Belle only smiled, an intuitive little glimmer in her eyes. “I am not always right,” she mused, swaying lightly from side to side. “But I knew you’d come back, I could feel it.” she pursed her lips, glancing between them. “I was a bit scared at first, truthfully, but I knew it’d all pull through…” she recalled a few moments stolen away in the back of the library, recklessly sobbing into her arms. The bad thoughts always plagued her mind after a long day of peacekeeping. Would he return? Is he even alive?
Rumple frowned a little at Belle’s admission that she had been afraid. He knew that anyone would be, but the confirmation tugged at his heart. He had done the right thing. He knew that now. He’d saved Henry and reunited with his son, and he was no longer the Dark One. And now, there was no use worrying about the ‘what ifs.’ He was home now, and he and Belle could focus on their child and rebuilding their relationship after everything they had been through since the curse had broken. “You have nothing to fear, I’m here now,” he said, repeating the words he’d once said to her when Hook went after her in the library. He caressed her cheek with his knuckles, leaning in to kiss her again.
“And if I had, I would’ve told him or her of their father each night who was out saving his grandson…” she softly murmured, sliding her hands up to his shoulders, soothingly rubbing them. “But you never will think of that again because you are here now. I never doubted that you wouldn’t be, Rumplestiltskin. I believed you’d return. I could feel it in my heart…because true love always reunites those under its spell.” she smiled up at him, eyes optimistic and overjoyed to know he was finally back for good. They could start a life now without any more complications.
Rumple hated the fact that Belle had to think of things such as that. Think about raising their child on her own, telling them stories of the father they would never know. And it all felt… incredibly selfish. What he had done. Although he knew it wasn’t true, the fact that history was repeating itself was not lost on him. But this time he had a chance to do it all correctly. And he would. For Belle, and for their child. “You were right,” he said, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Of course, you very often are.” Belle knew him better than he knew himself. And could tell the future better than one with the powers of a seer.
Belle tearfully watched him, a wide smile on her face. “Our child,” she corrected with a grin. “I…I wasn’t sure this world was any good…” she quietly admitted. “All that has come from it…mostly involved pain, but…this is a good thing,” she decided, hand on her stomach. She knew the child was nothing more than a tiny fetus, but she still felt an immense surge of responsibility to protect it. “I’d imagined raising a child in the castle, really…but we’ll do just fine here.”
Rumple was still in a bit of shock, but he knew this was a good thing. Belle would be an incredible mother, and he could tell by watching her that it was something she’d always wanted. And this… it was his second chance. He wouldn’t do this child wrong the way he’d hurt Bae. He would be better for them both. Rumple frowned as a thought occurred to him. “You believed I wasn’t coming back,” he said quietly, hating himself. “You learned of this… believing you would be raising the child alone.” And she would have, if the undoing had been what he once thought. The weight of guilt on his shoulders threatened to crush him.
Belle gave a giddy laugh, tightly squeezing his hand with hers. “I’m pregnant, Rumplestiltskin…I-I…wasn’t sure if you’d…” she bit her lip, looking off with a worried glance. “I was afraid it would be strange for Baelfire…to have such a young…half sibling…b-but there’s no going back. I’m going to have a child…a…” she smiled, eyes closing as she imagined a boy or girl running about with a mop of brown locks and chestnut colored eyes. “I’m going to have our child,” she finally managed to state, looking up to him with hopeful eyes. Part of her feared he felt it was the wrong time for a child, but things had finally seemed to calm. They had believed they would die. They had needed that closeness, that first connection as the world crumbled. And now it had left them with something wonderful.
