~ Rumple ~

After Belle's enormous success with the flame, I decided to test her abilities with the other elements – water, earth, and air. She mastered the basics of each one with relative ease. Yes, she had struggled in the beginning but once she got the hang of it, she was on a roll and I was incredibly proud of her.

With each success, I increased the difficulty of my requests and she attacked each one with vigour. For someone who had originally claimed to be against using magic, Belle now became more excited with each task she completed. And if I was able to change the opinion of someone as stubborn as Belle, maybe I could convert everyone. Although, that would not be wise.

After all, if everyone could wield powerful magic then I would have far too much competition and threats. There were many people who would snuff out my existence if they were able to do so, after all. It would be best for me if I remained one of – if not the most – powerful magicians in this land and preferably all others.

"Rumple, this is amazing!" Belle announced, between giggles.

"I am glad you are enjoying yourself, dearie!" I replied.

And in all honesty, I truly was. An idea had entered my head, one most pleasant, one which I did not wish to let go of. Since Belle was so thrilled with her temporary magic abilities, why not help her make them permanent? The very thought of fighting side by side with her was tantalising beyond belief.

I would no longer need to protect her, to shield her from this cruel world. Not that I was implying that she was defenseless in her current state because that was far from accurate. She was strong willed but despite her inner strength, she was more of a scholar than a fighter. This was not necessarily a terrible thing, I loved her as she was, but if I knew that having her own source of magic would ensure her safety then a heavy weight would be lifted from my mind. Because I honestly could not bear losing her. I had lost too much already.

~ Belle ~

Conjuring the flame had been exciting enough but as Rumple taught me more and more, my excitement levels rose. He was teaching me how to control the other elements, besides fire. I combined water and air abilities to cause a downpour before waving my hand and bringing the sunshine back. I used earth abilities to create holes in the ground.

But his lessons were not limited simply to nature. He also taught me how to summon and use magical objects. At first, I questioned him what a sword had to do with magic but he answered my question simply. In fact, he answered all my queries simply. Not because he thought that I lacked intelligence, rather because he wanted to be understood quickly. I understood his reasoning. After all, the hours were ticking by. Soon I would be back in my own body, and Rumple in his.

I felt a pang of sadness at this thought, which was astonishing. I had never really been a fan of magic and had been against acquiring those powers originally but now I did not wish to lose them. I was having far too much fun. What I had been taught thus far did not bring harm to others so I reasoned with myself that I was doing no wrong. Rumple had even gone to the lengths of teaching me things that he himself knew but never wished to use – such as making flowers bloom. Something else I enjoyed was the teleporting. I may enjoy a nice long walk on occasion but even I could not deny its usefuleness.

I was seriously considering sharing my feelings with Rumple, that I thoroughly enjoyed using magic and would like to still practise it, even when I had returned to my own form. But then his lessons turned darker, less innocent.

"Belle, I must say that you have excelled in every task that I have assigned to you, which pleases me greatly. In fact, you are on the road to becoming my best ever student which in itself is an amazing feat, considering I don't ever have favourites. Well done on becoming my first, dearie."

I could not help but blush at Rumple's comment. If only I were near a mirror or another reflective surface. Rumple rarely blushed so it would be interesting to see what him doing so looked like.

Before I could continue pondering on this, Rumple continued to speak.

"So now that you have the magic which can be considered as good – such as that of the faeries – down, I shall introduce you to my own brand. And yes, I know that you are against all that can be considered as 'evil' but if you alter your perspective a tad, is it truly as evil as you first assumed? Definitely not.

And, if you wish to continue wielding magic, there is a lesson of great importance that I need to teach you. How to control others."

"Control others?" I asked, and my disgust must have been evident in my tone because Rumple's expression changed, displaying an emotion I did not quite recognise, before returning to normal within the space of a few seconds.

"Yes. Controlling others is one of the methods you can use to protect yourself. This is why it is an important ability."

"But I do not wish to control others." I protested.

"I see." Rumple answered. "Then I will show you its other uses."

"How so?" I asked, intrigued. "You have no magic currently."

"I do not require any. Follow me." He said, as he walked away.

"Wait for me!" I said, as I followed.

However, I did not need to make that remark because I caught up to him easily. His attire was far more easy to move around in than my own, it must be said.

Rumple stopped abruptly, staring straight ahead. We were in a village, one that I had never been to before even though Rumple appeared to recognise the place. I could not help but wonder why he had brought me here. I would soon find out.

Inbetween the ramshackle houses, villagers darted to and fro, washing clothes and themselves and more besides. It was a view into peasant life. Even though I had experience in being a servant – thank you, Rumple! - I had been born into a higher class family so I was not accustomed to this way of living.

As I glanced around, nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary so my curiosity over Rumple's motives returned. But then I heard it.

"Fool!" The gruff voice shouted, being easily heard over the hustle and bustle of village life. "I told you not to wash these clothes in the river. Now they are no better than rags! Is that what you wanted, boy?"

"N-n-no, f-father." Came a shaky, squeaky voice.

"Father? We may be bound by blood but you are no son of mine. This is the last straw!" He roared.

