Her life came flooding back to her the second she placed the tea cup back onto the table and swallowed the liquid. Her tea cup. Their tea cup. On his table, in the back of the shop she had learned so well, a shop that had begun to feel like home. It was a strange feeling, in some ways it was like nothing had changed, like she'd only just woken up from a very long nap. In other ways, she knew everything had changed. She was back, she was herself, and she remembered...everything.
She didn't feel alone in her own head any more. There was someone else...Lacey. And the girl wasn't just in her head, she was on her body, in her life! She was wearing Lacey's clothes, her hair was tied in the knot that Lacey had put there...and in front of her was the man she loved, the man Lacey hadn't. She had told him time and time again that she loved him, done remarkable things to prove it, but now she could also remember telling him that she didn't love him and all the hideous demonstrations she'd committed to prove that to him as well. The voice in the memory was hers, so were the words had come from her mouth, but they simply didn't belong to her. She looked up at him timidly, wondering what he would think of her now, and watched as tears suddenly sprang to his eyes. She recognized them at once, though she'd never seen them before: tears of hope.
"Belle?" he asked, his voice no more than a broken whisper.
She nodded, confirming that the nightmare he'd been living was over, that he had nothing to fear, she was back, and she was going to stay that way. She was halfway to him when she realized that she was crying too. "My Rumple!" she mumbled before throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him passionately, her fingers tangling in his hair as she let him grip her tighter. This was how that night at the town line should have ended. A passionate, joyful, and relieved kiss like this one. She wanted to go on, as they might have then, she wanted more than this one kiss but he pulled away from her.
"I'm so sorry," he cried. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to wake you up to die!" A burst of fear grew in her chest. How could she have forgotten? She was back, but another problem remained, only now of course it made more sense than when Lacey had dominated her life. The town was in the process of being destroyed, and they, along with everyone else in Storybrooke, would soon be dead! The moment might have been passionate, but it wasn't joyful. "But I needed you," he admitted in a broken voice, looking at her like she was his last hope in the world, like he needed her to understand.
The fear melted away at his words and she reached out to move a lock of hair away from his tearful eyes. She did understand, she just didn't know what to say or do. "You lost your son," she stated, her voice breaking at the same time his face fell. Baelfire, Neal, was dead. She remembered that statement clearly, but the full weight of it hadn't hit Lacey the way it did here. Neal wasn't just some long lost son he had a complicated relationship with. He was Baelfire. He was the long lost son and though she had no idea what had passed between the two of them in her absence she knew that "complicated" didn't quite begin to describe what happened between them. She wasn't sure what happened to Bae, but she knew he hadn't killed him, as Lacey suspected. How the boy, the grown man, had perished was beyond her, but she also knew that it was worse than the fears he'd confided to her during their late nights. Regret and disappointment he could have lived with, he'd been doing it for centuries, but death? Devastation? The loss of all purpose and hope?!
Of course he needed her! He was a man haunted with regret and selfishness, feelings Lacey had only encouraged. But those words, they meant more to her than anything he had ever said to her. He didn't need Lacey, neither of them did. He needed her. No one else knew just how hard he'd been working, how long he'd been searching to find his son! To have lost him so suddenly after finding him was an unfathomable blow. She couldn't even pretend to know how he felt. And she wouldn't pretend that any word or action could fix it.
"I'm so sorry," she stated instead, reaching out and wrapping herself around him. She settled into her spot again, the one that Lacey hadn't discovered, she wanted to say more, to do more, but words failed her. "I'm sorry," she repeated holding him closer. It was all she could think of.
"I've failed," he cried, holding her tight against him as his voice broke. "I've failed!" he wailed again. He clung to her like she was the only anchor he had left in this world. Then again, with Baelfire gone, she was the only anchor he had left. That was okay, she was happy to be his rock, his shield, to be anything that he needed. She had never met Baelfire, she had as Lacey, and cringed at the only memory the boy would have had of her, but she hadn't met him as herself. Nevertheless, she found herself crying with him, his murmurings against her about failure only fueling her own devastation. Since the day she'd found out about the child she'd been so invested in the search that she felt like she'd lost him too.
They stood for a long time. She let him sob and continued to stroke his hair and rub his back as he did, offering the little support she could give, hoping it was enough, knowing that it couldn't be. Finally, when it seemed like the worst had passed, she pressed her lips to his neck and pulled away to meet his gaze. His eyes were red and swollen and lifeless. He looked broken. He looked as old as he was. He looked like a man without purpose. And for the first time since she'd known him, she knew he was. She wiped her thumbs over his damp face before she rested her forehead against his own, still unable to think of something to say.
