand back out and whispered in his ear, “I want you to be capable of fully appreciating this next part.”
She turned her back on him, and stalked over to Neal with a gleam in her eye.
“Don’t give in, Papa, no matter what she does!” Neal shouted
Cora dug her hand into Neal’s chest cavity, snared her fingers around his heart, and yanked the glowing thing out.
“Mother, stop this!” Regina pleaded.
Cora squeezed Neal’s heart before he could even catch his breath from having it torn out. A low yell came out of his throat, even though he kept his mouth clamped shut.
Out of the corner of his eye, David saw movement near the entrance, and nodded once while keeping his eyes forward.
Snow had been biding her time, waiting until she thought she could actually do something to help without getting caught herself. Now that Cora was focused on Neal, Snow crept towards Rumple.
While Cora was whispering threats to Neal, and squeezing his heart again, Snow made it to Rumple’s side and started to undo his chains.
Rumple shook his head, and whispered urgently to her, “Go get Cora’s heart. That’s the only way to stop her.”
Snow hesitated, and when Rumple scowled at her, she crept back out to the adjacent room where the hearts were.
Cora turned to Rumple and said, “Ready to talk?”
Forcing a smile on his face, Rumple said, “What would you like to talk about Dearie? The weather? It’s been a bit chilly the past few days.”
Even though he was worn out from the pain, Neal smiled at his father, and Rumple smiled softly in return.
Glaring at the child, Cora kept her eyes on Rumple and squeezed Neal’s heart. When Neal yelled in pain, Rumple couldn’t hide his wince. The corner of Cora’s lip curled into a cruel smile. “Don’t pretend this doesn’t eat you up inside, Rumplestiltskin. We know each other too well for that game. How long until you break? A few minutes? An hour? I can do this all day.”
“Then get on with it,” Rumple snarled, “and stop talking me to death.”
“Gladly.” Cora turned back around to focus on Neal.
Regina had watched all of this in silence. She didn’t know exactly what Snow was doing, but if their plan meant Henry would be staying in town, she wasn’t going to try and stop them. In fact, she was going to try and help. With her mother’s attention back on Neal, Regina focused on Rumple’s shackles, and moved the tip of her finger, unlocking all of them simultaneously while Neal was groaning in pain.
As soon as he was free, Rumple scurried as quietly as possible to the adjacent room to help Snow. She had just picked up the heart when he came in. He held out his hand for it, but Snow kept it and said, “Can you put this back in without magic?”
He shook his head. “It has to be Regina. We have to free her, and get her to put it back in Cora.” He kept his hand out, expecting her to give it to him still.
Snow put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder, and said, “No. You need to go to the Blue Fairy.”
Rumple scowled and hissed, “What? She hates me!”
“No, you hate her, she doesn’t hate you. You’re the one Cora wants. If you’re gone, she may stop all this long enough for me to get the heart to Regina.”
Rumple heard his son yell in pain, and whispered fiercely, “I can’t just leave Bae!”
With sympathy she squeezed his shoulder and said, “Neal and David planned this. They told me to send you to the Blue Fairy if I got you free, and we’ve already called her. Cora won’t expect you to go there, so she won’t find you right away, which gives us more time to get her heart back in. And the Blue Fairy is the only one left who might be able to fend Cora off with magic.”
Hating it, Rumple did see the logic in her words. Slowly he nodded. “Alright, I’ll go.”
She let go of him, and whispered, “Hurry.”
She watched Rumple go, stuck Cora’s heart in the pocket of her jacket, and stood by the entrance, to wait for Cora to notice Rumple was missing.
# # #
Rumple ran towards the convent, hating this plan more and more with each passing second. His feet slowed to walk, while he thought things over. When he’d been his younger self in mind and body, the Blue Fairy had been kind to him, but he doubted the same would be true when he had his adult memories. But he didn’t see any other options at this point, and continued on.
The Blue Fairy opened the door for him before he had a chance to knock. He gave her a distrustful glare, which she chose to ignore.
“Come inside quickly, we’ve got work to do,” she said.
He walked in, and followed the Blue Fairy to the kitchen, where several of the nuns were busy getting ingredients together. “What’s all this?”
“We’re making you a potion,” Astrid said as she walked past him.
“A potion that should prevent Cora from getting to your heart,” the Blue Fairy said while looking over what the other Fairies had done so far.
Rumple couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. He’d been horrible to these women as Mr. Gold, and he hadn’t been much better to them as the Dark One. “You’re… helping me? But… why?”
The Blue Fairy stopped what she was doing, and bent down slightly to be at Rumple’s eye level. With a serious expression on her face, she said, “I saw the good in you Rumplestiltskin. There’s no going back now that I’ve seen who you once were.” She touched the tip of her finger to his chest, “You’re heart was once pure, and with time and effort, it will be again.”
He slapped her hand away and hissed, “Any good there may have been in me was snuffed out years ago the day I lost Bae. A day you played a significant roll in.”
She shook her head and said, “Have you learned nothing from Regina? It’s time to let go of revenge for the past. You’ve found your son after all these years, and he’s turned into a man with a good heart. You should focus your energy on building a new relationship with him, instead of dwelling on the time you lost.”
“It’s ready for you,” Astrid said.
The Blue Fairy went to look at the things they had laid out, and waved Rumple over. “Come look at this, and tell me if you think it will work.”
Still feeling angry, Rumple went to see. He immediately understood what they were trying to do when he saw their ingredients, and slowly nodded. He looked up at the Blue Fairy with a little more respect than usual and said, “It won’t work for very long, but it will distract Cora long enough for Regina to put her heart back if she hasn’t been able to do it yet.”
The Blue Fairy smiled. “Good.”
# # #
A minute after Rumple escaped, Cora turned around to taunt him, and saw nothing against the wall but empty shackles. Her eyes darted around the room, trying to find him. When she realized he was truly gone, she glared at her daughter. “You!”
“Please Mother, just listen to me for a…”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Cora snapped. She shoved Neal’s heart back into his chest, and looked around the room, for something to tie them up with. She waved a hand at some rope on the far side of the room, and within seconds Regina, Neal, and David were all tied up and lying on the floor.
Cora leaned down to check her daughter’s bindings, to make sure her hands were completely immobile. She patted Regina’s shoulder and said, “No more magic for you until I return.”
Cora walked out to the sound of her daughter pleading with her to stop.