I spotted him as he grabbed a boy – his poor son – by the throat and dragged him away. The man was as monstrous in appearance as he had sounded. In contrast, the boy appeared to be small and scrawny.

I could not take my eyes off of them as they moved further and further away from the village.

"So, dearie, shall we follow them? We've come this far, after all."

Rumple's comment made me jump. I had been so focused on the scene ahead that I had forgotten all about him.

"Follow?" I asked, taken aback.

"Yes, follow. You want to save the poor boy from his father's wrath...do you not?"

"Of course!" I answered, without hesitation. "But where is their destination?"

"Is that not obvious? Think about it."

"Rumple, this is no time to be cryptic." I commented, feeling angry. "We don't have time to waste."

"Fine." He answered with a sigh. "They're going to the river."

"I'm glad that you told me, but...how did you know?"

"I have my ways." He said, with a wink. "Let's go!" He called before dashing off again, me in tow. I must say that he is quite adept at running with a dress on. I respected that.

~ Rumple ~

I knew that this village would come in handy at some point. I had enchanted it years ago for an occasion just like this. Even though body swapping with Belle had been a spur of the moment decision, I had considered doing this or something similar long before. And so I had taken precautions. There was a huge risk that once I mentioned my special magic – or 'dark' magic, I supposed that it could be called - that she'd cower away and shun magic entirely, taking us back to square one. That was where this village came in. I may not have been in my Dark One form but I always had a trick (or twenty) up my sleeve. Even residual magic would activate this vision, making the odds in my favour.

Because that is all it was. Everything around us appeared real but it was not. Soon I, with Belle close behind, would reach the river where we would see the cruel father holding his son's head under the water, attempting to drown the wretch. Calling him as such may seem harsh of me but as I said, it was an illusion. A convincing one, maybe, but that changed nothing. And anyway, I didn't view the father as much better. Actually, he was worse. I knew what it was like to have an awful father, after all, so I guess that I should have been more sympathetic in regards to the son. If it were real, that is.

But, even though they were not real, they were still able to be controlled which was the crux of my plan. I wanted Belle to use magic, to control the father to stop him from murdering his son. And once she achieved this, she would then believe that this skill did not always have to be used in 'bad' ways, that she could use it for good. That was the only way to get her on side.

We reached the water in record time even though there was no need to hurry. But Belle was unaware of this and I did not wish to do anything to make her suspect anything.

Belle gasped as she saw the scene at the river's edge, and I put on my best shocked face. Luckily for me, I was adept in faking emotions. I'd had years to practise. Inside I was eager to see how she'd react to my test. I had a feeling that she would do exactly as I predicted. Now I would find out.

~ Belle ~

I was horrified by the scene I saw before me. The burly man was drowning his own son in the river. I needed to help before it was too late but I was unsure how. I had no strength or powers, after all, that was more Rumple's domain—and whose body was I currently residing in? I chided myself for my own stupidity. My excuse was that I was not accustomed to possessing magic of my own so I needed to be reminded but it sounded feeble, even to my own ears. But how would I do it? I knew that I could control the elements but I was unsure what I would od with them. My usually quick thinking mind had been overcome by sheer terror.

Should I part the water so the father would be unable to drown the poor child? Should I summon a weapon and fight that way? But no, that would be most unlike me. I didn't want either of them dead, I just wanted the boy safe. Fortunately for me, Rumple had the answer.

"You konw what you should do, don't you?" Rumple asked.

"No, I do not. I'm torn. I need your help, Rumple."

"You need my help, dearie? Are you sure of that?" He asked, with emphasis on the 'my.'

"What do you mean by that?"

"You are the one with the magic now, after all, not me. And consider what we were discussing, mere minutes ago."

"Do you mean about controlling others? I refuse to kill him, if that is what you are implying. And besides, you told me about using it to protect myself, I am not the one in danger."

"I did indeed say that but isn't protecting others by extension protecting oneself? After all, if you did not do so when you could, wouldn't you become so wracked with guilt that you'd be unable to function properly any more?"

"Well...that is true..." I mused.

"Exactly. So protect yourself – and the boy – by taking control of the father."

"But what shall I control him to do?"

"Baby steps, dearie. First you need to control his body and make him loosen his grip on the child."

"Okay." I said, feeling unsure of myself.

I knew that this was the right thing to do but still it felt...wrong. But I had no other choice. I could not allow this innocent boy to perish because of my own choices. I needed to act. Now.

"How do I gain control?" I asked.

"This is not a particularly difficult thing to do but you need to make me a promise."

"A promise?" I asked, confused. "What promise?"

"You need to promise that you will obey every command of mine without question. If not, I will not help you."

"But Rumple!"

"But nothing. I care not for this child's life, you do. Therefore you should make your choice and make it quickly."

"Fine." I said, peeved by Rumple's behaviour. "I promise."

"Okay then. Rip out his heart."

"Excuse me?" I asked, aghast.

"No questions." He replied bluntly.

"But Rumple!"

"You won't kill him, dearie. Just hold his beating heart in your hand and he will obey you completely."

"But nothing. I'll provide a distraction so you can get close to him."

