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Chapter 1: Fallout
"Bae, wait!" Rumplestiltskin yelled. He heard the front door slam. He turned to Belle. "Belle, wait here, I need to go after him-"
She smiled and took his hand. "Of course you do, but I will go with you."
"Come on." And she tugged him towards the front door after Bae, still smiling.
Gods, I love this woman.
The Enchanted Forest.
Angry, hurt, and above all, terrified, Baelfire ran. He wasn't even watching where he was going, he only knew he had to get away. People were yelling, and he almost got hit by a car, but he wouldn't stop for anything. Not until he nearly crashed into someone. He backed up, ready to run again, until he heard his name and he saw who he had almost collided with.
August had to get a hold of himself. He didn't have much time left, and even with everyone distracted by the curse breaking, people were bound to notice a sobbing man made of wood slumped against a building. He ran through the layout of Storybooke in his head, trying to figure out the shortest route to his father's workshop. As ashamed as he was, if he was going to die today, he wanted a chance to say goodbye first.
He was slowly pushing himself to his feet when he heard a boy yelling, "YOU! YOU LIED TO ME! THERE IS MAGIC HERE! YOU LIED!"
He looked over and saw Baelfire screaming at Blue, tears running down his face, while she stood there with that same scolding expression she always seemed to have when speaking to August. He couldn't hear what she said, but Baelfire's response was clear enough, "YES, THERE IS! YOU LIED!"
August saw Emma and Henry exiting the hospital, rushing over to Bae and Blue. Others were beginning to gather around as well. August was torn. I just want to see Papa again, but he knew what Blue thought of Baelfire, and he could imagine what she was saying to him.
Emma is there; he'll be fine.
Unless Blue convinces her that Baelfire is the one who is lying. She's the Blue Fairy; everyone will believe her over the Dark One's kid.
Rumplestiltskin knows the truth.
No one will believe him over Blue either.
If I run, I'll die that much sooner.
August supposed it really told him all he needed to know about himself that that was what decided him.
As fast as he was able, he limped towards them.
Reul Ghorm was looking at Bae like he was insane. "There is no magic here," she said firmly.
"YES, THERE IS! YOU LIED!"
"Baelfire, calm yourself; you've been through a great deal-"
"Because of magic! You said we could escape it here! You said!"
"Kid, what's going on?" Emma asked, running up to them.
"Emma," Bae said, practically sobbing. It's too much - I just want it to go away!
"Baelfire is confused. He believes there is magic here, and that I was untruthful with him," Reul Ghorm said, in that condescending tone.
"I am not confused! There is magic here, and you lied to me about it!"
"Fairies don't do that," she said primly.
"Yes, they do," August said from behind her, panting. "Or you do, anyway; I don't know about the others. And he's right about the magic too. It's rare, but it does exist here."
"August," Emma said, "You're… I broke the curse, why are you still…?"
August raised his left hand slightly. "Because the curse didn't do this," he answered, looking away. "I did."
Bae stared. August was moving as if even just standing hurt, and his left hand appeared to be made of… wood? His attention snapped back to Reul Ghorm when she said, "Pinocchio, you are mistaken."
"No, I'm not," August snapped, "You lied to the Council; it's in the Book. And you were wrong about the magic too; I've met people with magic here."
"Who?" Emma asked.
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice found me in Phuket; he told me about Henry's Book. And then I met this mystic on Hong Kong. He was able to make potions, and he knew about the Book too. There is magic here, it's just not everywhere, like back home."
"Can you fix this?" Emma asked Reul Ghorm, gesturing at August.
"No," the fairy said, "The magic that keeps Pinocchio human only lasts as long as he remains brave, truthful, and unselfish. He did not, and so…" She gestured vaguely.
"But he did!" Henry protested, "He told Emma the truth, and helped her break the curse!"
"I'm afraid that's not enough."
"Why not?" Emma demanded. "So he screwed up - real people do that! He came back!"
"It's not my decision to make. All magic comes with a price, and that is the price of his."
"Emma," August said tearfully, now cradling his left arm against his chest, trying to hide his wooden hand. A crowd was beginning to form. "Just stop."
"No!" Henry said, tugging on August's sleeve. "The whole point of breaking the curse was to bring back the happy endings; it's not a happy ending if you die!" Die?
"Die?" Emma asked, "This will kill you?" She looked to Reul Ghorm.
"I'm afraid so; there is not enough magic in this world to keep Pinocchio alive if he is not human."
