A/N: Thank you syed, ArdeaSpark, and Vamp-Lynette for your reviews and to everyone who has followed and favorited.
To answer your questions:
syed: From what we've seen, I don't think it matters who initiates the kiss. In the case of breaking the curse, it would violate the prophecy that Rumple made, but I have a theory about where prophecies come from that, if true, means they are not inevitable. And Blue's possible motivations will be discussed at length in future chapters. ;)
ArdeaSpark: This chapter does address the magic issue. You'll see Rumple's initial decision (and reasoning) here, but that doesn't mean that the matter has been laid to rest.
Finally, I apologize in advance for the cliffhanger ending of this part; it really was the only logical place to end it. The first chapter of part two of this series (Complications), will be posted at the usual time next week.
Not According to Plan
Chapter 20: Broken
At the sound of the doorbell, Rumplestiltskin looked up from his wheel. He'd been expecting this since one of his contacts called him from the hospital. Regina had done something to Henry (likely intending it for Emma), and now she was coming to him to fix it. As a precaution, he told Bae to stay where he was. If Regina made a move, he'd have a clear path out of the house through the dining room and kitchen.
Fortunately for all involved, Regina was not alone. "Emma. Regina. I take it something has happened?"
"We need your help, Gold," Emma replied without preamble, "Regina poisoned Henry."
"It's not poison. It's a curse, and it was meant for you," Regina corrected, but made no other denials.
"I see. Come into my office."
As requested, Bae was still in his seat, but watching them over his laptop. "I need to speak to Sheriff Swan and Mayor Mills in private, Bae; we'll be in my office."
"OK," Bae replied warily.
"After you," Rumplestiltskin invited the women; he knew better than to turn his back on Regina.
Once the office door was firmly closed behind him, he said, "Tell me everything."
Emma did, only stopping when Rumplestiltskin asked Regina, "A cursed apple? Now where did you get such a thing in this world?"
"By sacrificing the last bit of magic I had left," Regina replied sullenly.
"So you made magic from magic. All magic comes with a price, you know."
"Henry shouldn't have to pay it."
"No, you should. But alas, we are where we are." And Rumplestiltskin had a choice to make. It had always been his original plan for Emma to retrieve the True Love potion from Maleficent; it was meant to be her final trial as the Savior, the one that would cement her belief and standing as a hero (as well as serve Rumplestiltskin's own ends). But finding Bae had changed things. They'd been unable to destroy the dagger, but it remained inert as long as this world did not have magic; by altering his plan and leaving the potion where it was, Rumplestiltskin could still keep his word to Bae.
But then the puppet had told him that there were other sources of magic in this world, among them the Apprentice and a man presumably able to make powerful potions. With the curse broken, these sources might be able to enter Storybrooke and could pose a threat (the Apprentice, in particular, had no love for Rumplestiltskin). Could he risk it?
Rumplestiltskin knew that if he followed his original plan, Bae would be angry. He'd be angry anyway, when he remembered, but to pair that with bringing magic into a world he'd fled to in order to escape it… it would feel like yet another betrayal. If Rumplestiltskin wanted a prayer of earning his boy's forgiveness, Bae could not wake up in a world with magic.
Perhaps he could simply delay his plan, keeping the magic in reserve should the need arise? Maleficent certainly wasn't going anywhere; she lacked the ability to change forms in this world. And then there was Regina; once the Curse broke, she'd be easier to contain without her magic. If he brought the magic, only Rumplestiltskin himself would be able to imprison her, and he'd really rather not be bothered with that. Kill her, yes - he'd do that with relish - but the heroes wouldn't ask for that; they'd ask for a prison, and a humane one at that. So would Bae. Rumplestiltskin wasn't interested.
For Bae's good opinion, Rumplestiltskin had taken a risk with the Sheriff's election; he'd do the same now. If he needed the magic, it would be there; but until then, he would focus on making it up to Bae. That had always been his desire, after all; he'd just never thought it would be possible. He had been given an extraordinary opportunity, and he'd never been one to let an opportunity go to waste.
"So what do we do?" Emma asked.
"Not we, dearie - you. You must save your son."
"There is one kind of magic that is greater than any other, Miss Swan, great enough to break any curse. It is, in fact, the only magic that can break a sleeping curse."
"True Love's Kiss," Regina said quietly, beginning to understand.
"True Love's Kiss?" Emma scoffed, "Henry is ten; he doesn't have a true love."
Rumplestiltskin shook his head. "Contrary to popular belief, Miss Swan, True Love does not have to be romantic in nature. Do you love your son?"
"And he loves you?"
"Yes," she said, less forcefully.
"Then it is your only chance."
"I should do it," Regina objected. "He's my son, and unlike you, I actually know how to do magic."
"You did this to him," Emma snarled.
"Then let me undo it!" Regina shouted, almost pleading.
"No, it has to be Emma," Rumplestiltskin scolded. "You're incapable of this, Regina; you have a hole in your heart - price of the curse. And don't say you weren't warned." She said nothing. "And now, I've a warning for you, Miss Swan; Regina is right about one thing. This is magic of the highest order, and not as simple as it seems. To perform it, you must not only love Henry with everything in you, you must believe, truly believe, that you can save him. Do you?"