Suddenly the floor beneath her feet shifted violently and she gasped at the sound of glass breaking. There! Behind her, a tree branch had burst through one of the shops windows! The vibrations grew, shaking both of them off balance and knocking them apart despite the way he fought to hold tight to her. They grabbed desperately for the tables and the counter-tops to regain their stability! They fought to stay upright! Then, just as suddenly as it began...it stopped.
For a moment the only sound in the room was their ragged breath as they looked around the shop and took stock of what had happened. It scared her, terrified her really! But the image seemed to sober him as it brought them back to the reality they were facing. He didn't need hope anymore, he didn't need purpose, soon he wouldn't even need her.
"I'm so sorry" he apologized again, as if it was his fault that this was happening, as if he needed to apologize for giving her memories back.
She shook her head and quickly made her way back to him, feeling the vibrations of another quake on the way. She wouldn't have him feel sorry for any of this but especially not for bringing her back from a world of oblivion! "I'd rather die here with you as myself, than spend a million years by your side as Lacey," she explained trying to hold back her scared tears. The vibrations were growing stronger and before they could lose their balance, or their closeness, again she grabbed his hand and led him to the cot that he kept against the wall.
She had only meant for it to help steady them, something they could sit on as the small earthquakes continued to tear apart the shop, but as she sat her dress drifted farther up her legs and she was suddenly aware of what she had chosen to wear that morning: hose that revealed her legs, nothing underneath, a dress that was too short, too revealing, too little and yet too much. She had never hated a person in her life but she hated Lacey. She hated what Lacey had turned her into, what she had done to him, and how she'd defiled what never really belonged to her. She wasn't as modest as some of the holy women she'd met in their land but she did prefer an air of secrecy to herself, especially after she'd found him. There were parts of her body that she'd liked to keep hidden, covered, knowing that he would be the only person in the world that would ever see them. And Lacey had carelessly flaunted what felt like every bit of her to the town.
She'd rather die in her hospital gown than like this! Embarrassed and disgusted with the garments she reached down to take off her shoes so that she could at least remove something that Lacey had placed on her. But as her trembling fingers struggled with the clasp she found them replaced by steady ones...his.
"Let me..." he muttered, his eyebrows questioning, his voice still raspy from the sorrow that had spilled from his eyes.
She nodded, giving permission, as he quickly helped remove her shoes. But he didn't stop there. To her surprise, moved his hands up her legs, under the tiny dress, and up her hip where he gave a gentle tug to remove the hose as well. She didn't mind that Lacey hadn't put anything underneath that morning. He was the only one that she was comfortable enough around not to be embarrassed by it. Besides, the simple, slow actions seemed to calm him in some way. He needed the distraction. And as the floors began to shake again, making it impossible to tell where one quake ended and another began, she suddenly realized she needed the distraction too.
So she let him continue on, stripping her of everything that had been Lacey's, and covering her with hands and finally kisses. She let him rid her of Lacey as she had slowly rid Rumpelstiltskin of the Dark One. If this was to be their final act then it would be one they would create together. End of the world or not...this was perfect.
It was a small cot, nothing more than a pillow and a couple of blankets but they managed. They kissed. They touched. They connected, binding themselves back together again. As they moved together they said the only things they'd each longed to hear. Her name escaped from his lips. She couldn't seem to stop telling him that she loved him. It was the very definition of lovemaking and she realized that the world would end, the forest would continue to rip through his shop, the Earthquakes would shake the foundation...and they would die. But if she had to die, this was how to do it.
Together, until the end just as it should be.
When he fell against her afterward she wrapped her arms around his back and held him. "I love you," he whispered in a choked voice that made her worry.
"Rumple?" she questioned running her fingers through his hair. After a moment, he gave a sigh that sounded almost shameful against her neck and picked himself up to place his forehead against her own. He was crying again. But it wasn't the joyful unbelievable tears he normally shed after they made love, it was mournful, sorrowful. The look on his face broke her heart and she understood perfectly. She didn't want him to feel upset or ashamed that his mind has traveled back to Bae instead of her. He shouldn't be ashamed. He'd suffered a terrible blow. She only wished there was something she could do to help him, to bring him peace in these final minutes...but she knew she couldn't, not truly at least.
