A/N: All my thanks to everyone who reviewed, followed, and favorited Off Script. The first chapter of part four of this universe (Derailed), will be posted at the usual time next week.
Warnings: Discussion of rape
Chapter 32: Building on the Ashes
Rumplestiltskin watched the farmhouse burn. The voices in his head were a chorus of anger and dark glee, and he didn't even realize he'd been crying until his phone rang for the forth time, tearing his eyes away from the flames. He pulled the device from his pocket. Belle.
Not even thinking, he answered it. "Hel-hello?"
"Rumple! Rumple, is that you? Are you all right?"
His instinct was to lie, of course. He was a broken, pathetic thing, but there was no reason to burden his family with it. But she sounded so scared, and he was so tired. "No," he sobbed quietly.
"Where are you?" she asked urgently, "Are you hurt? Stay right were you are; we'll come to you."
"N-no, that's not… you don't have to do that."
"Rumple, please, where are you?"
He didn't want her here. He didn't want Bae here. He never wanted to see this place again. He snapped his fingers, and the flames extinguished. The charred frame of the house creaked in the chill wind, and the timbers started to splinter. Before it could collapse completely, he took himself away. He landed awkwardly, stumbling into the banister in the foyer of his home. His cane fell away with a clatter, so he clung to the newel post instead. "I'm here," he said quietly.
"Here…" He heard her heels clicking on the wooden floors, and he looked up, still clutching his phone and the post. "Rumple!"
She threw her arms around him briefly, then pulled back, her hands gripping his shoulders tightly. "What happened? Where did you go? We were so worried about you!"
Monster. Useless. All you do is cause them more pain.
"I'm sorry," he choked out.
She embraced him again and coaxed him to sit on the stair. "Sit here. I need to call Baelfire and tell him that you're here."
"He's not here?"
"No. He went to the shop to look for you." Rumplestiltskin inhaled sharply, knowing the wreckage he would find there. "When you weren't there," Belle continued, "He reached out to Tinker Bell, hoping that she could help us find you."
He'd made a terrible mess of things. But he always did, didn't he? "I'm sorry," he said again.
Belle rubbed his back. "We know. You were frightened; we understand that. But please, don't do that again. You scared the life out of us."
"I'm sorry," he said a third time, and she kissed his temple, then guided his head to rest against her shoulder.
"It's all right."
She called Bae, and the phone was close enough to his ear that he could hear both sides of the conversation. "Belle, have you heard something?" his boy asked.
"He's here, Bae; he came home."
"He did? Where the hell did he go? Did he… find Malcolm?"
"No," Rumplestiltskin said. Bae was angry. He should be.
You've ruined it. You gave up everything for him. Your power. Your freedom. It will never be enough. He doesn't love you. He never loved you.
Rumplestiltskin pulled away from Belle sharply. That's a lie! Belle stared at him, her bright, blue eyes filled with fear. "No, Bae, he didn't," she said, "Come home, please. I need you here," she said. I need you here.
She's afraid of you. She should be.
I would never hurt her.
You have. You threw her in a dungeon. You shook her like a ragdoll and threw her away like garbage. You betrayed her.
Rumplestiltskin started crying again. It was too much. The voices. The weight of his past deeds. The months of imprisonment and abuse. The persona he'd been clinging too crumbled to dust, and the only reason he did not vanish right then was that Belle had begged him not to. She deserved that much.
Features twisted in concern, Belle put her phone down and reached out to him. Too weak to spare her the monster, he let her pull him close. "Oh, Rumple, it's all right. You're here. We're safe. Everything will be fine."
No, it won't. It never was.
"I betrayed you," he confessed. Perhaps if she understood, she would save herself.
She didn't pull away, only asked, "What do you mean?"
"I didn't want to. She threatened Bae's life. I hated every moment, but she made me choose, Belle."
She did pulled away then, but only so far that she could look into his eyes. She cupped his cheek, her fingers surely pricking on the stubble growing there. He sobbed again. "Choose what?" she asked. He didn't answer. "Choose what, Rumple?" she asked again.
"Her. Choose her."
"Choose her how?" she was horrified now.
"S-sex," he managed to bite out.
"… Sex? She raped you?"
"No. I mean, yes, but not always. She didn't always use the dagger. I had a choice, Belle, I could have-"
"Risked Baelfire's life? No, no, no. Darling, darling, listen to me. You did nothing wrong. This was not your fault, none of it. You did not betray me."
"To save Bae. That's rape, Rumple, it wasn't your fault."
"Rumple, what if it were me? What of that disgusting Sherriff Nottingham had demanded I sleep with him or else he would kill my father? Would you call that anything but rape?"
