A/N: Thank you for all the reviews. This is the last chapter! The driving questions for this chapter are: what would you say to your former husband? What would you say to your murderer? What would you say to the father of your child, who abandoned him? You may recognize some of the flashbacks from the second season. 'The Crocodile' is the best example of Rumple and Milah's relationship, and from there I just filled in the pieces. Milah didn't get the air time she deserved in the show, so I wanted it to end differently.
She did not have to wait long for his arrival. After her lover had left, she felt she would see the Dark One soon. Her former lover and former husband were tied as two sides of the same coin. And she was right. It was soon after that Rumpelstiltskin came to her. She knew he would. A husband and wife, no matter how destructive their relationship, are always drawn to each other- if only by morbid curiosity.
She did not share a happy tale with her husband. Although much of her life tales were unhappy, she recognized that the marriage was a cage of her own making. She had been too afraid to face the world alone, that she listened to a man who offered her little, but more than she had on her own. It had been her undoing.
"No respectable man will marry her." She heard the whisperings often. She tried not to hear them as she passed through the village to buy the needs for the home she lived in.
"Indeed not! Born in a brothel, playing and growing up there as if it was a home instead of wreckage of a place. She is probably part of the business now. I wouldn't doubt it. They get younger and younger all the time."
"I thought those women get paid better than that! She looks half starved. Don't let the look fool, you. It's the hunger that makes her look so young. It's been nearly twenty summers since she was born. I remember her marm, charmed all the sailors who came into the port."
She looked in the puddle below her. She had hollow cheeks, and her figure had not rounded out like many women of her age did. Her clothes were shabby, and she appeared destitute. The desperation peered out of her eyes. She had no friends, no family, and no knowledge of what was outside of the three main streets of her village. And she was hungry. But no one offered her anything.
Except one man. He had a gentle touch. The spinner in town. Whenever she went into the shop to make purchases for the house she worked in, he invited her to eat while he displayed his wares.
She was helping her children cross. Something caused her to look up, and at the intersection to which the children were heading- he stood. He wore the clothes that were in style of the strange place she now dwelled, but unlike last time she had seen him where he had had skin like reptile and his hair crimped and this eyes turned into slits, he looked much like the man who had offered her a home when had none.
The brothers, running shy on customers, had been planning to sell her to breakeven one month. She had not not known this, of course, nor did she know that she could be given away. When she did learn, she was distraught, taking to the street life. No one would take her in, for she was, in their eyes, a soiled woman. Yet, the man with the kind eyes offered her a way out. And she took it. She even adored him for a short while because of it.
After the children had crossed, she went up to him, at the intersection. He was a more confident man than she remembered. More like monster that she had seen on the day of her death. But he was more controlled now than he had been then. She wondered if he was still angry at her. She remembered the last day she had had hope for their marriage. The day he left for war. They had had such hopes. She could be forgotten as the woman who grew up in the brothel. And he could be forgotten for being the son of a coward.
"Hello, Milah." There was no warmth in that greeting. Not that she expected any, but she had hoped that after finding his true love, maybe his anger would have abated.
"Hello, Rumpelstiltskin. It has been a long time."
"So it has. Have you seen our son?" This was an unexpected question. Yet he had always been the better question.
"Yes. But he has moved on." The pain could not be concealed behind his eyes now. She realized she should give him a moment, but she plunged on with eagerness. "Can you tell me about our grandson? Henry? Bae said he had a son."
There was a small smile. "I can do better than that. You can meet him."
"I know you are unhappy here, but if you can't try for me. At least try for Bae." She tried to keep from rolling her eyes. It was always about their son. She wished her husband would quit throwing it in her face. She was not the starving orphan that he married anymore. She could now see what could be better for her, better for them. But all Rumple cared about was their son. Never about her needs, or the needs to repair marriage. She did not want to be ashamed of him, yet how could she not be? He never stood for anything, except their child. He always stood up for family- but only family he was directly related to.
She only spoke briefly to Henry's mother. She was not sure what to feel towards her, and did not want to complicate the matter. Henry strongly resembled her son, and what she had imagined Bae looked like as a teenager. She saw why both Rumple and Killian were so strongly attached to him. Her grandson was eager to find Killian. It was apparent he looked up to him as a father figure, and she wondered how much this hurt her former husband.
