A/N: So...this is my first attempt at any OUAT fanfiction, let alone Swanfire, so I hope no one is too wildly OOC. Basically, this is how I think 3 x 15 should have gone. My AU, or at least the start of it. I hope you all enjoy :)
Disclaimer: I don't own OUAT. Wish I did, though.
Once she had accepted her unfortunate fate of being stuck with the pirate as her "guard", Belle decided to put him to work. She didn't need anyone to guard her, she could take care of herself, but she also knew Emma needed to be able to look for Rumple without any hindrances, so she decided to make the best of the situation. With a sigh, she finally addressed the only other person in the shop.
"You might as well make yourself useful," she said, handing him a duster.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Hook asked indignantly.
"It means that I'm putting you to work."
"I was instructed to guard you. I shouldn't be distracted."
"I don't need a guard," she informed him. "I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. You, on the other hand, need to stop being in the way."
"I am not 'in the way', as you so kindly put it."
"I disagree. However, I'm not going to stand here and argue with you all day. I have things I need to get done and you're going to help me. After that insincere apology you just muttered a few minutes ago, it's the least you can do to start to make amends. I'm only letting you supposedly guard me as a favor to Emma."
"She shouldn't be out there alone."
Belle rolled her eyes before pointing to the bookshelf in the corner.
"Dust," she commanded.
After nearly a half an hour of dusting, Hook turned to see Belle standing behind the counter, re-arranging various items around her.
"You're not finished," she told him.
"There's no need to be so hostile," he complained.
"You tried to kill me. Multiple times. You also tried to kill Rumple, again multiple times, and you sold Neal to the lost boys when he was just a teenager, condemning him to years on that horrible island. You gained his trust by leading him to believe you thought of him as your son, but the minute you two disagreed on something, that was the end of that. You aided his mother in leaving him, letting him think she was dead, and now you think it's perfectly acceptable to go after the woman he loves. All without uttering a single sincere apology. You might be able to fool some of the other into thinking you've changed and that you want to be a hero now, but you can't fool me. You're still a villain, who also seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Rumple and his family."
"Your precious Rumple isn't exactly innocent himself, you know."
"I'm well aware of everything he's done."
"Yet you still choose to be with him."
"I love him, even the parts that belong to the darkness. I don't agree with his past actions, but he has tried to make amends to those he can and he's a different man now. If you had been in his position, can you really say you would have done things differently? You spent hundreds of years seeking revenge. You wanted to kill Rumple the way he killed Milah."
"Are you always so bloody logical?" Hook demanded, clearly irritated.
"Yes," Belle replied calmly, keeping her face neutral although she could tell she had struck a nerve.
"I loved her. He took her from me. Am I not allowed to be angry about that?"
"I never said that. I don't agree with the fact that you helped Milah deceive her family, and I don't agree with the way Rumple handled things when he found out, but I do think that you must have loved her a great deal."
"What of it? None of it matters now. She's gone and she isn't coming back," Hook snapped before returning to his assigned task.
"Did she love Baelfire?" Belle inquired a few moments later as she cautiously approached him.
"Yes. She would often talk about going back for him."
"Then don't you think she would want you to help find him, to make sure he's happy?"
"I have been helping."
"No. You've been following Emma around and pining after her. You were fighting with Neal and hindering the search for Henry. We're all grateful that you were able to bring Emma back, but that doesn't automatically clear you of any past wrongdoings."
"So you're suggesting I just give up the fight for Emma's heart?"
Belle resisted the urge to roll her eyes again before she answered.
"I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but I will tell you that it's clear how Emma and Neal feel about one another. There is no fight for her heart. She's not an object to fight over or to win. She's a living, breathing, human being with feelings. She's the only one who gets to decide who she wants to be with. I know you don't want to see it, and she may not be ready to admit it, but she's already made that decision."
Before either could say anything else, they were interrupted by the sound of Belle's cell phone ringing. As she went to answer it, Hook once again returned to his assigned task, this time thinking about everything she had just said.
Hearing her name, Emma turned to see that the person who had called out to her was exactly who she thought it was.
"Neal," she breathed as she quickly made her way over to him.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked.