The very thought of someone doing that to his precious Belle make Rumplestiltskin shrivel up from the horror of it and rage with the desire to see that person dead. The voices of his curse laughed and cheered him on.
Kill him! Destroy him! Protect what's yours!
"Rumple, Rumple are you there? Answer me."
"Do you see? Do you understand? You did nothing wrong. It was her; she is the monster."
He crumpled again, his body wracked by hideous sobs. Belle, sweet, forgiving, amazing Belle, just pulled him close and rocked him like a babe. "You're here. You're safe now. She'd dead. She can't hurt any of us anymore. You're safe. You're safe…"
I'm not. None of us are.
But he couldn't tell her that. Too tired to fight anymore, he simply sat there and cried.
Bae ran the rest of the way home. He'd send Tink back to the party with a message for David and Mary Margaret. His father had been found, and they were to stay away until they heard from him. Bae didn't know exactly what was going on with his father, but he had an idea, and it would be no good for anyone if his father was subjected to another interrogation.
When Bae opened the front door, he found Papa and Belle sitting on the staircase, his father sobbing as if the world had ended. He'd never done that before, at least not where Bae could see. Even when Bae was going to be drafted Papa had always had a plan, something to try to stave off disaster.
And there had been the rages. Bae had seen his father undone by anger, entirely consumed by the curse that possessed him. But not this. Not sadness. Not despair. Papa didn't hear him come in, but Belle looked up, gesturing for Bae to come closer. He crouched down next to them.
His father jumped when Bae asked, "Papa?" and placed a hand on his back.
"Bae!" Papa stared at him with wide, frightened eyes.
"Yes, Papa, I'm here. I need to ask you something, and whatever you tell me I'll believe you, all right?"
"Did you hurt anyone?"
"No! No, Bae, I swear! We have a deal!" Bae hugged him fiercely.
"I believe you. I believe you." He did. Papa wouldn't be like this if he'd hurt somebody. He wouldn't be like this if he had killed Zelena. He'd hurt people to feel powerful; he obviously did not feel powerful now.
"Bae, I swear…"
"I know. I believe you. You promised, and I believe you. I trust you. You said you'd stop and you did. You saved us. I trust you." He was as much the spinner as the Dark One now. He was the man that done everything in his power to give him a childhood full of love, the man that had succumbed to his curse, and the man that spent 300 years clawing his way back from it.
"It's all right. We'll figure this out." His chin hooked over his father's shoulder, Bae could smell smoke on Papa's clothing. But he refused to jump to conclusions. Obviously, something had happened, but with Ingrid and Malcolm about, Bae was unwilling to let his faith be shaken. He'd lived that way for a long, long time; he didn't think he'd survive having to live that way again.
Belle embraced Papa from behind, and they sat that way for quite a while, the three of them crowded together on a too small step. Eventually, Papa began to stir, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe his eyes. Bae stood up and held out his hands. Papa stared at them blankly for a moment before taking them, and Bae pulled him to his feet. Another brief embrace, and Belle asked. "Rumple, can you tell us where you went?"
"You were looking for Malcolm," Bae supplied, "You took all the tracking potion from the shop."
"I… yes. I thought… I went to the farmhouse. It's the only place I could have possibly found a personal item of his."
"And I take it you didn't?"
Papa shook his head. "No. There was nothing."
"So you burned it down?" Bae asked quietly. Papa froze and looked at him. "I can smell the smoke," he said.
"…Yes. But only the house, Bae, I swear. There was no one there; not a soul."
"I know. I said I believe you and I do. Believe me?" It might have been asking too much, after how suspicious he'd been for so long, but Papa had always hoped they could move past it. Now that they had, he could believe it, right?
Papa tried to smile. "Of course. Of course, I believe you, Bae."
Papa always responded better to touch. Bae wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "We'll figure this out. We'll find them."
"Them?" Papa asked.
"Malcolm and Ingrid," Belle supplied, taking Papa's hand.
"Ingrid… of course. Of course!"
"Can you track Ingrid?" Bae asked.
"I can try, but our attempts in the Enchanted Forest failed. I… I don't know what to do next."
"Come into the kitchen," Belle said, "I'll make us some tea, and we can figure it out. You don't have to do this alone, Rumple." He looked at her, head bowed with guilt, and nodded. She smiled and kissed his cheek.
"Don't leave again," Bae said, "After everything, you don't get to do that."
"Bae, I didn't mean…"
"I know. I know you didn't. But you need to let us in. You need to let us know what's going on. We're family, Papa, we need to support each other."