A few seconds after Cora left, Snow came out from her hiding spot behind in the adjacent room, and quietly rushed to David’s side. “Neal, are you okay?” Snow asked as she stuck her hand into the front pocket of her husband’s jeans to find the pocketknife he always kept there.
“I’m fine,” Neal said, “A little worn out, but the pain went away as soon as she put my heart back.”
Once she had David’s knife in her hand, Snow went to Regina and started carefully cutting the ropes away from her bound hands. As she was working on getting the older woman free, she said, “I have Cora’s heart in my pocket.”
“What?” Regina asked, tilting her head back to look at Snow.
“Rumple says the only way to stop Cora, is to put her heart back, and you’re the only one who has the magic to do that.”
“Her heart…” Regina said, thinking that over, and wondering why it had never occurred to her before. She’d always thought of her mother as cold, but she’d never considered the possibility that the woman was cold because her heart was missing. Probably because she’d never seen her mother with her heart in her body. While she was growing up, she hadn’t even known that Cora’s heart was in a box. Rumple didn’t tell her that until Regina had learned to take a heart out on her own, and by that time Cora was long gone.
Snow finished cutting through the first rope, and unwound it from Regina’s right hand. “There. Can you get the rest off?” Snow asked.
Regina moved her hand, and all of the ropes around her body fell to the floor. She sat up, rubbed her wrists once, and then waved her hand towards Neal and David, causing their ropes to fall off as well. Regina looked at Snow with suspicion. “You untied me.”
Snow pulled Cora’s heart out of her pocket, and held it out for Regina. “I don’t trust you when it comes to most things, but I trust you to do everything in your power to get this heart back in your mother, both for Henry, and for yourself. I know I’d give anything to keep my child safe, and to have my mother back again. You may have a black in your heart, but at least you’ve always had one.”
Without a word, Regina took the offered heart, and stood up. She looked at David who was already standing, along with Neal and said, “As soon as I do this, you’ll call Emma, and have her bring Henry home, right?”
“I give you my word,” David said.
Snow went to David’s side, handed him the pocketknife, and gave him a quick hug.
Neal looked at Snow and said, “Did Rumple agree to go to the Blue Fairy?”
“Yes, but he wasn’t very happy about it, so I don’t know if he actually went.”
“Would your mom be able to track him?” David asked Regina.
“Yes,” she said. “I saw her take a strand of his hair before we woke him up.”
David pulled the cell phone out of his pocket, and dialed the Blue Fairy. He put the phone to his ear, and said, “Let’s head that way while I confirm he’s there.”
“Agreed,” Regina said, and led the rest of them up out of the tomb and down the street at a quick pace.
# # #
Rumple kept involuntarily rubbing the dangling silver charm resting on his chest under his shirt, and over his heart. He knew it would only protect him for a short time, but hopefully that would be enough. The fairies were currently busy making a magical barrier across the front doors of the convent, while Rumple stood by and watched helplessly.
Once they were done spreading the fairy dust, the nuns all came inside before the Blue Fairy herself took out her wand, pointed it at the dust, and whispered a few words. The dust glowed for an instant, and then went back to normal.
She turned to Rumple and said, “That’s all I can think of to do. Can you think of anything else?”
Before Rumple had a chance to answer her, Astrid whispered with fear, “She’s here.”
All of them looked through the open doors, and saw a dark figure down the street headed their way at a fast pace. Within seconds, Rumple could make out Cora’s facial features. Her eyes were focused only on him, and her maniacal grin caused a small shudder to go through Rumple’s body.
The phone started to ring, and Astrid went to answer it, while the Blue Fairy put a hand on Rumple’s shoulder and whispered, “Stay on this side of the door for as long as the barrier holds. We’ll protect you as long as we can.”
He nodded, feeling both grateful and annoyed at the same time. He hated knowing that he would owe them, but he couldn’t deny that it was reassuring to have someone magical on his side.
A few seconds later Astrid whispered to Rumple, “Regina is on her way with Cora’s heart. Stall her as long as you can.” That gave Rumple the boost of confidence he needed to face Cora.
Everyone silently watched as Cora got closer and closer. She stopped about six feet from the convent door, and flung her hand out towards Rumple. When the man in the child’s body didn’t immediately float towards her, her smile faltered. Her hand lowered to her side, and she took a moment to look at the fairies. “This isn’t your fight. Do you really want to make an enemy of me?”
The Blue Fairy shook her head. “The day you have the Dark One’s power, is the day we’re all as good as dead, Cora.”
Glaring hatefully at them, Cora stormed up to the door, and tried to walk through, only to feel as though she’d walked into a pane of glass. She stumbled back a step, and took a closer look at the doorway. Seeing the fairy dust, she said, “That won’t keep me out for long.”
She took a step back, held both her hands up, and aimed a loud bolt of magic towards the barrier. A couple of minutes later, after several bolts of magic had been aimed at it, the barrier started to weaken and crack.
Rumple’s eyes kept darting down the street, hoping to see Regina, and just as the barrier broke, he saw movement in the distance. The quiet noises of the night filled the silence after the last bolt of magic had finished off the barrier. Cora looked down at the fairy dust with disdain and wiped the line of it away with her foot.
The fairies all clustered together in front of Rumple, holding their wands.
Cora smiled, showing them her perfectly white teeth, and took a step towards them.
“No,” Rumple said, walking around to stand in front of them. “No one else is getting hurt because of this. I’m the one you want, leave them out of it.”
Astrid turned shocked eyes to the Blue Fairy, not believing that Rumplestiltskin would stand up for them, but the Blue Fairy didn’t appear surprised at all. In fact she had a satisfied smile on her face, and lowered her wand. Confused, Astrid and the rest of the fairies lowered their wands as well.
Cora turned her attention to him. “Tell me where it is, or I’ll kill them all, along with every other person you love.”
“You start killing people, and I’ll never give you the dagger. Don’t play that game with me, Dearie, unless you want us both to lose.” Rumple took a cautious step over the threshold, and out of the convent, being careful to stay on the side away from Cora’s quickly approaching daughter. He was also careful to keep his eyes firmly focused on Cora’s face. “Speaking of which, is my son alive, or should we give up on this game before it’s started?”
“He’s perfectly fine, though I did take measures to prevent him from continuing to interfere.”
“Good,” Rumple said. “It’s just you and me then.”