"No!" Henry said again, "You can stop this, August; I know you can. I believe in you."
I believe in you.
The Truest Believer.
Compulsively, Bae's eyes moved to the sky, as if Pan's Shadow would swoop down any minute and snatch Henry away. Bae's heart pounded and he started gasping. Suddenly, everything seemed very far away.
He's coming. He's coming, he's coming, he'scominghe'scominghe'scoming…
Die? August can't die! What the hell kind of happy ending is this when breaking the curse doesn't save him?
"I believe in you," Henry said, but to Emma it looked like August had already given up.
He shook his head. "I'm going to find my father now, Henry, before... It's just," he looked at Emma, "You needed to know that Baelfire is telling the truth about the magic." His eyes moved to Bae, and he frowned, "Baelfire?"
Emma looked. Bae was staring at nothing, gasping for air. "I think he's having a panic attack," Archie said; he must have been coming out of the hospital and seen the crowd. "Bae can you hear me?" the therapist (cricket?) asked calmly, approaching but not touching him.
"Bae, just focus on my voice. Can you take deep breaths for me? You're safe here, Bae, nothing is going to hurt you. Can you breathe with me? In… out… in… out… Come on, Bae, in… out…" Slowly, Bae started to respond. "That's right, very good, in… out… in… out… You're doing great. In… out…"
Realizing that the crowd gathered around them could not possibly be helping, Emma started ordering people back. August pulled Henry away a bit while Mother Superior (the Blue Fairy) simply stayed where she was, watching.
"Seriously, go home; go be with your families," Emma told the crowd.
"What about the Queen?" an orderly asked. "She's still out there."
"You leave her to me," Emma said, suddenly wondering why Mother Superior had told Regina to run like she had. Wouldn't it have been better to ask her to surrender? Combined with what she'd just heard, it was setting off alarm bells in Emma's head. "I'm still Sheriff; I'm not going to let her hurt anyone else. Please, go home; when we have more information, I promise, everyone will be notified."
The crowd was stubborn, but eventually Emma was able to get rid of most of them. When she turned back to them Bae was a little calmer, and Archie was still talking to him in that quiet, soothing voice. "What can I do to help?" Archie asked. "Do you want to find somewhere to sit down?"
Bae shook his head. That poor kid. Emma didn't know what to do. She honestly thought that Gold did love his kid, but she'd also just read their story; she knew Bae had every reason to run from him. She also knew that the Blue Fairy had told Bae (and everyone else) that there was no magic here, which wasn't actually true. Was it a lie or was she just wrong? Emma didn't know, but after the condescending, callus way the nun had spoken to both Bae and August, Emma knew that she didn't trust her.
And then there was Gold; Emma spotted him limping towards them as quickly as she imagined he could with his cane, arm in arm with a woman dressed in a ratty sweater over a hospital gown. Who is that?
She'd find out soon enough, and the woman seemed willing enough to be with him, while Bae was still shaking and breathing hard from his panic attack. They needed a game plan, and they needed it now. "Hey, kid," she asked tentatively, "Your dad's coming this way. What do you want me to do?"
"Do?" he asked, his head snapping up at the mention of his dad.
"Do you want me to get rid of him for you?"
"What? No… no, I…" his face contorted. "We're going to need him."
"Pan," he sobbed.
"His Shadow can travel here; we have to stop him."
Pan. Shadow. "You mean… Peter Pan?"
"Neverland?" Gold's snarled, obviously close enough now to hear them. "You've been in Neverland?"
Rumplestiltskin saw Bae running towards downtown, and hurried after him as fast as he was able. He hadn't been terribly bothered by the limitations of his injured ankle in this world, but he cursed it now. At least he had Belle. She'd taken his left arm and smiled encouragingly, not even asking about the limp. "Everything will be all right," she said, "You'll see." Rumplestiltskin wished he had so much faith.
Bae ducked between two buildings, and they lost sight of him. They took the same turn, but had no idea which direction he'd taken after that. "Which way should we go?" Belle asked.
"I don't know," Rumplestiltskin said, fighting panic. It was bad enough that Bae had run from him, but with the curse broken people were going to quickly figure out that he was the Dark One's son; they had to find him before someone decided to act on that.
Belle - brave, perceptive Belle - could read the fear in his voice. "Calm down, Rumplestiltskin; he's going to be fine."
You don't know that. He's a boy; I have to protect him. Protect… Save... Emma. "This way!" he said, now tugging her along towards the hospital.