Bae thought Papa might start crying again, but he didn't. He simply followed Belle into the kitchen and started making tea. Bae made coffee. They were in for a long night.
"It's a bit overwhelming isn't it?" Elsa asked, as the woman Emma had rescued gaped at the unfamiliar machines and buildings of Storybrooke. "My name is Elsa, what's yours?"
Emma stopped walking. "Marion? And Regina was going to… you wouldn't happen to be married to a man named Robin Hood, would you?"
"Do you know him? Is he here?" she asked eagerly.
Oh. Oh, dear.
"Yes," Elsa said. "He's here. And your son."
"Roland? My baby? He survived?"
"Yeah," Emma said. "There's something you should know..."
Marion swallowed hard. "He married someone else, didn't he? Robin thought I was dead, and he married someone else."
"Oh, they're not married," Elsa said hastily.
"Oh, that's good then. But he has a new lover? I can't blame him. He must have been lonely. I don't even know how long it's been."
"That's… kind of a complicated question to answer," Emma said. "But yeah, he does. The thing is… his new lover is… well, it's Regina."
Marion glared at her. "Is that some kind of joke? It's not funny. My husband would never take up with the woman he thought murdered me. Unless… did she enchant him? You must help me save him!"
"It's not a joke. And she did not enchant him," Emma said. "At least I don't think she did…"
"She didn't," Elsa said. "You didn't see them together during the missing year. She was more wary of him than he was of her."
"I can't… I can't believe this!" Marion cried. "It's not possible that my Robin would willingly… be with that woman!"
"You know what? Why don't I call Robin?" Emma offered. "He can meet us and explain."
"Call?" Marion asked.
"With this," Emma pulled out her phone.
"I'll call David," Elsa said, "They're expecting us, but they should know, well…"
"I don't understand," Marion said. "You say you have allied with the Dark One. You say that my husband and the Evil Queen are lovers. What kind of mad future is this?"
"One with larger threats that some of us… former villains have agreed to help fight," Hook said.
Marion looked at his hook then at his face and moved back a step. "You… and how many innocent people have you killed?"
Hook glanced at Emma briefly. "Too many."
Marion took another step back, looking from Hook to Emma to Elsa. "And what about the two of you?"
"None," Elsa said quickly. "I know it's hard to understand, but Regina and Rumplestiltskin have reformed. They are our allies."
"And what about him?" she asked of Hook.
"He's useful occasionally," Emma drawled.
"Swan, you flatter me," Hook said with a flirtatious smile. Emma rolled her eyes.
"How can you agree to work with these, these monsters?!" Marion demanded.
"Because we needed them. And because… there was a time that I thought I was a monster," Elsa said.
"What do you mean? You said you weren't like them!"
"It's true that I never hurt anyone on purpose - not anyone innocent, anyway. But I do have magic, and when I was younger, I could not control it. The only way I learned to was to have someone believe in me. My sister. If she had not believed in me, I would have become a monster."
Marion shook her head. "You don't understand. You don't know her. The Evil Queen slaughtered entire villages for fun. She enjoyed it. She terrorized us, and now she's taken my husband! You cannot trust her!"
"I understand why you feel that way," Elsa said, and she thanked Archie in her head for teaching her how to speak about emotions with other people. "Regina has done terrible, terrible things. But she also saved us from her sister, a witch who was going to destroy us all. We could not have succeeded without her."
Elsa heard Emma on the phone, quietly conferring with Robin. Hook watched, clearly not knowing what to do or say. Not the Elsa was sure she was saying the right thing either. "I know Robin," Elsa continued, "I know he missed you. He will be so happy to know that you are alive."
"Are you certain?" Marion asked.
"Yes, I'm certain," Elsa assured her.
Emma finished her call. "Robin said he'd meet us at the Sherriff's Station. He's going to let Regina know what's going on. And he's bringing Roland."
"Roland. My baby. He won't remember me. He was so young…"
"You can make new memories," Elsa offered, but Marion just looked at her oddly.
The rest of the walk to the Sherriff's Station was extremely uncomfortable.
"She what?!" Regina demanded.
"She brought back Marion. From the past," Robin said.
"Why would she… no, no you don't need to answer that. Of course she would do that. Abandon all logic in the name of 'making things right'!"
"Regina-" David began.
"Don't you dare, Charming! Your daughter jeopardized the entire timeline with her rank idiocy. I'm done." Regina looked at Robin. She'd known what it meant for them as soon as he had explained. Marion was his first love, the woman who made him more than a common thief. She was Roland's mother. There was no place for Regina in his life, not as long as Marion was alive. "Do what you need to do," she told him. "But don't contact me again."