“Yes. So Tell. Me. Where. It. IS!”
Rumple put a finger to his lips, and looked up in to the sky as if pondering that order. “Hmm… And what exactly do I get out of the deal?”
“Your life, and the lives of your friends and family.”
Rumple shook his head. “No, you’ll kill us all the instant you have the dagger. Try again.”
“You don’t trust me to keep my word?” Cora said with a smile.
Rumple raised an eyebrow and said nothing.
Laughing, Cora said, “Once I have it, I’m going to do a spell to rebuild the Enchanted Forrest. I have no interest in killing anyone here. I want the power to get my homeland back.”
Rumple shook his head sadly. “There is no spell to bring it back, Cora. I wish there was, but there isn’t.”
Losing her patients, Cora said, “We’ll see about that,” and tried to shove her hand into his chest. Her hand bounced off his chest, and she yelled in frustration. He smiled at her and said, “It wouldn’t be fair if I made it easy for you.”
She glared at him, grabbed his arm to keep him in place, and searched his body for whatever was keeping her hand from claiming his heart for her own. Just as her fingers felt the piece of silver around Rumple’s neck, she saw him looking over her shoulder and smiling.
Cora dropped Rumple, and spun around just in time to see her daughter slam her heart back into her chest. Cora gasped, and took a couple of steps back with a hand over her own heart. The heart she hadn’t felt for decades. A rush of intense emotions filled her entire body, and it was all she could do to keep herself upright. She looked into her daughter’s eyes for the first time ever with her heart in place, and felt tears in her eyes. “Regina,” she said softly, truly seeing her daughter.
“Mother?” Regina asked, worried about how this was going to play out. Cora pulled Regina into a crushing hug.
While the two women were busy embracing, Neal rushed around them, picked Rumple up into his arms, and quickly walked towards the convent to get him as far away from Cora as he could while she was distracted. As he was carrying Rumple, Neal muttered into the top of the boy’s head, “It’s okay, you’re safe now.”
Rumple wasn’t sure which one of them his son was trying to reassure, but he said, “I know.”
Neal went past the nuns, and headed for the couch. He sat down with Rumple on his lap, and kept his arms wrapped around the boy, holding him close. Rumple’s voice was slightly muffled by Neal’s shirt when he said, “Bae, you can let me go now.”
Neal squeezed him a little tighter, closed his eyes, kissed the top of Rumple’s head and said, “I could have lost you again.”
Rumple was uncomfortable having this affectionate moment in front of others, especially in front of the Blue Fairy, but he decided that reassuring his son was more important than his comfort. He wrapped his arms around the man and said, softly, “But you didn’t. I’m right here with you, and we’re both safe.”
Outside, Cora finally let Regina out of her embrace, but kept Regina’s hand in her own. She turned to David and Snow, and said, “Please let Emma and Henry come home. I won’t be trying to get the dagger again, and neither will Regina.”
David shook his head, “We’re just supposed to believe you?”
Cora shrugged, “I can’t make you believe me, only time will do that.” She put a hand over her own heart and said, “I’ve lived without the feeling of love in my heart for so many years, it’s impossible for me to explain how much this changes me.”
Regina glared at David and hissed, “You already agreed to call once this was done.”
Snow put a hand on David’s arm, to calm him before he could say anything. With a glare of his own aimed at Regina, David got the phone out of his pocket and dialed Emma’s number. “It’s over, you can bring Henry home.”
After he hung up, he gave Regina a pointed look and said, “You can tell Henry what you did tomorrow morning. We’ll be at Granny’s for breakfast at seven, and at least one of us will be there when you tell him, so we can make sure you’re honest about it.”
“I’m sure you’ll spin the whole thing to make me look like the Evil Queen no matter what I say.”
“No, Regina,” Snow said, “We wouldn’t do that to you.”
Regina scoffed, not believing that for a second. Cora squeezed her daughter’s hand and said with a loving smile, “Regina darling, we should go home. We have so much to talk about.”
Not quite recognizing the look on her mother’s face, Regina cautiously said, “Okay.”
The two women headed down the street towards Regina’s house, while Snow went into the convent to find Neal and Rumple. She couldn’t keep the smile from her face when she saw the two sitting on the couch holding each other. “Neal?” she said. Once he was looking in her direction, Snow said, “It’s over. Emma’s on her way home with Henry, and Cora just left with Regina. I don’t think Cora will be a problem any more.”
Rumple pulled his head off Neal’s chest and said, “I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Even with her heart, Cora was vindictive and cruel. That’s what I loved about her.”
“We’ll keep that in mind,” Snow said, “But right now she’s too enamored with the love she feels for her daughter to care about you or the dagger.” Snow looked towards the entrance to Storybrook where she knew Emma was, and said, “Trust me, it’s an overwhelming feeling to really see your adult daughter for the first time. She’s not going to be causing us trouble for months.”
Rumple looked up at his adult son, and nodded, understanding exactly what Snow was talking about.
Neal took a deep breath, and stood up with Rumple still in his arms. Rumple immediately whispered a protest, “Bae, put me down!”
“No,” Neal said with calm authority.
Rumple clenched his jaw, and suffered through the embarrassment of being carried without adding to it by begging to be put down.
Neal walked over to the Blue Fairy and said, “Thank you so much. For everything.”
She smiled at the both of them, and said, “It wasn’t just for you two, it was for everyone in Storybrook. Cora can never have the dagger. Her heart was never pure.”
Neal nodded, and turned to Snow, and David who was now standing with an arm around his wife’s waist. Neal said, “Could you tell Emma I’d like to see her tomorrow morning?”
David nodded. “We’ll all be at Granny’s at seven for breakfast, along with Regina, so she can tell Henry everything.”
“Good,” Neal said. “We’ll be there too. Thank you both, for everything you did to help us.”
“We’re family now,” Snow said.
Neal smiled, and nodded, he turned to the fairies, and said, “If no one needs us to stay, I’d like to take my father home, and let him get a few hours sleep tonight.”
The Blue Fairy waved at the door and said, “We should all try to get some sleep.”
David, Snow, and Neal, who was still holding Rumple, all left together, and started walking down the street. Once the convent doors closed behind them, Rumple squirmed once and said, “You know I can walk right?” His voice rose with irritation, “I’d appreciate it if you’d put me down!”
“No,” Neal said.
“No?” Rumple said. “Just no? That’s all you have to say?”