"You're sure he went this way?"
"No. But the Savior is this way, and she owes me a favor."
"Emma Swan, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming," he explained with a slight smile. "She broke Regina's curse."
"Oh, I see." She said nothing more, following him without question. However, as they hurried along, her smile faltered and her grip on his arm tightened. They were almost to the hospital before he noticed.
She bit her lip. "I'm sorry. It's only… Regina's prison is this way."
Rumplestiltskin's temper flared as he took a closer look at Belle's clothes. "The hospital? That's where she kept you?" Kill her. Kill her now. Make it bloody. Make it hurt.
"I… yes, that's the word they used."
He was torn. He needed to find Bae; anything could happen to him out there. But he also needed to protect Belle. After a moment, he pulled out his house keys. "Take these; go back to the house-"
"No! I'll go with you; I know you won't let anything happen to me."
"Of course I won't," he said, cupping her cheek.
She smiled, and put her hand over his. "Then let's go."
"If you're sure," he said, concerned.
"My brave Belle."
She kissed his palm, then started walking again, matching the pace they'd set before. He took her arm, holding her hand tightly. With her there, he could almost believe everything would work out in the end. After Regina is dead.
To his immense relief, Rumplestiltskin saw Bae with Emma, Henry, Hopper, the puppet, and, worryingly, Reul Ghorm as soon as the hospital came into view. "There he is!" Belle said, squeezing his arm. "Do you know who he's talking to?"
"Yes," he replied, sighing the word more than saying it. "The Savior herself."
"See?" she said, "I told you it would be all right."
"Yes, you did." But finding Bae was only the beginning; now he had to convince him to come home with him, and he did not relish doing so in front of an audience, especially one that included the Blue Fairy. As they approached, he could hear panic in Bae's voice, and he knew he was responsible. I'm so sorry, Bae. Please, please let me make it up to you.
Emma was watching Rumplestiltskin warily, hovering over Bae protectively. As relieved as Rumplestiltskin was that she was looking out for Bae, her interference in this would not be appreciated. And if Reul Ghorm interferes, I will end her.
Bae was crying - I'm sorry, Bae, I'm so sorry - and he said something to Emma. Rumplestiltskin couldn't hear it, but her response was clear enough. "You mean… Peter Pan?" Bae nodded.
Rumplestiltskin stopped cold; suddenly, everything made sense. "Neverland?" he snarled, "You've been in Neverland?" His eyes snapped to the fairy. "YOU SAID YOU SENT HIM HERE!"
He didn't even realize he'd lunged for her until he felt Belle's grip on his arm tighten and she shouted, "Rumplestiltskin, no!"
"Gold!" Emma warned, putting herself between him and the others, "Stop!"
"You lied," he hissed, his eyes still locked on the fairy. She'd backed up a step, but was staring at him with that familiar pursed expression she always directed at him.
"I did not. The bean did take Baelfire to this world."
"Then how did he get to Neverland?"
"The Shadow," Bae answered, tears in his voice. "It can travel here. It took me." The Shadow? The Shadow can travel HERE?
"Land Without Magic, dearie?" he spat. The puppet snorted. The puppet. "You're just full of lies, aren't you, Reul Ghorm? Lies about magic. Lies about trees. You wanted this curse to happen. Why?"
"Gold, what are you talking about?" Emma demanded.
"Why don't you tell them, dearie? Tell them that you could have been rid of me centuries ago if you'd just told me about the tree. Instead, you told me about the Dark Curse, and never once interfered in its casting. You wanted this."
The puppet's jaw dropped. "He's right," he said, his voice shaky. "You knew about Baelfire; you knew why he was doing this. For God's sake, Blue, why didn't you just tell him about the tree?"
"Its magic was not for the Dark One to use." Kill her. Kill her, killherkillherkillher…
"Why the hell not?" Emma demanded, "If it could have stopped all of this?"
"Emma! Emma!" Snow White was running towards them, her husband at her side and both wolves and all seven dwarves trailing along behind her. Rumplestiltskin paid her no mind. His rage at Reul Ghorm was warring with his fear of Pan and his Shadow, and he couldn't think.
"Rumplestiltskin," Belle said, still gripping his left arm, "You need to calm down."
She's right. Breathe. Focus.
He burned with the urge to kill Reul Ghorm. To tear her asunder with is bare hands and scatter her remains all over the parking lot. But he couldn't do it. Bae. I have to protect Bae. I can't protect him from the Shadow if I'm imprisoned.