She grabbed her coat and left. Zelena was dead, the portal neutralized, and the life Regina had finally thought she was going to be able to have had been torn away at the last minute anyway. Villains don't get happy endings.
Regina turned. It wasn't Robin. The puppet was running after her. "What do you want?"
"You look like you're about to make a bad life decision, and I'm overdue for one. I thought you could use some company."
"Are you coming on to me?" she demanded. Yes, he was a sex-crazed degenerate, but he'd never directed it at her before. He knew what she could do to him, and the puppet was, at his core, a coward.
"What? No! Not that you're not, you know, very attractive," he babbled, "But I know you would regret it in the morning, and then you would make me regret it in the morning. I meant booze. Lots and lost of booze."
"You want to have a drink with me," she said flatly.
"I get the feeling that you're going to need a lot more than one."
Hell yes. "What are you dong?" she demanded. "You and I are not friends."
"That's no problem; most of the people I've gotten drunk with were not my friends."
He had a strange eager schoolboy look about him, utterly at odds with what he was proposing. And he wasn't flirting with her either. She knew what his flirting looked like (the entire town knew what he flirting looked like). "No offense… actually, yes, I do mean offence. Go away. I don't want your pity, and I sure as hell don't need romantic advice from Woody the wonder slut."
He blinked once than started laughing. "That's great. Can that me my title now?"
"Did you hear me? Get lost!"
"Do I get a cape?"
He sighed. "Look, we're not friends, not in the traditional sense of the word…"
"Not in any sense of the word."
"…but I'm not going to let you get drunk alone."
"Who said anything about me getting drunk?"
"You mean that wasn't your plan?"
"What plan? You think I have a plan? I just found out… why am I talking to you? You, of all people, could never understand!"
"Never understand what? Thinking that everything is going to be OK and then having it go to shit? Because that has actually happened to me. A couple of times."
"And that was my fault - the Evil Queen's fault. So I repeat: why are you here?"
"Actually, it wasn't your fault."
"I cast the curse!"
"The curse didn't send me here, remember? You didn't send me through the wardrobe. You didn't make me fuck up my second chance to help Emma. And you didn't make it so that breaking the curse did not cure me. But you did bring magic back, so thanks for that. That made the whole wood thing a lot more comfortable, you know."
"So you're the one person in town I haven't personally screwed over. Is that why they sent you?"
"No one sent me. I just think-"
"Listen!" she said, pointing a finger at him. "You may have told a few fibs and run away from your responsibilities, but you have no idea what it is to come back from being the Evil Queen. I killed people."
"And I almost did. I mean, I was willing to."
She gaped. "What are you talking about?"
He sighed and shifted nervously but answered her question nonetheless. "When I thought I was dying. The Dragon in Hong Kong. He agreed to cure me, but I didn't have the money. So I stole it. Turns out that I stole it from the magic hunter that was there to kill him, but I didn't know that at the time. I thought she was there to cure her cancer, and I stole it anyway. When she showed up in town I was so relieved-"
"And that's the difference between you and me!" Regina said. "I am not relived! I am angry! I don't regret killing that woman before, or any of them, because that's what led me here, to what I thought was going to be my happy ending!"
"OK. That's… terrifying. But why are you telling me this?"
She stalked closer and hissed in his face, "So that you will go away and leave me alone!"
He stood his ground and tiled his head. "No. No, that's not the reason. You can teleport. If all you wanted was to get away from me, you'd be home by now. No, I think what you really want to know is if I will leave after you tell me something like that. You're expecting me to. But I don't think I will."
"You should. It's not wise to be around me right now." She should have left. She didn't know why she didn't.
He only smiled. "I'm not known for doing the wise thing. Come on, what's your drink? Whiskey? Apple martinis?"
"Are you somehow under the impression that you are funny? Because you are not."
"I'll be funny after a few drinks."
Regina snorted. "Unlikely." But still she stayed.
He smiled. "Come on," he said.
"Where? Not that dive bar."
"Hey, don't knock the Rabbit Hole. They've reached that perfect balance of wanting your money and complete apathy regarding anything else about you. It's the ideal place to get drunk."
Getting drunk did sound appealing. And there was something pathetic in doing it all alone in a too-empty mansion. If there was anything Regina still had left, it was her self-respect. "If you try anything fresh with me, turning to wood will be the least of your problems."
He smiled. "Understood."
He turned towards the docks, and she followed him.
"Where's Gold?" Emma asked once they reached the Sherriiff's station. Regina was missing too, but Robin was there waiting for them, so she assumed that he had broken the news. He took Marion's hands and stared at her eyes as if to convince himself that she was real.