“I have plenty to say,” Neal said, “but I doubt you’ll want me to say it in front of David and Snow.”
Rumple’s eyes opened wide at that, and they walked in silence for a couple of minutes.
They all turned at the sound of a car coming down the road. Emma pulled up beside them and said with a smile, “Anyone need a ride?”
David and Snow headed for the car, but Neal shook his head. “No thanks, we’ll walk.”
Emma said, “We could all squeeze in for a few seconds.”
“You guys go ahead,” Neal said, “We’ll see you in the morning. Thanks for everything you did to help. It means a lot to me. To us.”
Emma smiled. “You’re welcome. See you tomorrow.”
Neal watched them drive down the road, and started walking again. Now that the two were alone in the night on the empty streets of Storybrook, Rumple squirmed again, pushed on Neal’s chest, and said, “This is ridiculous. Put me down!”
Neal shifted his hold on Rumple, tightening the arm that was around the boy’s back long enough to plant a warning swat on Rumple’s squirming backside. Rumple gasped in shock at the light swat and his body stilled immediately, while his eyes darted around the deserted streets to make sure no one had seen. Neal put the arm he’d swatted him with back under Rumple’s butt to help hold his weight.
“I’m not going to put you down,” Neal said, trying to keep his voice calm with effort. “I don’t trust you anymore, and I’m too tired to chase you if you decide to run. I’m also going to be staying awake tonight to keep an eye on you while you sleep, and I’ll probably be doing that for the foreseeable future. Emma can keep an eye on you during the day while I sleep.”
“You broke our deal.” Neal couldn’t keep the hurt from his voice. “Again.”
“No Bae, I…” Rumple tried to find the right words to take the hurt away, but he couldn’t flat out deny that he’d broken their deal, because he had. “…I wasn’t trying to break our deal, I just needed to see Jefferson, and you were being unreasonable about it.”
Neal shook his head in disappointment at his father’s assessment of things. “Unreasonable? If you thought I was unreasonable before, you’re in for a nasty shock, because I’m going to spank you the second we get home.”
“You broke our deal, and you put your life in danger because of it. Until you get your adult body back you will be my apprentice, and you will do as I tell you to do, and I will spank you when you don’t.”
“How dare you threaten to spank me! You’re my child Baelfire, not the other way around!” Rumple squirmed more than before, and pushed to get down.
Neal shifted the small body so it was pressed against his chest again, and gave Rumple a solid swat with each word, “Stop squirming!”
Rumple gasped at the first swat, and let out an undignified muffled, “Oof!” with the second.
Carrying him normally again, Neal said, “I’m done treating you like a rational adult. You put all of us in danger tonight when you decided to sneak out like a petulant teenager. You knew Cora was out there looking for you, and you knew we’d all told you not to do it, but you did it anyway. So now I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. I can’t watch anyone else torture you. At least not while you look like you’re eleven.”
As the reality of his situation hit him, Rumple’s stomach took a dive. His adult son was actually planning on spanking him, and there wasn’t anything he could magically or physically do to stop it. At least not while he was in his thirteen-year-old body. His only hope was to talk his way out of it, and time was running out, because he could see Granny’s in the distance.
“Bae, stop and think about this for a minute,” Rumple said with a calm he certainly didn’t feel. “If you do this it will change our relationship forever.”
“Our relationship needs to change. The whole reason we’re in this mess is because you refused to accept me as an adult who doesn’t want to relive his childhood.”
“That may have been true, but I do accept you as an adult now, and I’ll only be in this body for a short while. How can I be a father to you once I’m back in my adult body if you do this?”
Neal scoffed, “You haven’t been a father to me since I was thirteen. I have a child of my own. I don’t need a father now. I needed one back then.”
Rumple felt as though he couldn’t breath though the pain that statement caused him. Unable to face that truth, Rumple screwed his eyes shut.
When the child in his arms was silent, Neal took a glance at Rumple’s face, and realized his words had hurt his father. Then he realized that had been his intention. He’d meant to hurt the man for leaving him all those years ago. But that had been the wrong thing to do, especially in this moment. He couldn’t have it both ways. He couldn’t lash out at his adult father with his words and then treat him like a child the next second.
Neal rubbed Rumple’s back and said quietly, “Papa?”
Rumple opened his eyes, and Neal said, “Just because I don’t need a father, doesn’t mean I don’t want one. When you get your adult body back, I want us to build a new relationship.”
“I want that too, Bae. More than anything.” Rumple realized they were in front of Granny’s and said urgently, “Which is why you can’t spank me. How could I ever be a father to you after that?”
Neal walked into the building, and up to their room while he said, “The same way parents become friends with their adult children. Once you’re in your adult body, you won’t need my protection, and I’ll be able to look at you as an adult again.” Neal shifted Rumple to one arm, and dug the room key out of his pocket.
As his son opened the door to their room, Rumple started to tremble, and he whispered desperately, “I never spanked you.”
Neal shut the door and locked it behind them. “I know.” Neal sat down on the corner of the bed, and set Rumple on his lap. “Do you remember the first time you punished me after Mama left?”
Rumple was having trouble focusing on anything other than his impending spanking, and shook his head.
“I asked you if you were going to spank me. Do you remember what you said?”
The memory came rushing back, and Rumple looked his son in the eye. “I told you that I loved you too much to spank you.”
“That’s right,” Neal nodded. “And I want you to know that even though our methods conflict, our motives are the same. I’m spanking you because I love you.”
Rumple shook his head, while Neal gently flipped him over so he was laying face down across his lap.
“Bae, please…” Rumple whimpered.
Neal ignored the plea, and landed a hard spank on the seat of Rumple’s jeans.
“Ah!” Rumple exclaimed, not expecting it to be quite so painful. He was positive that Neal hadn’t been hitting that hard when his mind had been thirteen as well as his body. The next swat fell just as hard before Rumple had time to get past the sting of the first. “Ah!” When the third punishing smack landed, Rumple’s legs twitched, and he tried to push himself off Neal’s lap yelling, “Ow!” When he felt Neal’s arm clamp around his waist to keep him in place, his frustration spilled out, “This is ridiculous Baelfire! I’m a grown man!”
“If you were a grown man, you could have used magic to protect yourself against Cora.” Neal emphasized his statement with another solid whap to the child size backside over his knee.
“Ow!” Rumple bellowed.