"But-"

"Hey, you there!" Rumple shouted.

The man's head swivelled around instantly.

"Who are you?" He grunted.

"No one important." Rumple replied. "Who are you?"

As he said this, he beckoned me with his head to move. So I did.

Whilst he and Rumple were conversing, his attention had been completely diverted from the boy. This could work in my favour. Instead of having to kill him, I could simply rescue the boy and take him with us to freedom. So I deviated from the plan.

Unfortunately, even though it did not appear as though he had retained his iron grip on the boy, appearances can be deceiving and, in this case, they really were. As soon as I started tugging, his attention moved to me.

I could hear Rumple shouting at me but could not make out the words, my heart was beating so loudly in my chest. The man was now entirely focused on me. Any minute now, he would crush me to a pulp. Unless...

Even though I did not like the prospect of tearing out someone's heart, regardless of whether it would kill them or not, it was all I could do. So, as he advanced on me, I flung my hand at him, burying it in his chest. I closed my eyes whilst doing it, willing the heart to come free without causing death. I withdrew the heart with an enormous sigh of relief. I had done it.

What I saw surprised me. I was expecting his heart to be red as they should be, but this one was mostly black. That probably said a lot about his character. But I could not afford to dwell on that. I had work to do.

Even though I had never done this before, it turned out to be far easier than I had ever expected. But I did not know what that said about magic, or even me.

"Release the boy." I whispered, clutching the heart.

The man obeyed immediately, letting the boy go. He landed with a splash.

"Are you all right?" I asked, concerned, as he waded back on to land. He looked pale and weak and he was absolutely drenched but he was alive, at least.

"Go!" Rumple shouted to the boy.

"B-but father..." The boy began to protest.

"He almost killed you!" Rumple replied. "You are better off without him!"

"But!"

"Go, child." I said, softly. "Think of how he'll react once he's back in control of himself."

The boy did not need to be told twice and scurried away.

"What shall we do with him?" I asked.

Rumple opened his mouth to answer then abruptly paused. He then looked up at the sky, a grin forming on his face.

"What?" I questioned.

But he made no answer.

"Rumple?" I repeated. "What shall we do?"

"Kill him."

"No." I said.

"Yes." He replied.

"But..."

"But what? This man deserves ot die, you know this as well as I..."

"Well, I refuse..." I began, feeling uneasy by Rumple's tone.

"You refuse? Who said anything about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"What time do you think it is?"

"What do you-" I began, then realisation dawned. My time must almost be up.

Once I had returned to my own body, Rumple would be back in control and this man would definitely die. And, despite his cruelty, I wanted him to live. That was a flaw of mine, one which I intended to keep. It separated me from the monsters.

And that is exactly what Rumple was. A monster. No matter how much I denied it, it was the absolute truth. A monster who was used to getting his own way. But this time I would deny him of that. Or try my best to, at least.

"Rumple." I said, tone severe.

"Yes, dearie?" He answered, a smirk still on his lips.

"If you kill this man, that is it. I am leaving you. And I will never return."

Irritation flashed across his features. "But, dearie..."

"But nothing." I answered, firmly. "You are not the only one who can be in control, you know. Whilst I have power, I'm going to use it. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to understand why you loved magic so much, because of the wonderful things you could accomplish with it. But then you reminded me of the darker side, the side that almost lured me in but which I managed to escape from before it was too late.

Despite everything, Rumple dearie, I have indeed learned something."

"Which is?" He asked, curious.

"That I was correct all along. Magic corrupts. It might do it quickly to some, but slowly and stealthily to others. The latter was true in my case. I never even realised that it was happening to me and I am considered intelligent by most.

And, yes, you opened my eyes to a new way of living but the price of doing so was too much for me to pay. So I want to return all of this power back to its original owner – you. I may be plain and ordinary without magic but I am completely fine with that. At least I tried."

"Belle..."

"Rumple." I replied. "Even though I am still against magic, I am not against you. With that much power comes a lot of responsibility and whereas I could not handle that burden personally, you clearly can, even though your decisions and methods can be questionable at times."

"Thank you, Belle." Rumple said softly, surprising me.

"Thank you for what?"

"Thank you for finally understanding."

"Thank you for showing me a true insight into your mind."

"Let go of the heart, lay down, and close your eyes."

"Why?"

"We'll be changing forms soon and I'd rather you fell unconscious comfortably than falling to the ground and causing damage to your body."

"I see." I answered, before obeying.

I had barely set my head on the ground when darkness overtook me...

~ Rumple ~

I awoke, the last thing I remembered was watching Belle – in my body, of course – fall unconscious. As I got up, I spied myself in the river's reflection, the man now nowhere to be seen, as expected. I was myself again. Good ol' Rumplestiltskin – in body and mind. I could feel the tingly feeling of magic in my fingers. I had missed this.

"Rumple?" Belle murmured, rubbing her eyes.

"Yes, dearie?" I asked, as I pulled her to her feet.

"Can we go home?" She asked.

"Yes, of course." I answered, offering her my hand.

And so we strolled through the forest, back to our castle, hand in hand. It had been an eventful day and now we needed a proper rest.