"That night I met Killian in the tavern, he told stories about the places he had been and I-I fell in love with him." She told the monster before her, desperate to save her lover's life. She bargained for their lives, ushering him to the ship to make their trade.
"Is this it then? Can we go our separate ways?"
"You mean, can I forgive you? Can I move on? Perhaps, perhaps. But I have one question."
"What would you like to know?"
"How could you leave our son?" The rigging snapped, and she could feel the fury roll off him. "Do you know what it was like going home that night, telling OUR son that his mother was dead?"
"Rumple, it was wrong for me to lie like that."
"You left him! You abandoned him!"
"And not a day goes by that I don't feel sorry for that!"
"Sorry isn't enough!"
"I was a coward, Rumple." She said softly.
Her former husband put up his hand and turned to leave. "I don't want to hear this."
She grabbed his arm. "Careful, Milah." He said evenly, but she heard the undercurrent of a threat.
Taking a deep breath, she hardened her resolve. "No. You didn't let me finish last time. I do not need your forgiveness, but you need to hear my apology. And you broke our deal. The magic bean for our lives. So you can at least hear me out."
Rumple smirked. "Although Ms. Swan is determined to find your former lover, I am not going to help him return to the living. I'd imagine you'd prefer it that way as well. I must say that pirate seems to stir up powerful emotions in women."
The last time she fell for his bait he ripped her heart out of her chest. Although he could no longer cause her such harm, she refused to be bated. She has had 300 years to dwell on such matters, after all. "This is not about Killian. This is about us- and Baelfire."
"Don't say my son's name to me." He leaned in, the air shimmering with heat. Hissing, he said "You have no right."
"He was my son, too. And we have sorted out everything. He has forgiven me."
"It is more than you deserve."
"Yes, but that is not for you to judge." She continued on. "I want you to know that I was hypocritical to call you a coward. I did not have the gumption to tell you I had fallen in love with another man. Nor did I have the strength to tell you why I was so unhappy in our marriage. When you refused my solutions, unknowing why I was so unhappy, I despaired instead of opening up to you. I am sorry I left our son. But I felt like you had used him to shackle me to the village."
"When I left, I reasoned to myself that I had left him with the parent that loved him more. I remember you swearing that you would never leave him. That you would not be your father. You were so devoted to him, that I felt that it was better he stay with you. And I did not want to destroy you. As much as I despised our situation and the lack of love in our marriage, I did not want to take the only light in your life. But I regretted leaving him almost immediately. But after tasting freedom, I felt like I would die returning to the village-where our family would be more despised than it was before. So it was better to stay away, than come back and kidnap Bae."
Rumple had gotten much better at hiding his emotions since they had been first made man and wife, but she could still read him. His anger was eking out as he listened- "What I'm trying to say, Rumplestiltskin, is that I underestimated you. I underestimated your devotion to Baelfire. I underestimated the lengths you would go to get our son, and to avenge his grievances. I underestimated your capacity to love. No matter what else your faults, I was the coward when I left you. And for that, I am sorry."
For a moment, she saw the sadness in the deep brown eyes. And then it was hidden. "If you are looking for an apology, dearie, I'm not going to give one. Nor forgiveness"
"No, I would not expect such." She was a ragged breath. "But I don't hate you anymore. I don't hate you for manipulating me into marriage. I don't hate you for keeping me shackled. I don't hate you for threatening the man I love. I don't hate you for lying to our child. Or abandoning our child. I don't even hate you for murdering me in front of the love of my life. Baelfire has escaped you, Killian has escaped you, and now, finally, so have I. You will never be given another thought. Good-bye, Rumple."
She spun on her heels, feeling lighter than she had ever felt in a long time. Everything weighing on her for so many eons finally lifted. As she walked towards the docks, she had the sense that everything around her was fading. Storybrooke was becoming lighter, the people were disappearing, and only the ocean was still clear. The man, the man she had dreaded for so long, waited for her on his ship, and for once, she was not afraid of him.
With manners that came from the age of which she had been born, he clicked his heels together and gave a courtly bow. "Milady," he said as he kissed the back of her hand. "Your next adventure awaits." She was aware that her pirate costume was back, and she cocked her head at the man. "What is the heading?"
"The winds will blow you where you need to be."
And with that, she took the helm.