“If you were a grown man, I wouldn’t have told you to stay away from Jefferson to keep you safe.” Neal smacked the boy’s bottom twice in a row.
Rumple kicked his legs wildly in the air, and pounded a fist against the side of the bed repeatedly, finding the whole situation unbearable. He hadn’t felt this helpless when Cora was torturing him earlier that night. In fact he hadn’t felt this overwhelmingly vulnerable for many decades. “Stop! Stop this right now! You can’t do this to me! I’m the Dark One, not a powerless child!”
Neal was surprised to hear anger in his father’s tone for a split second, since there had only been repentance the first time he’d spanked him, but he immediately realized anger is what he should have expected from this version of his father. With a disappointed frown, Neal smacked his backside hard again and said, “This isn’t the best time to have a tantrum, Papa, it’s only going to make this take longer.”
“Tantrum!” Rumple screeched indignantly, and thrashed around trying to get off his son’s lap. “How dare you imply… Ow!”
Neal rolled his eyes, and started spanking at a much faster pace mid way through Rumple’s rant. As he spanked he said, “I’m not implying it, I’m flat out telling you that you’re a child right now, and because you’re a child, you’re going to obey me.”
“Aaaah!” Rumple yelled as the rapid swats kept coming.
Neal spoke up to be heard over the sound of the smacking and yelling, “But no matter what size your body is, you should be ashamed of yourself for breaking our deal. You put everyone who cares about you in danger tonight.”
All of the pain, anger, frustration, guilt and regret inside Rumple built to intolerable levels in his chest. Before he even realized it was going to happen, there were tears running his face, and apologies coming out of his mouth. “I’m sorry! Bae, I’m sorry! Please forgive me.”
Shocked, Neal stopped spanking mid swat.
Rumple continued to plead and kick for a second after the spanking stopped. “I didn’t mean to put you in danger! I’m sorry.”
Wanting to make a couple of points crystal clear to his father, Neal said, “Are you going to obey me until you get your adult body back?” He punctuated the question with a lighter slap that wouldn’t have hurt if Rumple’s backside hadn’t already been sore.
“Ow! Yes! Yes I will.”
“Are you going to run off again in the middle of the night?” Neal asked with another lighter swat.
“No! I won’t! I promise!”
“Are you going to break another deal with me?” Neal gave him a harder swat for that question.
“Aaah!” Rumple struggled to speak through his tears, but quickly got out the words, “No, Bae, never again.”
For the first time in a long time, Neal believed his father’s words were sincerely truthful. Feeling a rush of affection both for the boy Rumple currently was, and the man he would be again, Neal gently picked him up, and turned him over so he was sitting on Neal’s lap. He guided the small head to his chest and pulled him into a secure hug.
“I believe you,” Neal whispered, and kissed the top of Rumple’s head. “I believe you, and I forgive you. Not just for tonight, but for the last time you broke our deal too.”
Those words of forgiveness caused several more tears to run down the boy’s face and into Neal’s shirt. Rumple knew he didn’t deserve them, but in this moment in time, he was too overwrought to care. He wrapped his arms around his son’s chest, and hugged him back.
“I’m sorry,” Rumple said, his voice hitching as he spoke.
Neal rubbed his hand in a circle on the boy’s back. “I know.” They were quiet for a few minutes while Rumple calmed down and stopped crying.
“When Cora was torturing you...” Rumple had to pause to keep from breaking down into more tears. “I wanted to kill her.”
Neal patted the boy’s back and said, “That’s how I felt when I saw her torturing you too.”
“When I get my adult body back…”
“No,” Neal interrupted him, and leaned back enough to look the boy in the eye. “Cora has her heart back now. We have to give her another chance.”
Rumple wiped at his wet face with his sleeve and shook his head. “Cora was full of hate and revenge before she took her heart out.”
“I’m sure that’s true,” Neal said, “but maybe all those lost years with her daughter will make her change her ways.”
Rumple couldn’t help but see the correlation to his own relationship with his son, and gave in with a nod. “Alright, she gets one chance,” he said, and leaned his head back against Neal’s chest.
They sat together for several more minutes, until Neal felt the body in his lap going limp with sleep. Neal picked up the small body, and gently lay his father, stomach side down, on the bed to get some sleep. He took off the boy’s shoes, and pulled some covers over him, before grabbing a book to read at the kitchen table until morning.
# # #
Cora and Regina walked quietly hand in hand for a few blocks, neither one knowing quite where to start. Finally it was Regina who broke the silence.
“Are you feeling alright? It’s been so long since your heart was in your chest, does it hurt?”
Cora squeezed her daughter’s hand. “It doesn’t hurt at all. It feels… like I’m complete for the first time in years. It’s like all the things that used to matter to me have shifted to the back, and you’ve shifted to the front.” Cora wrapped an arm around Regina’s shoulders.
“When I was young,” Cora said, “my focus was on raising my social status, and getting revenge on the people who’d hurt me. If I’d had my heart in when you were born, my focus would have shifted entirely to you and your happiness. As it was, my focus was still on myself, and how I could use you to further my own status and power. Now that I have my heart back, I have a lifetime of regrets.”
Regina shook her head. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be queen.”
“If it weren’t for me, you would be happily married to Daniel.”
“No,” Regina scowled. “If Snow White had kept her promise to me, I’d be happily married to Daniel.”
Shocked, Cora stopped walking and put both her hands on Regina’s shoulders, so she could look her in the eye. “Are you honestly telling me that you still blame Snow White?”
“Of course I do! If it weren’t for her…”
“Regina.” Cora interrupted, “The only one to blame is me. Snow was a child. Would you hold it against Henry if he broke a confidence?”
Regina slowly shook her head, having never compared Henry at his current age to Snow when she had first met the girl. But now that it was pointed out to her, it was difficult for her to imagine treating her son the way she had treated Snow.
With regret in her voice, Cora said, “It wouldn’t have mattered.”
“What do you mean it wouldn’t have matter?” Regina asked.
“I would have found you within one days time, and killed Daniel just the same.”
Not wanting to believe that, Regina shook her head.
Cora smiled sadly, “I could have tracked you anywhere my dear, and I would have.”
Refusing to think about her possibly misplaced hatred for Snow White any further, Regina said, “You would have let me marry Daniel if you’d had a heart?”