"Regina accused him of murdering Zelena, and he disappeared," Anna explained with her usual lack of tact. "Bae and Belle went after him. He was upset."
Emma sighed, pinching her nose. Just what we need. "And I take it Regina left?"
Robin nodded. "August went after her," Anna explained.
"She was upset."
"Is it true?" Marion asked Robin. "Were you… with that woman?"
Robin sighed. "Yes. She is a very different person now than she was before."
"She killed me. Would have killed me. It's all so confusing…"
"You made me a better person," he said. "Wanted to do the same for her. Marion, please, come see Roland. He's with Little John at the diner."
Robin smiled sadly. "I can explain everything. Please, come with me."
Marion smiled bravely and took his arm. "All right." On their way out, she looked back at Emma and Hook. "Thank you," she said. "For saving my life."
"Not a problem," Emma said. Maybe it was, but she was not going to apologize for it. She'd lowered Regina's body count by one, and if Regina really was on the straight and narrow now, she ought to at least appreciate that.
But it sucked, having a relationship implode. Emma knew that. She hoped drinks with August would help Regina keep her head. Henry finally had his adopted mom back, and the last thing Emma needed was another enemy. "So what are we doing about Gold?" Emma asked David.
David sighed. "He's the Dark One again. There's really nothing we can do, if he doesn't want to let us. I say let Bae and Belle handle it; he'll listen to them."
"I take it you don't think he did it?"
"Our theory now is Ingrid. Apparently, she was pretty upset about what Zelena did you Elsa's magic and yours."
"That's right!" Anna said.
"And I take it no one has been to her place yet?"
"No," David answered.
"Fine, I'll go. You should probably get back to the party; tell Mary Margaret what's going on. And did anyone pick up Henry?"
"Ruby went, but I should go with you."
"No, we will," Elsa said. "It's your son's Naming Day, David, you should be with Snow."
"Are you sure?"
"We've got it," Emma said.
"OK. Don't be long; I'm not going to be the one to explain to Mary Margaret why you're not there."
Emma smiled. "We won't. I'm not missing my little brother's naming ceremony for anything." Not even a murder investigation.
It should be over. Why isn't it over?
But Emma knew the answer to that. She was the Savior; it would never, never be over. But she wasn't going to run from it. She was done running. "I don't suppose you could use an extra hand, love?" Hook asked her hopefully.
David paused on his way out the door to hear her response. She'd already decided to give Hook a second chance, but that didn't mean she was going to make it easy for him. She smiled. "We're good. Why don't you go with David? You can fill him in."
David and Hook exchanged skeptical looks. "Fill him in on what?" Anna asked.
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Bandits. A prison break. Crashing a royal ball." Emma wasn't usually one to play games, but Hook was, and it seemed only fair to give him a taste of his own medicine. As he struggled for the words to explain himself to David, Emma gave him a shit-eating grin and gestured for Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff to follow her. As she walked past, Hook smiled back.
"So, what do you want to do?" Belle asked Rumple, reaching out to lay her hand on his wrist. She was horrified to learn what Zelena had done to him but was equally determined to show him that he was safe now. She'd never wished death on anyone before, but she was glad that Zelena was dead. And that, too, horrified her.
He took her hand and looked up from the chipped cup sitting innocently in front of him. "If it were a matter of want, Sweetheart, Ingrid and Malcolm would already be caught. I don't know what step to take next." She had no answers for him.
Bae stomach growled and they both looked at him. He shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry."
But Rumple smiled. "Now that is a problem I can solve." They'd taken an hour that afternoon to go grocery shopping, and the cupboards were once again full. He took a sip of his tea and stood up. "What would you like?"
His eyes were still red-rimmed, his hands shaking the barest degree. This was him coping, she knew, taking back his power by taking care of them. She'd done it herself after the hospital and again after Rumple had gone missing.
Bae shrugged and smiled back. "Omelets?"
Rumple's smiled deepened. There was a story there that Rumple had never told her. Tonight she would ask. Forget about Ingrid and Malcolm; tonight Rumple needed to care for himself.
"Impressive," Malcolm said, staring at the ice palace around them.
Ingrid already knew that she didn't like the man. He was crude and she'd caught him staring at her behind once already. But he was useful. The father of Rumplestiltskin?
The Apprentice had told her that Rumplestiltskin would be her ally and provided the piece of information she was meant to offer him for his cooperation. Clearly, things had not gone according to plan, but his father would just have to do. Nothing was going to keep Ingrid from being with her sisters.
She smiled at him. "Oh, you haven't seen anything yet."
He grinned back. "Then let's get on with it, Lassie."
END PART 3