"That's a 'no'," Regina muttered scathingly.
"Can't you show me anything? Show me proof?"
"Ah, but it's not really belief if you're relying on proof, is it? And that was never my role to play in any case."
"No," Emma said, cutting off whatever sharp retort Regina had been about to offer, "It was Henry's. And August's."
"That biker?" Regina asked.
"Pinocchio," Rumplestiltskin explained.
The shock on Regina's face was more amusing than Rumplestiltskin should probably have found it given the situation. He didn't wish Henry any harm, after all, and sleeping curses had side effects that Regina had never bothered to familiarize herself with; she'd done more harm to her boy than she knew.
"I'm going to see to August," Emma declared.
"And while you waste time with a puppet, Henry's life is at stake," Regina shot back.
Emma rounded on her, "He was right about Henry and about you. He was trying to show me something, and I refused to see it. I can do this if I can just see what it is he was trying to show me."
"You may very well be right," Rumplestiltskin offered.
"Well, I'm going to the hospital to be with Henry," Regina sneered.
"Fine; just don't poison anyone else before I get there."
Rumple had been right; Regina's kiss didn't work.
She'd tried it just as the Hatter made his presence known and again after he'd left. It wasn't fair; she was his mother! She was the one who had loved him after Snow's brat had given him up. If he didn't make it out of this, there would be hell to pay.
"What the hell is taking so long?" Regina asked the empty room. She received no answer.
Emma assaulted the door to August's room with a series of frantic knocks. "August, please open up! I know you're in there - open the door!"
"Coming," he said, but it took him far longer than it should have to finally open the door, and he looked like he was in pain.
"I need your help. I need you to…" she trailed off. There was something very wrong with his left hand. His entire arm was hanging limply, and the hand itself appeared to be… made of wood?
"What is that? What's happening to you?"
"You can see it now," he said softly, then closed his eyes. "You believe."
"Yeah, yeah, I do, but how- how do I stop this?"
"Break the curse," he said fervently.
"I'll try, I promise, but I gotta save Henry first, and I need your help-"
He shook his head. "No, you don't."
"Yeah, I do! This is all too much! I - I just talked to the Evil Queen and Rumplestiltskin about magic, about how I have to truly believe I can save Henry with a kiss - a kiss! I can't do it, August, I can't - no normal person can."
He smiled faintly. "Luckily for us, you're not normal. You can save Henry; you can save all of us. And if you can see this," he lifted up his wooden hand slowly, "Then you do believe. You can do it, Emma."
"Come with me," she asked tearfully. "I need you to help me believe."
He shook his head again. "I'll only slow you down. I can't… move very fast right now. And you don't need me anyway. I may have promised to guide you, but really it's Henry." He looked away and added quietly, "It was always going to be Henry."
It was always going to be Henry. She smiled though her tears. "You're right; it was. I'll break the curse after I save him. You're going to be OK." She reached out and took his wooden hand, squeezing it.
He smiled again and looked down at her hand on his. It didn't squeeze back. "I know, Emma."
As promised, Regina was with Henry when Emma arrived. "Took you long enough," she complained. "What did the puppet need to show you anyway?"
"Something only believers can see. And I saw it, so it's time to do this; step aside."
"It was 'time' hours ago," she said, but still, she backed up so Emma could stand beside Henry.
He was so pale, lying there helpless. The heart monitor was beeping steadily, but even Regina didn't know how long that would last. He needed her. Carefully, Emma bent down, her lips just above Henry's forehead. "I love you, Henry," she whispered, then kissed him.
She kissed him again, and again he did not wake up. "Henry? Henry, you need to wake up!"
"It's not working," Regina said accusingly. "You're supposed to be the one! You have to save him!"
Emma looked up. "I- you try it, Regina. You know about magic."
"I can't!" Regina yelled. "Rumple was right! I tried before you got here. It has to be you!"
"I- I can't… the book - get Henry's Book!" Regina glanced at the pile of his things on the table across the room. "Mary Margaret woke David from his coma by reading him the Book. Maybe we have to read it to him before this will work," Emma explained.
"Rumple didn't say anything about that."
"Well, I'm under the impression that Rumplestiltskin likes to keep things to himself, and I know Gold does. Do you have any better ideas?"
"No," she replied after a long moment, and hurried over to the table.
Emma pulled a chair up to Henry's bed and held out a hand for the Book. Regina looked mistrustful, but handed it over; she probably didn't want to be the one reading Henry stories about the Evil Queen. Emma settled on Henry's right side, while Regina found a chair and settled on his left.
Emma opened the book and began to read. "Once upon a time, in a corner of the Enchanted Forest known as the Frontlands, there lived a poor spinner and his son…"
The threads of the curse were pulled more taunt than piano wire. Regina's control had slipped so completely that Rumplestiltskin could actually feel the web of magic that bound them, and he knew it was only a matter of hours before it broke. He sent Bae off to bed with some reluctance, not knowing if the curse would break while he was asleep, and what effect it would have; but he couldn't exactly keep the boy up all night either.