Cora pursed her lips. “Of course I wouldn’t have let you marry him while he was a stable boy. But if I’d had a heart, I would have worked my magic to make him an acceptable match for you… if you’d convinced me that you were truly in love.” Cora sipped her arm around Regina’s arm, and set them walking towards Regina’s house again.
Intrigued by this new idea, Regina said, “How would you have done that?”
“I would have had Daniel rescue Snow White that fateful day. Then I would have done a spell to make both Daniel and the King believe that Daniel was his illegitimate child.”
“How could you have possibly done that, Mother?’
“I researched the king for years before setting up your first meeting. The king married late in life, and it’s no secret that when he was a prince he had several mistresses in every village, too many to remember them all. If I’d had a heart, and you’d wanted to marry Daniel, I would have poisoned his mother, and…”
Cora glanced at her daughter without apology and continued, “…and then I’d have created a note in her handwriting telling Daniel that he was the King’s son.”
Rregina thought that over for a few seconds. Once they were on the walkway in front of Regina’s house, Cora said softly with regret, “The king had no male children, so Daniel, though illegitimate, would become the prince, and eventually king, with you by his side as queen.”
The unattainable idea of a perfect and happy past was too much to bear after so many years of loneliness and heartache. Feeling tears building in her eyes, Regina took her arm away from Cora’s, kept her eyes on the house, and said, “I need to be alone, Mother.”
Without acknowledging her mother, Regina rushed into the house and up to her bedroom before breaking down into tears.
Cora watched her daughter go with a heavy heart, but a heart just the same. She put her hand over the beating organ in her chest, and whispered a vow to herself. “I’ll never take you out again.” She looked up the stairs towards her daughter’s room and said, “And I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to find you a new happily ever after, since I stole the one you should have had.”
# # #
Rumple woke from a deep sleep when he felt someone shake his shoulder.
“Time to get up,” Neal said. “We have to meet everyone at the diner in half an hour.”
Rumple blinked a few times, and Neal said, “If you want to take a shower before we go, you should do it now.”
Rumple nodded, rolled over, and sat up to rub the sleep out of his eyes. He could tell that sitting for more than a couple of minutes at a time would be slightly uncomfortable today, and glared at his son.
With sympathy Neal said, “I’m sure you’re still a little sore, and I’m sure I’m not your favorite person right now, but maybe being sore will keep you from putting yourself in danger again.”
Scowling, Rumple got up and went to take a shower.
Half an hour later, Neal and Rumple walked into Granny’s diner. As they came in from the side where the hotel rooms were, David, Snow, Emma, and Henry came in the front door. David asked Granny if they could push a couple of tables together while Neal gave Henry a quick hug, and asked him if he’d gotten any more sleep after the night’s excitement.
Henry turned a pout towards his mother and said, “Yeah, but I could have fallen asleep better if mom had told me what was going on.”
Emma sighed, and went to help her father move a table.
Neal patted Henry’s shoulder and said, “We promised Regina she could tell you. You wouldn’t want us to go back on that would you?”
“I guess not,” Henry said, still pouting.
Snow went to Rumple and asked, “How are you doing this morning?”
“Fine,” the boy said in a defensive tone.
The tables were ready, so Neal waved Rumple over and pointed to the seat next to his. “You’re here.”
“You’re telling me where to sit now?” Rumple asked with a hateful glare as he stalked towards the indicated chair.
With a small sigh, Neal said, “It’s the furthest chair from where Cora will be sitting.”
“Oh…” Rumple’s glare faltered, and he sat. Henry sat on the other side of Neal, and then Emma sat next to Henry. Snow sat down on the other side of Rumple with David sitting beside her, leaving two empty chairs between David and Emma to complete the circle.
As soon as Ruby came to take their order, Cora and Regina walked in. The small noises in the diner died down, as the other patrons watched the two ‘evil’ women sit next to their leaders David and Snow.
David broke the silence. “Regina. Cora,” He said in greeting, and then turned to Ruby. “I’ll have scrambled eggs and toast.”
A couple of minutes later, everyone had ordered their breakfast, and the other people in the diner had started talking again, though it was in hushed tones.
As soon as Ruby walked to the kitchen, Henry couldn’t take the wait any longer. “Tell me what happened, Mom.”
She raised an eyebrow and said, “Good morning to you too, Henry.”
Sighing, he said, “No one would tell me anything last night. Please tell me what happened?”
Wanting to touch Henry while she told him, Regina waved him to her. “Come here.”
Henry slipped out from between his biological parents and went to stand next to his adoptive parent. Regina wrapped an arm around his shoulders, and said quietly, “This may be hard to hear, I know it’s hard for me to say, so please don’t interrupt until I get it all out.”
“Last night I broke my promise to you. Cora and I found Rumplestiltskin alone in the street, so we took that opportunity to capture him.”
Henry’s eyes opened wide, and he glanced over at Rumple, who was glaring at the table, and blushing with shame. Henry glared back at Regina and waited.
“We took him to the tomb, and we… used magic to try and persuade him to tell us where he kept the Dark One’s dagger.”
“You tortured him!” Neal whispered fiercely, trying to keep his voice down.
“No she didn’t,” Cora said loud enough for everyone to hear, “I did. I ripped his heart out, and squeezed it until he screamed, and I enjoyed doing it.” She kept her eyes on Rumple’s head, waiting for a response.
Henry gasped, and shuffled closer to Regina, using her to block his view of Cora. Regina hugged him and murmured into his ear, “It’s okay. My mother has her own heart back now, she won’t hurt you.”
While Regina was whispering to Henry, Rumple looked up at Cora with a glare and hissed, “Bitch!”
“Hey!” Emma jerked a thumb towards Henry and said, “Actual kids in the room here.”
Cora smiled at Rumple and said, “Isn’t that why you loved me?”
His eyes opened wide for a second, before scrunching into a scowl. “No!”
“Liar,” she said with a knowing smile.
“Mother!” Regina said, exasperated with the woman.
Cora turned her attention towards her daughter, and patted the younger woman’s shoulder. “Sorry, Sweetheart, I just wanted it to make it clear that you were not the one doing any of the torturing.”
Regina hugged Henry close and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, and pushed away from her. “No you’re not.” A couple of tears slid down his face. “If you were sorry, you’d stop lying, and you’d stop hurting people.”
Regina shook her head, and reached a hand out to brush Henry’s tears away, but Henry ducked, and moved back to stand between Emma and Neal.