"Looking for your father-he escaped from the wicked witch. She had him locked in a cellar."
"How do you know he was the one being held there?"
"There was straw and a spinning wheel. It wasn't hard to connect the dots."
"You shouldn't be out here by yourself. What if that witch decided to attack?"
"I can take care of myself."
"I know, but that doesn't mean people can't worry about you."
"By people you mean you?"
Emma smiled a little at Neal's admission. It always surprised her how quickly they could fall back into sync with one another. It was like they'd never been apart.
"So…is Henry here with you?" Neal asked as they began to walk together.
"Yes-he's with my parents right now," Emma answered, pausing before telling Neal the bad news. "There's something you should know about him, though."
"Is he okay?"
"He's fine. It's just…he doesn't remember you. He doesn't have his real memories back yet."
"I'm sorry...I know you want to see him…"
"I'm just happy he's okay. Was he happy in New York?"
"Yes. He was doing well in school and he had a lot of friends there. We had a good life, we were happy. Well, except for the part where I almost married a flying monkey."
"If it makes you feel any better, I was engaged to the minion of my evil grandfather, Peter Pan," Neal replied with a small smile.
Emma returned his smile with one of her own before she spoke again.
"At least I know you understand. I guess we haven't had much luck in love."
"Maybe that means something," Neal commented, watching Emma out of the corner of his eye for her reaction.
"Neal…" Emma began, though she was unsure what exactly she planned on saying. She couldn't deny that she still loved the man in front of her, but it seemed like there was always something getting in the way of them trying to make peace with their past.
"I know this isn't the time or place to talk about everything we need to talk about, but I need you to know that I will always be there for you. Whatever you need, whatever Henry needs, I'll do whatever I can to help."
"I'm still not sure that I also shouldn't be looking for a way to restore Henry's memories."
"Speaking of that, who does he think your parents are? I'm pretty sure he would think you were crazy if you told him they were Snow White and Prince Charming."
"Apparently we were cellmates in jail. She was in for banditry."
"I take it that wasn't your idea?" Neal gathered, unable to help but smile at the story.
"Uh, no. That would my mother's," Emma replied, finding Neal's smile infectious.
"Well, it should make for an interesting story once Henry regains his memories."
"He'll probably just admire her for her creativity."
A short while later, when their search turned up no sign of the witch, Emma decided to check in with Belle to see if anything had happened in town. As she was talking to the other woman, she saw Neal fall to his knees as he held his head in his hands.
"Neal!" she cried, her phone falling out of her hand as she rushed to his side.
"Voices, too many voices," Neal chanted as he squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to make snse of what was going on his head.
"What voices? What are you talking about?"
"I can hear my father's voice. It's like he's inside of me…"
As she attempted to comprehend what Neal was telling her, Emma saw his face morph before her eyes. First it was Neal, his pain evident on his face, and then it was a combination of his face and his father's, before finally settling back to just Neal's.
"You have to use your magic, Emma. You have to separate us."
"What? I can't do that. I'll get Regina…"
"You can do this, Emma. I know you can."
Not knowing how much time was left before the voices came back, Emma nodded, taking Neal's hands and clutching them tightly. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the task at hand, just as Rumple had taught her.
At Rumple's words, Emma's eyes flew open. Rumple was now sitting a few feet from his son, who suddenly seemed unnaturally pale.
"Neal!" she exclaimed as he collapsed into her arms.
"Bae!" Rumple repeated, immediately making his way to Neal's side.
"What's happening to him?" Emma demanded.
"I brought him back," Neal answered weakly.
"You can't leave me. Henry hasn't even seen you yet."
"It's okay. I know he'll remember me eventually."
"No, it's not okay," Emma told him as she cradled him closer. Looking up at Rumple with eyes that were quickly filling with tears, she posed her next question. "Isn't there anything you can do?"
"There is one spell that could work…but I need the book that contains it…and that I don't have," Rumple answered regretfully as he clutched his son's hand tightly.
"Emma," Neal whispered, gaining his love's attention again as he pulled a silver chain out of his coat pocket. "I saved this for you. As a reminder of our life together."
Looking at the swan keychain hanging from the chain, Emma felt her tears begin to fall.