"Good night, Bae."
Bae hugged him, as he did every night. "Good night, Papa."
Rumplestiltskin hugged back, perhaps tighter than he meant. "I love you." Please let this not be the last time you believe it.
"Love you too."
Rumplestiltskin returned to his wheel; he would not be sleeping tonight.
What is taking so long?
An hour passed, and then another, and still the curse did not break. There was nothing August could do but wait. What's wrong? Why isn't this working? He almost called Rumplestiltskin, but decided against it. He almost called Emma but did not want to interrupt whatever she was doing. As dawn approached, he almost called Blue but knew that wouldn't really help.
What do I do? There's nothing I can do. Please, Emma, hurry up.
Another wave of that terrible, burning pain, and his right forearm turned to wood. Why? Why won't it stop? I told Emma the truth. I'm trying to help as much as I can! I couldn't go with her; I would have slowed her down. What else can I do?
He didn't know, but if doing nothing amounted to sitting and waiting to die - and it seemed that it did - he had to try something. He didn't have enough mobility to operate his motorcycle or even put on his jacket, so he simply pulled down his sleeves as far as he could and began to make his way towards the hospital, one halting, agonized step at a time.
Dawn broke, and still the curse did not. Rumplestiltskin had just started the coffee maker and was about to head upstairs to wake Bae when he heard a knock on the kitchen door. He looked up and saw a woman standing there in. She was dressed poorly, her long, brown hair uncombed. She looked like…
No, it can't be.
As if under an enchantment himself, Rumplestiltskin slowly limped to the glass doors and unlocked them with shaking hands. He opened them.
"Excuse me. Are you Mr. Gold?" It was her voice.
Stunned, he nodded hesitantly. "Yes. Yes, I am."
"I was, uh, I was told to- to find you and tell you that Regina locked me up. Does- does that mean anything to you?"
He reached out and gripped her shoulder. "You're real. You're alive," he said reverently. "She did this to you." It wasn't Maurice. It was Regina. It was always Regina!
"I was told you'd protect me," she said, confused.
"Oh, yes," he vowed, embracing her desperately, "Yes, I'll protect you."
She shook her head, pulling away. "I'm- I'm sorry. Do I know you?"
"No," he replied tearfully. "But you will." He led her to the kitchen table. "Wait right here, just a moment. I want you to meet someone."
They were near the end of the Book when the alarms on Henry's heart monitor started screaming. Whale rushed in, followed by a nurse, and Emma and Regina were pushed aside while they began resuscitation procedures.
"Henry? Henry!" Regina screamed.
We're out of time. I have to save him now.
"Move!" Emma told the nurse.
"Ma'am," she protested, "Please stay back."
"I know how to save him! Let me do it!"
"Let her do it!" Regina ordered.
Giving the Mayor a startled glance, the nurse moved back just a bit; it was enough for Emma to push her aside and lean over Henry. "Sheriff-" Whale began, annoyed, but Emma ignored him.
Please work… please work… please work…
She kissed him.
A rush of something exploded from them, and he sat up with a gasp, the heart monitors returning to their steady, rhythmic beep.
Henry smiled. "You saved me."
"You did it," Regina said, her voice tense with disbelief.
After a moment, a crowd of people started wandering in to the room. "Henry?" Emma asked. "What's going on?"
Henry sat up. "The curse - I think you broke it." He was grinning.
"That was True Love's Kiss," Mother Superior said, her lips curving into a smile.
"No, no!" Regina objected.
Mother Superior turned to her. "If I were you, Your Majesty, I'd find a place to hide."
Regina grabbed Henry's hand, tears in her eyes. "Henry, no matter what you think - no matter what anyone else tells you - I do love you." Then she turned, and ran.
August was just passing the last building before the hospital when he saw a flash of light and felt something in the air. He looked around frantically, and saw a morning jogger stop suddenly, looking bewildered. The mailman did the same, and anyone else on the street.
She did it. She broke it.
He looked down at his left hand, still wood, and just as lifeless as it had been a minute ago. It didn't work. He collapsed, falling against the brick wall to his right.
Before the day Tamara has taken the Dragon's potion from him, it had been years since August had cried (really cried - movies didn't count, especially Pixar movies). It required more emotional honesty than he usually allowed himself.
But today, just like that day, August cried.
"Bae," Rumplestiltskin said, "This is Belle. Belle, this is my son, Bae."
"Nice to meet you," Bae said, offering his hand.
Belle took it, but looked at Rumplestiltskin. "Belle? Is that my name?"
"Yes," he answered. "Don't worry; you will both remember everything very soon."
"Both?" Bae asked.
There was a flash of light, and a wave of power swept over them, burning up the strained threads of the curse in an instant.
Belle looked at him, stunned. "Rumplestiltskin?"
Rumplestiltskin smiled, nodding, "Yes. Bae-"
Bae had dropped Belle's hand and backed up a step, horror overtaking his expression.
"Bae-" Rumplestiltskin began again, reaching out for his boy.
End Part 1