“Henry, please try to understand…” Regina said.
“No!” Henry yelled, and buried his face in Emma’s shoulder.
Emma wrapped her arms around him, and pulled him into her lap. She turned to Regina and said, “Maybe we can revisit this conversation after we eat.”
With a curt nod, Regina forced herself to look away from her son soaking up comfort from another woman.
Clearing his throat, Rumple said, “Good, on to more pressing matters.” He sent Regina a death glare and said, “Give me a potion to reverse the one you gave me.”
Regina shrugged. “I can’t.”
Rumple banged a fist onto the table and said, “You can and you will if you know what’s good for you!”
“Hey!” Neal put a hand over Rumple’s to keep him from banging it again, and said, “No threats.”
The boy turned his glare to Neal, who raised one eyebrow, as if daring Rumple to disobey him.
“Fine,” Rumple hissed. With effort, he turned back to Regina and said, “I’m sure it would help redeem you in Henry’s eyes if you would reverse the potion for me.”
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t,” Regina said with an edge of irritation, “I said I couldn’t. I made sure the potion would keep you at your current age forever. The only thing that could possibly break it is true love’s kiss.”
Rumple’s shoulders slumped. “So I’m stuck like this until Jefferson can make a new hat.”
“You don’t have to be,” Henry said.
Rumple turned to look at his grandson, who was still currently sitting on his mother’s lap, and wiping tears off his face. He felt like cutting down whatever ridiculous notion the boy might have before he’d even said it, but Henry had been kind to him when he’d been mentally thirteen, so he held his tongue.
“You could find a way for Belle to get her memories back.”
Scowling, Rumple said, “Don’t you think I’ve tried?”
“By yourself, sure.” Henry looked over at Regina and said, “But you and my mom haven’t tried working together.”
“With good reason!” Rumple said.
Henry shrugged. “If you, Regina, and Emma worked together with the Blue Fairy, you might even be able to find a way for everyone to keep their memories when they cross the line out of Storybrook.”
“We could never trust each other long enough to accomplish that,” Rumple said with certainty.
Henry huffed in irritation, and then said, “Well Belle doesn’t have to remember who you are to love you.”
With a sigh, Rumple said, “That may be true, but I can’t very well make her fall in love with me while I’m in the body of a child.”
“No, not in love with you.” Henry rolled his eyes. “True love’s kiss doesn’t have to be boyfriend and girlfriend.” He pointed to Emma and said, “It can be parent and child like when Emma broke the curse by kissing me.”
There was a short pause while everyone at the table realized that was true. Emma kissed Henry’s forehead, just like she had that fateful day, and said, “You’re pretty smart.” Henry smiled, and moved back to his own chair.
Rumple shook his head again, “Yes, but Belle isn’t my mother, nor do I want her to think of me that way. And even if I could get past how uncomfortable that would make me, it would take years for her to love me like a son. She doesn’t even know me right now.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to pass up on that idea if I were you,” David said. “If it really is true love like you say it is, your souls will recognize each other.” He turned to Snow and put a hand over hers. “If Snow was turned into a child, I’d still love her. My feelings for her would shift to become more protective and paternal, but our souls would find each other, and I’d love her as a parent would within days, even if I didn’t remember who she was.” Snow gave him a peck on the cheek, and then he turned back to Rumple. “Belle might be the quickest and easiest solution.”
Rumple shook his head and muttered, “Anyone would love Snow no matter her age, she has all the virtues of a hero. I’m no hero.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Emma said. “Henry read your story to me. Belle doesn’t love you because you’re heroic. She loves you because you struggle to do the right thing when she’s around.”
“I think it’s worth trying,” Neal said, and turned to David. “You and I can talk to Dr. Whale about releasing Belle. If I offer her a job as a full time nanny, she’d have a place to stay.”
“Nanny? My body is thirteen, not five!” Rumple said, clearly offended.
Neal’s eyes snapped to Rumple’s. “I know how old you are, and that’s exactly why you don’t get a vote.” Neal could tell that his words had incensed his father, and quickly added, “Think about Belle for a minute, instead of your own pride. Don’t you think she’d be happy to get out of the hospital? Don’t you think it might help her to have someone else to focus on, instead of spending every day wondering why she can’t remember anything?”
Any arguments Rumple might have had withered away. He frowned, considering it, and after a short pause, nodded. “You’re right.”
Neal turned back to David and said, “What do you think?”
“We can go talk to Dr. Whale after breakfast.”
As David was speaking, Ruby came to set the first two plates of food down. There were a few short minutes of silence in the group, while everyone got their food and started eating.
Cora was the first to break the silence. “Now that Henry is calm, I want to discuss custody.”
“Custody?” Regina asked, not quite sure where her mother was going with this.
“There’s nothing to discuss,” David said with finality. “He’s staying with Emma.”
Continuing as if David hadn’t spoken, Cora said, “I propose joint custody between Emma and Regina.”
“No!” Henry said.
“Legally Regina is your mother,” Cora said.
“She’s not my real mother!” Henry yelled.
“You ungrateful brat!” Cora hissed.
“Hey!” Emma said, not liking the woman’s tone.
“For eleven years Regina took care of you,” Cora said, glaring at Henry. “She made sure you had food, clothes, toys, and a nice place to live. She gave you love and affection. She loves you still, and you’ve turned your back on her.”
“She lied to me!” Henry said with fresh tears on his face. “She lied all the time.”
“And you feel justified in hating her for that?” Cora said. “What about all the times you’ve lied to her about where you were and what you were doing?”
Henry’s face turned pink with shame, and anger. “She lied first!”
“I see,” Cora said, “And Emma has never lied to you?”
Henry’s eyes darted over to Emma’s, and then back to Cora without answering.
“At least Regina never abandoned you.”
“That’s enough!” David’s voice boomed out over the diner drowning out the protests Regina, Neal, and Snow had all voiced at the same time. David took a deep breath, and said again, “Henry stays with Emma.”
Cora stood up, putting everyone on edge. “You’ve all told Regina that she has to change, but you’ve taken away the only reason she might want to change.” Cora looked directly at Snow White and said, “Wasn’t it bad enough that you ruined her one chance of true love? Now you’ve taken her child from her, too. How much suffering can one person endure before they break?”
Upset by her mother’s words, and confused about her intent, Regina pulled at Cora’s hand and said, “Mother! Stop! You’re making things worse for everyone, including me and Henry.”