For the first time in a great long while, Rumplestiltskin was speechless. He’d never imagined that their lovemaking after he’d broken her curse would lead to this. It simply had never crossed his mind. But now that his beautiful Belle was standing in front of him, saying that they were going to have a child, he couldn’t help but be overjoyed at the idea. “Belle, I…” At a loss for words, he did the only thing he could think to do. He kissed her. And he lingered there until he had to come up for air, looking her in the eyes and laughing breathily. “A child…”
Belle smiled knowingly at his confused expression, gently shaking her head. “I can feel it, Rumple, that’s all…” she murmured, laying a palm flat against his chest. “There’s a sense of…peace,” she decided. “Perhaps you can’t feel it yet, but I know it’s in there…you…you have always had your magic, a crutch you can’t live without, remember? But now…you’ll have to learn. You have your son and I once more and we will help you learn to live without magic, without that extra bit of help. She slid her arms around him, embracing him tightly with no desire to part anytime soon. She took a long breath, a hesitant smile on her lips. “Rumplestiltskin…you’ll…you’ll find other joys, I promise…’ she murmured softly. “I…” she took his hand, placing it upon her lower abdomen as she looked up to him, tears streaming down her cheeks. “A baby, Rumplestiltskin…our baby.”
It had been an easy choice to make. Rumple had gotten on that ship with the intention of saving Henry, after all. And he knew that in the end, it was best for everyone he loved if he gave up his power. He no longer needed it. Bae was here, alive, and so was his grandson. And most of all, he had been returned to his love. He knew he would be alright without magic, as long as he had the three of them. Holding onto Belle, he smiled slightly when she said he would find other joys. He already knew her love was the greatest joy of his life. Then she seemed to hesitate for a moment and took his hand, making his smile fade from the shift in her demeanor. She placed his hand on her stomach, and her words made his heart skip a beat. “Wh-what?”
“Ruh…Rumple,” she blurted out, quickly moving towards him and placing herself snugly into his arms. “Rumple,” she repeated softly, her eyes drifting shut as she inhaled his scent, calm in mere seconds. She pulled back, peering up into his eyes. Something was different…something was…gone. “What happened to you?” she asked, a bleary smile on her face, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Something’s changed, but what? Did you…did he…destroy your curse? Henry?”
Rumple wrapped his arms around Belle tightly, as if he never planned to let her go. And at this rate, he didn’t. He reveled in the familiarity of having her in his arms, and felt the loss when she pulled away. The look on her face confused him, making him furrow his brow. How could she know something had changed? Intuitive as always, his Belle. “It’s… complicated,” he said, keeping his hold on her. “An ultimatum. My power for Henry’s life.” The decision had already been made before he ever stepped foot on that ship. He’d gone there to save Henry, and that was exactly what he did.
Her hands flew to her mouth as she saw him, the tears making her vision blurry. The urge to jump into the waters below and swim to him overwhelmed her, but she remained planted where she was, legs going weak. She’d been so very strong on her own until this point. She needed him. She’d been Lacey too long and even now she still felt like she was there in her mind, waiting to come back and drink to her heart’s content. She’d let her hair down, wore her dresses, cleaned the library, but she still felt wrong. She needed to know she was Belle. His Belle.
Finally, mercifully, the ship docked. Rumple barely waited for the thing to stop moving before he was making his way off board, walking down the docks as quickly as he could. Belle was standing there, waiting for him, and at this distance he could see the tears in her eyes. Seeing her, knowing that she had never lost hope that he would return to her, set him off and tears gathered in his eyes. They threatened to spill over, and when he reached her, there was no holding them back any longer. He reached for her, although they were still a few steps apart. “Belle…” he said under his breath, relief washing over him as if he hadn’t been certain he would ever see her again until she was right here in front of him.
Belle’s heart stopped as she saw the ship. It was far away and quite small from where she stood, yes, but she recognized it immediately. She gave a shudder as she recalled her last time aboard the ship. She couldn’t help but wonder how Rumple and Hook managed to get along. She doubted the two even regarded one another. The thoughts were pushed away as she stood, watching the ship near her. A fear shot through her veins that had her trembling. Was he watching her this very moment? Was he aboard the ship, eager to wrap her in his arms?
Belle took a long breath, calming her nerves and mustering a beam as she frantically waved. “You’re home, Rumple,” she breathed softly, completely confident that he was indeed on the ship. She couldn’t doubt herself any longer. She hadn’t doubted herself once as she took care of Storybrooke and she wasn’t about to start.