"Stop talking like that," she commanded, pressing her forehead to his. "You can't leave me. I need you. Henry needs you. I love you."
"I love you, too. I want you to be happy, to find Tallahassee. Even if it's not with me."
"It will be with you."
Watching his son and the woman he had hoped would one day be his daughter-in-law together, Rumple felt his heart break for them. He knew they were meant for each other, and that if one were to die, it would leave a whole in the other's heart that no one else would ever be able to fill. If only he had a way to get them all back to his shop in time. He was sure there was something there that could help. He debated calling Belle, but he had no idea where his cell phone was and he wasn't going to interrupt Emma to ask to use hers. When he heard her voice a few moments later, he could have sworn he was hearing things.
"Belle?" he asked when he saw her approach, Ruby not far behind her.
"When I heard Emma scream, I knew something was wrong. I had to find Emma. Ruby helped me track her."
"I need to get Bae back to the shop. It's the only way I can help him."
"Is there time for that?" Ruby wondered.
"The only way to stop him from dying right now is a sleeping potion," Rumple answered.
"I thought Emma might need some magical help as well, so I grabbed what I could find in a short amount of time," Belle told him, holding up his potion case.
Reaching for the case, Rumple quickly unlocked it and then found what he was looking for.
"Emma," he said, addressing the blonde haired woman at his son's side. When she looked up at him with tear-filled eyes that clearly reflected how she was feeling, he struggled to keep himself composed. "Have him drink this."
Knowing there was no time to argue, Emma took the small vile from Rumple and held it up to Neal's lips.
"Drink this," she commanded in the best no-nonsense tone she could manage. When Neal did what she asked, only to close his eyes and slump against her a few moments later, she raised her eyes to Rumple once more. "What did you do to him?"
"It's a sleeping curse," he explained. "It's the only thing I could think of that would buy us some time."
"How are we going to get him back to the shop?" Belle asked as she stood.
"I could go get David and a couple of the others," Ruby volunteered.
"I'll go with you."
When she returned to the shop to check on Hook, Belle was surprised to find everything still in its place and that he was still dusting.
"Did you find Emma?" he asked.
"Yes. She found Neal…and Rumple. It's a long story. He's under a sleeping curse right now, to stop him from dying. We need to get him back here so Rumple can find a way to completely stop him from dying. If you want to be a hero so badly and if you truly care about Neal, now would be a good time to start helping."
"You want me to carry Neal back here?"
"To help do that, yes. Ruby went to get David. I'm sure between the two of you, it's manageable."
"Right," Hook replied. "Lead on, then, milady."
"I was a princess back home, actually," Belle corrected as she opened the door, quickly locking it after Hook had joined her outside. "We're supposed to meet Ruby at the diner, so let's go."
Running into the diner, Ruby was disappointed when she saw that David, Snow, and Henry had already left.
"What's the rush, girl?" Granny asked.
"It's Neal. He needs help. We need to get him back to Gold's shop. I came back to get David, but he already left."
"You found Neal?" a new voice asked from a short distance away.
"Emma did, really, but yes," Ruby answered. "Who are you?"
"I'm Robin, a friend of Neal's from back home. If your Granny is willing to keep an eye on my son, I'll help you."
"Will you, Granny?" Ruby asked her grandmother.
"Of course. Now, go. The sooner you get back, the better."
Ruby nodded, waiting as patiently as she could while Robin exchanged a few short words with his son before joining her at the front of the diner. As they exited the building, they saw Hook and Belle approach. Within minutes, the foursome was quickly returning to the forest where Neal, Emma, and Rumple were waiting.
As they waited for Belle and Ruby to return with help, Emma and Rumple sat in silence, neither really sure what to say to the other.
"What is that?" Rumple inquired, breaking the silence and nodding his head towards the chain Emma was clutching in her hand.
"It's a keychain Neal got for me when we first together," Emma answered softly. "I put it on a chain years ago and I wore it as a necklace. I told myself it was a reminder to never let myself get hurt like that again, but that's not true. I kept hoping he would come back to me, that we tell me he regretted leaving me and that he wanted to be with me."
"You love him. Why are you not willing to be with him?"
"It's not that simple. Our past is…complicated."