“No Regina, she’s right,” Snow said. Though it had been spoken softly, everyone turned to her. A stunned silence filled the table for several seconds, and Cora sat back down.
“She not right,” David whispered urgently to his wife.
Snow gently put a hand on the side of David’s face, and said, “Yes David, she is.”
Snow turned to Emma and said, “Without hope, there’s no reason for Regina to try. I don’t think any of us are ready for joint custody at this point, but we could start off with an hour every other day, and see how it goes.”
Emma looked around the room, gauging everyone’s expressions. The barely registered hope on Regina’s face was the deciding factor. She patted Henry’s back and said, “What do you say kid? You’re the one who wanted us to give her a chance in the first place.”
Henry glanced over at Regina and said, “I guess an hour would be okay.”
Emma turned to Regina as well and said, “Without Cora.”
Nodding, Regina said, “Okay.”
Cora sipped at her tea to hide a smirk. She’d known they would never agree to joint custody, but broaching the subject had gotten Regina an hour every other day to spend with her son. She’d push to get Regina more time with Henry next week if everything went well.
Emma said, “If you wanted to, you could pick Henry up from school tomorrow, spend your hour with him, and then drop him off at the Sheriff’s office when you’re done.”
“I’d like that,” Regina said, still amazed that they would agree to it. “Thank you.”
A short silence fell over the table while people ate. Cora noticed that her daughter had barely touched her food and said, “Are you ready to go darling?”
After giving her mother a short nod, Regina asked, “Is there anything else we need to discuss?” After seeing both David and Emma shaking their heads no, Regina stood up and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow after school, Henry.”
As soon as Cora and Regina were out the door, everyone could feel the tension leave the diner along with them.
“Cora’s not very nice, even with a heart,” Henry said.
“She was never nice,” Rumple said.
“She may not be nice,” Snow said, “But now that she has a heart, we can always count on her love for Regina. That means she won’t hurt Henry, because that would hurt Regina.”
“We just can’t forget that everyone else is fair game,” David said.
After a short pause, Neal turned to Emma and said, “Now that Regina and Cora are gone, I wanted to ask you for a favor.” He looked around the table, and added, “All of you really.”
“Okay, shoot,” Emma said.
“After last night, I’ve decided that my father can’t be trusted, so I’m not leaving him alone for any amount of time over the next few days, and that includes while he’s sleeping,” Neal said.
Humiliated, Rumple slouched in his chair, clenched his fists, and refused to look at anything other than the plate in front of him.
“Probably a wise decision.” David said.
“The only problem is, that I need to get some sleep too, so I was hoping to arrange for my father to start training Emma to use her magic early in the mornings. I could sleep for three or four hours while you train.”
“I thought we could do that all together,” Henry said, clearly disappointed by this new idea.
Neal smiled at his son. “Well if things work out with Belle, then we won’t need to worry about it, because she’ll be around to watch him in the mornings. Then you and I could watch them training in the afternoon.”
Emma said, “I’m free all day. I’d be happy to keep an eye on Rumple while you get some sleep.”
Rumple couldn’t take it. He banged his fist on the table, glared at Neal and said, “This is ridiculous, Bae! I don’t need watching!”
“We’ve been over this, Papa. I’m sorry you’re not happy about it, but it’s happening whether you like it or not, and you planned to train Emma anyway.” Neal turned to Emma and said, “I’d like Rumple to come with me to see Dr. Whale and Belle, but if you could watch him once we’re done there, that would be perfect.”
“Sure, call me when you’re done,” Emma said. She noticed that Rumple’s glare was aimed at her now, and said sincerely, “The circumstances may suck, but I honestly do need help learning how to use my magic.”
“I’m well aware of that fact, Miss. Swan,” Rumple snapped.
“Aw, come on, it could be fun if you’d give it a chance,” Henry said.
“Fun?” Rumple’s tone was incredulous.
Henry shrugged. “Sure, you’d get to spend time with your family.”
Pursing his lips at the simplistic explanation, Rumple muttered, “As a child.”
Neal patted his shoulder and said, ‘Hopefully not for too long.”
# # #
Once Regina and Cora left the diner, they got in Regina’s car to head for home. As soon as she’d started the car, Regina said, “You did that on purpose.”
“What’s that, dear?”
“Got me an hour with Henry every other day.”
Cora smiled at her daughter. “I want you to be happy darling. Henry makes you happy.”
“Thank you,” Regina said with sincerity, as she started down the road.
“And speaking of being happy, you should really give some thought to dating.”
“What!” Regina almost swerved out of her lane, but quickly got control of her emotions and the car.
“Honestly Regina, you’re a grown woman. You can’t live simply for your child. That wouldn’t be healthy for you or Henry. You need to have an adult relationship with someone."
“Mother!” Regina blushed bright red.
“Oh come now, we’re both adults. Isn’t there anyone in town you’ve had your eye on?”
Thinking of Graham, Regina shook her head.
“Well, there seem to be plenty of single men.” Cora thought for a moment, and said, “How about that sniveling Dr. Hopper? He’d be easy to bend to your will.”
Shuddering slightly, Regina said, “Never! That’s… repulsive.”
Cora cocked her head to the side and took a good look at her daughter. “Why?”
“He’s so… so…” Unable to find the words to express how wrong the good doctor was for her, she huffed in frustration and went with, “…nice
Cora’s lips turned up. “Very well, how about the Mad Hatter? His daughter looks to be the same age as Henry, and we both know the man has a vicious side when provoked.”
Regina’s face contorted as she thought that over. “I can’t think of him that way. We’ve known each other far too long, and he could never forgive me for separating him from his daughter for so many years.”
Regina pulled into the driveway of her house, and Cora snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it! Captain Hook!”
“What?” Regina parked, and gave her mother an incredulous glare.
“Hook is the…”
“He’s a filthy pirate!” Regina cut her mother off.
Cora scrutinized her daughter and watched the younger woman brake eye contact. Cora slowly smiled. She always could tell when someone protested too much. “Captain Killian Jones could be the perfect match for you my darling. He understands your desire for revenge like no other. He’d never bend to your will without a satisfying struggle, and he’s a very attractive man.”
“I’m not having this discussion with you, Mother!” Regina yelled, and got out of the car.
Smiling to herself, Cora got out as well, and started formulating plans.
Continued in Part Two
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