Rallying, he stood up straight, his eyes never leaving the fairy. For the first time in his long memory, he saw her truly nervous. Didn't plan on the Savior and Snow White learning of your treachery did you, dearie?
He smiled. He didn't have to kill her; he simply had to expose her. Destroying Snow White's faith in her would hurt more than any physical blow ever could, and where Snow White led, the people of the Enchanted Forest followed. And then he could take care of Pan unimpeded. Prepare to fall, Reul Ghorm.
Belle didn't know what strange land Regina's curse had taken them to, but she'd found Rumplestiltskin who had, in turn, found his son; she knew that everything would be all right if they could just talk everything over.
So much was different here, even Rumplestiltskin. In this world, he appeared as human as any other man. He even walked with a cane, something she knew he would never need in the Enchanted Forest. There, he was not only immortal, but nearly invulnerable, and he could heal any injury short of death. Is he the Dark One here? It seemed not; Belle was glad.
And he had missed her. He'd been surprised that she was alive; Regina must have told him that she was dead. It explained why he never came for her. She'd known - she had - that even if he did not love her as she did him, he would never leave her in Regina's prison if he had known she was there. He'd left her that pack when she left his castle, after all, even though she'd almost been too proud and angry to take it. Ultimately, it was the books that had convinced her (and a good thing too, for Prince Phillip's sake).
But Regina had taunted her for nearly three years with the knowledge that he had never come for her, telling her that he didn't love her - even that he had sold her to Regina for some magical trinket - and after so long, it had become harder and harder to fight the doubt. But now she knew; he'd been suffering as much as she had.
And his son - where had he been? Had Regina captured him too? He'd never really told her his story, too frightened and hurt to open up about it. But they'd found each other somehow; she was so happy for them both.
She did wonder why Bae had run. It was clear he'd been afraid of Rumplestiltskin, but why? Had Regina convinced him that Rumplestiltskin had abandoned him to his fate? If they could just have a chance to talk, she was sure Bae would see how much his father had missed him.
Rumplestiltskin was frightened for him; that was also clear. As different as this world was, she imagined there were still plenty of dangers out there for a young boy alone, especially if Regina was still out there working her evil.
But Rumplestiltskin had allies, it seemed. The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming? Belle never would have guessed. But she did know that they were enemies of Regina as Rumplestiltskin was; she could seem them united on a common cause to end her villainy once and for all. Rumplestiltskin, of course, would say it didn't make him a hero, but Belle knew better.
Happily (even if approaching Regina's prison, this strange hospital, frightened Belle so much that she could scarcely breathe), they found Bae quickly - with the Savior, as Rumplestiltskin had called the Princess Emma. Belle could see the boy was upset, but she knew he'd be all right if Rumplestiltskin could just explain.
Then Rumplestiltskin had lunged for the woman in the blue cape and gray skirt, and Belle realized that even with his new face, the darkness was still very much a part of him.
Belle was shocked to hear the woman's name - Reul Ghorm - the Blue Fairy? - but then she'd always known Rumplestiltskin hated fairies, the Blue Fairy in particular. Is this why? She sent his son away? And to Neverland? Belle knew from her reading what a terrible place Neverland was, and she could understand why Rumplestiltskin was angry to learn that the Blue Fairy had sent his son there, even if she could not agree with him taking revenge on her (or anyone).
Belle had always wondered about fairies, and how they seemed to be such bastions of good but then only appeared to a select few. No fairy had saved her from Regina's dungeon, after all, or come to their aid against the ogres, and Reul Ghorm at least was said to have power to rival the Dark One. She could have intervened if she had wished to.
And, apparently, she could have reunited him with his son long ago, and prevented Regina's curse. Anger Belle had never felt on her own behalf suddenly flared for Rumplestiltskin and Bae, and the people of the Enchanted Forest. But she would not allow it to consume her, nor would she allow the Blue Fairy to lure Rumplestiltskin back into darkness.
He was shaking with rage and, she imagined, fear as well. "Rumplestiltskin," she said, "You need to calm down."
And, amazingly, he did. Heart warming, Belle squeezed his arm gently as he straightened himself. He can be better. I knew it.
Belle had never met Snow White and Prince Charming, but the couple running towards them could be no one else, with how they ran to and embraced their daughter. She had no idea who the others with them were. Like Belle and Bae, Queen Snow and the Prince had not aged under Regina's curse, while their daughter clearly had. Belle would ask Rumplestiltskin about that later.