It was agonizing, waiting for the ship to reach the dock. They were nearing it when he emerged from below deck, and his heart skipped a beat. Belle was standing there, as if she had never left the docks at all when he had gone. He had to wonder, how often did she come out here? Standing and watching? Waiting for him? The thought made his heart ache. But he was here now, and she never need fear losing him again. Everyone was home and safe and he wasn’t planning on getting himself into any more trouble for quite a while. Of course, trouble seemed to find him. But for now, he was going to get off this ship as fast as his legs and cane would carry him and hold onto his Belle as if he never intended to let her go. She could probably see him now, although they were still too far to communicate, but an ease settled over him with the knowledge that she knew he was safe.
She stopped in her tracks, wringing her hands together as she turned. It wasn’t an easy thing to come back to him only to be left again. So many things were there that needed discussed, but she didn’t care. She just wanted to kiss him again, to exchange a proper set of “I love you”s and go home.
The bad thoughts plagued her mind. Belle was not a woman to abandon hope nor was she never the optimist about things, but Rumplestiltskin had seemed to sure he wouldn’t return to her. But he has to. She closed her eyes, her legs bringing her back to the water’s edge, her tresses mussed and strewn all about as she gazed at her reflection. She hadn’t expected the town to be a challenge, but each time she was worn, she reminded herself that he specifically left her in charge.
A quivering smile came to her lips as she stared down at her hands. “You’re coming back this time, aren’t you?” she softly mused aloud, the memory of staring outwards at the stars with such an expression of hope fresh in her mind. Would someone prevent him from finding her as Regina had her? Her smile faded at the thought, eyes growing distant and concerned as her gaze trailed to the waters once more.
There had been something Rumple hadn’t told Belle when he gave her the cloaking spell to put over the town. Anyone from their land would still be able to see it, and so it wouldn’t be difficult for the group aboard the ship to find their way to the Storybrooke docks. But the journey was much longer than he would have bargained for. He just wanted to be home, to be beside Belle and to let her know that he was alive and everything was going to be alright. But on the ship, he spoke with Bae. They’d made fantastic progress, and Rumple was certain that his boy would soon forgive him and their relationship would be on the mend. He also explained things to Henry, and had started to truly get to know his grandson. And now… they had to be nearly there. Rumple could see the dot of shore on the horizon. It was all so very close to being over.
It was a fulfilling thing to run the town, to lie down each night knowing she was finally living the part of the countless heroes she read about. After she had dropped the small sheet of paper down into the same well that brought magic to them, things were rather quiet. She patrolled the town each day, careful to be sure all was well. Ruby, Leroy, Archie and more had taken to helping her with her rounds, reporting to her at the library each evening for a short meeting.
It didn’t stop her from noting the emptiness of their bed. It didn’t stop her from missing the familiar clacking cane in the library. At the end of each day, she stood at the dock. The same place she had stood as he attempted to convince her he wouldn’t return. She could still feel his lips upon hers, his forehead pressed to hers in an attempt to be as close as possible.
Belle stared off at the calm waters, eyes bleary with tears as she stared out, the disappointment of knowing he had been away yet another day festering in her chest as she turned and slowly made her way towards the streets.
It hadn’t been an easy task. Especially alongside those who wouldn’t be sorry to see Rumplestiltskin perish. But this was something he had to do. He had to save Henry. It was the only thing he could in order to redeem himself, even if Baelfire was never able to see it. Henry was his grandson, and he no longer cared at all about prophecies.
Well, he cared for one reason only. And that was that he had to leave Belle. It was a moment that was etched in his memory forever, her crying and his attempting to hold it all in. The last thing she would ever say to him. “Baelfire would be very proud of you.” In that moment, it was as if his mouth was full of peanut butter and he couldn’t get a single syllable out. Not a thank you. Not an I love you. But, he was confident that she knew. That she would always know.
But in the end… the undoing wasn’t what he had imagined it to be. He hadn’t been killed, although he had to admit undoing was an accurate descriptor of what had happened. But Henry was safe, and by some miracle of the gods so was Bae. And now they were all piled back on the ship, headed toward the land without magic. Home. Rumple was coming home.