"Whose isn't?" Rumple countered. "If you truly love each other, you'll work through it."
Emma looked down at the man currently in a sleep-like state in her arms. She knew that she loved him, but facing all of the feelings that talking about their past would bring up scared the hell out of her. Regardless of whether or not they decided to give their romantic relationship another chance, they would still have to hash everything out eventually.
"Do you really believe that?" Emma asked him softly.
"Yes. Being with Belle has made me realize what it's like to truly love someone and to be loved in return. I can only hope that my son will feel that way about me again someday."
"He loves you. He wants to forgive you. He always sees the good in people. I guess that's where Henry gets his optimism from."
"He always did remind me of Bae," Rumple admitted. "It just never occurred to me that you two would have met, let alone have a child together, so I never thought anything of it."
"Henry wasn't exactly planned, but I can't regret having him. He's a part of me, a part of Neal. He seems to take after his father mostly, though. I don't want to have to tell him his father is dead. Not again. I won't."
"I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that doesn't happen, even if I have to give my own life in the process."
"He'd be devastated. I know he was heartbroken when you died, but he tried to be strong for Henry and for Belle."
"You know so much about him, and yet you can't see that being with him would be worth it?"
"I know it would be," Emma said softly, hugging Neal close. "I'm just scared."
"If true love was easy, everyone would have it."
Emma nodded, knowing that if she tried to talk again she would end up crying again. She needed to be strong. They would find a way to save him. As wary as of using it as she still was, she would use whatever magical pull she could muster if it meant he wouldn't die.
When the group of four reached the group of three in the forest, questions immediately flew.
"What happened to him?" Hook asked.
"Is he going to be okay?" Robin wondered.
"He tried to sacrifice his life for mine, but I was able to temporarily save him by absorbing him using the magic from my dagger," Rumple explained. "I put him under a sleeping curse to stop him from dying this time around."
"Well, well, well, isn't this a touching family reunion," a voice, seemingly from out of nowhere, cackled. "It's really too bad I have to interrupt it."
"What the hell?" Emma demanded.
"It's the witch," Rumple told her. "Zelena. She's the witch."
At Rumple's revelation, Emma's head shot up.
"My parents," she said.
"I'm on it," Ruby told her. "Don't worry. You take care of Neal."
Ruby nodded, wishing her friends luck before she began to run back to town, hoping she would get there in time. She wasn't going to let anything happen to one of her best friends if she could help it. Even though Snow's quick to trust nature was one of the things she liked most about her, and what had allowed their friendship to form in the first place, it could also get her into trouble quite easily.
After Hook, Robin, and Emma had helped carry Neal to the car parked at the edge of the woods, Belle turned to own love to see that he seemed to be struggling against something.
"Rumple!" she cried.
"The dagger," he managed to reply before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
"What happened?" Robin asked as he approached.
"He disappeared. He said something about the dagger and then he disappeared."
"The one that has the power to control him," Hook answered. "The witch must have it."
At Hook's words, Belle suddenly felt dizzy. Clutching her head, she leaned against Robin for support as images flashed before her eyes. She saw herself and Neal in the library of the castle in the Enchanted Forest, and then finally what happened to the dagger after Rumple had used it to save his son.
"Belle?" Robin asked a few moments later, when she seemed to be better.
"I remember what happened. I think I know what Rumple was going to do to save Neal. We need to go back to the shop. Then I'm going to get that dagger. 'Are you Mrs. Gold?' she asks. She knew exactly who I was. She's not going to get away with this."
"Then let's get going. The sooner we save Neal, the sooner we can save his father."
Belle nodded, walking over to where Emma stood near Rumple's car. She could see Neal lying in the back seat.
"I want you to take my car back to town, I need to stay with Neal," Emma said, handing her keys to the other woman. "Take Hook, will you? I'm sorry to do this to you again, but I know you can keep him in line."
Belle smiled and nodded, now aware of Emma's true motive for leaving Hook with her in the first place. Walking over to the pirate in question, she grabbed his coat sleeve and began leading him towards Emma's yellow bug.
"If you want to sit with him, I can drive," Robin volunteered.
"Thanks," Emma replied, gently moving Neal's head onto her lap as she slid into the backseat.