"All right, all right," Princess Emma said, pulling back. "I'm, uh, glad to see you too, but we have a bit of a problem here."
All of the newcomers immediately looked at Rumplestiltskin. "What sort of problem?" Prince Charming asked.
"Not with him," the Princess said, "Well, yes with him, but with her too." She tilted her head in the direction of the Blue Fairy. "Turns out she could have prevented all of this, and I'd really like to know why she didn't."
Snow White looked at Reul Ghorm and shook her head. "Oh, Emma, that can't be true; this is the Blue Fairy. There must be some sort of misunderstanding." She smiled, extending her hand. "Hello, Blue."
The fairy smiled back, inclining her head and taking Snow White's hand. "Queen Snow."
"Perhaps you would now like to explain to your chosen favorite why you not only allowed the curse to be cast, but conspired to separate her from her daughter, Reul Ghorm?" Rumplestiltskin asked accusingly.
Snow White's jaw dropped. "That… that can't be true. This was Regina's doing. You… you're Rumplestiltskin!" she said suddenly.
He smirked and bowed slightly. "Queen Snow."
Snow White and her husband tried to pull Emma away from him, but she would not be moved. "Emma, Rumplestiltskin is the Dark One; you cannot trust him."
"I don't," she snorted, "But I don't trust her either. And what he's saying matches up with Henry's Book and what August told me."
"August-" Snow White looked at the tall, dark-haired man and gasped. Belle followed her gaze and stared; she hadn't noticed his hand at first glance. "You're…"
"Turning to wood, yes," Rumplestiltskin said impatiently, "And remember that when you speak, Reul Ghorm. If the puppet contradicts you, we will know if he is telling the truth or not."
"That's right," Emma said. The man - August - nodded, his eyes full of pain.
"Now," Rumplestiltskin said, "Would you like to explain why you lied to the Queen's Council about the limits of the wardrobe?"
"It was necessary," she said primly. "Geppetto demanded that Pinocchio be the second person sent. He also demanded that I not tell the Council the truth. Isn't that right, Pinocchio?" Shamefaced, the man nodded.
But Rumplestiltskin was not dissuaded. He spoke over Queen Snow's (and her followers') attempts to speak. "I see. And the Reul Ghorm takes orders from woodcarvers, does she?"
"He refused to make the wardrobe otherwise."
Rumplestiltskin smirked. "Ah. Assuming that is true, is there any particular reason Geppetto had to make it? Did Regina lead some great culling of the woodcarvers of the Enchanted Forest that I am unaware of?"
August - Pinocchio? - gasped. But the Blue Fairy answered, "There was no time to find another."
"You're lying," Emma said flatly.
Emma cocked an eyebrow at her mother. "Superpower, remember?"
"Emma, your superpower doesn't always work. Why would Blue even do something like that?"
"Because," August said, his voice thick with guilt, "You would never have done what I did."
"What do you mean?" Queen Snow asked.
"Eleven years ago Blue contacted me. She told me Emma had gotten mixed up with a bad guy who was leading her down a dark path, and that I needed to break them up. So I scared him off, just like she told me to."
"You're the reason Nate-" Emma stopped in mid-sentence, looking at Henry.
August nodded. "There's more. Nate didn't call the cops on you, Emma; I did."
"Blue told me it was the only way to set you back on the path to breaking the curse. She knew you were pregnant, but she didn't tell me, I swear. I'm so sorry, Emma," he sobbed. Belle looked at Reul Ghorm, who appeared unmoved except for the tightness around her mouth.
"You… you're the reason Emma had to give up Henry?" Snow White asked August, disbelieving.
"Blue told me that jail was the only way to get Emma off the path she was on. But that wasn't the reason, was it, Blue?" He glared at the fairy. "You told me after I found the Book that Henry was 'meant' to be born and 'meant' to be adopted by the Evil Queen; none of that would have happened if Queen Snow had come though the wardrobe instead of me. I'd been looking for Emma for two years, but you didn't call me until after she met Nate. You planned this." Suddenly, he gasped and clutched his right arm to his chest, his face contorting in pain.
"See?" Snow White said, "He's lying! August, you need to stop-"
He started laughing, voice tinged with hysteria. With some difficulty, August used his wooden hand to push up his right sleeve. Belle saw wood turn to flesh. So did everyone else.
"Brave, truthful, and unselfish, Reul Ghorm?" Rumplestiltskin smirked.
And then they heard the mob.