She could only reach up, kiss his forehead, and pull him against her again. He lay across her body with his head against her chest, his body trembling. She continued to give the only comfort that she could. "I love you," she muttered in his ear as his back shuttered with quiet sobs. She kissed what she could reach. She moved her hands up and down his back and through his hair, but she didn't tell him it was okay; because it wasn't. It never would be. Everything had changed now that Bae was really and truly gone. Soon they would be too. But if they only had this moment, if he would die only having her, then she needed him to know just how much he had her.
"I love you," she whispered in his ear. "You are the best part of my life and I would be lost if it weren't for you. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in my entire life and I never want to be without you again!"
She wasn't sure how long they had laid there together, legs tangled, two bodies as one, waiting for the moment the forest would claim them. She was conscious of how the earth trembled beneath them, the tree that had burst through the window was growing, and even the shouts and screams of the people outside as they fooled themselves into thinking they could run for their lives. She only clutched him tighter. They could endure it...together.
But suddenly, his tears stopped and he went dead still. Her heart pounded and for a moment she thought that the event was finally there and he had left her soul behind a fraction too early. "Rumple," she muttered, moving his hair. "Rumple!" she shrieked as frightened tears started to gather in her eyes.
But just before they could burst free he pushed himself up onto his elbows and looked down at her, allowing her racing heart to calm. "We have to go!" he said, then quickly moved the blankets and left her nothing but cold air as he dove for his discarded clothes and cane, faster than she knew he could move!
"Go?" she muttered, alarmed at his abrupt departure. Go? Go where? She was still trying to figure out what had happened! The world was ending where did they need to "go"? "Rumple! Why? What's happening?"
He glanced back at her, looking her up and down regret and panic on his face. It was like he was sorry to end their time this way, but surprised that she hadn't followed suit and gotten up as well. "Please, Belle, I...I need you to trust me," he stuttered, as he sat at her side, struggling to steady himself against the bucking earth. "I have to be at the docks, something is about to happen!"
"What?" she questioned.
His face softened slightly, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a hopeful smirk. "A future!" he breathed. "And if I can see it-"
"Then it exists," she finished. She might not have known what was happening, but trusting him came easy to her. As he got up again she swung her legs over the end of the cot and reached down to the side where he had left her vile dress. She didn't have time to find anything else to wear in the shop and didn't want to break whatever had grabbed his focus to ask for a replacement. But at least she was able to quickly redo her hair, and pick up a different jacket, one that was warmer and would cover her body more appropriately. It wasn't easy with the floor shaking, but they managed to collect themselves quickly. He helped her with her coat, like the gentleman she knew he was, and started to lead the way out of the room.
"Rumpelstiltskin, wait!" she called suddenly, grabbing his hand and stopping him in place. He stared at her, worried at her sudden outburst but also wanting to leave. She'd said it a million times already, but she needed to say it just one more time before they ran off to face the unknown. She didn't know why but she had a feeling like it was of utmost importance that she say it just one more time. "I love you!" she said, aware that they were the same words she'd said when her memory had come back to her the first time. The sentiment wasn't lost on him.
"And I love you, too!"
She wrapped her hands around his neck, as another tremor began building and kissed him again one more time, quickly, knowing the way that sentence should have finished. There would be time for this later, but there was something he had to do first.
Hi! For those of you that are just checking out this fiction, welcome! For those of you who are a fan of the Moments Series, welcome back! I hope you'll enjoy this fiction. It's the fourth in the Moments Series, a series that is an attempt at an accurate portrayal of Belle's perspective during the Once Upon a Time series. This fiction features everything that happened in Storybrooke from the moment Rumple gives Belle her memories back in "...And Straight on Till Morning" to the moment just before they go back to the Enchanted Forest in "Going Home". Also, please note, Exile Readers, if you are at this chapter you need to PM me to get Exile Part III. You'll need it for this chapter and for this fiction! And if you are interested in becoming an Exile Reader, or learning more about Moments Exiled, please PM me as well and we will talk!
Because I am working to keep this series as accurate as possible, there might be changes made to this fiction, as needed. But I won't bore you with those details, if you really want them check out the authors note at the end, it'll explain everything. Also, to keep track of updates throughout the year I've created a Twitter account under Montreat11 just for Moments! So if you want to keep up on any changes, minor or major, follow me!
If you enjoy this fiction, please review! I always enjoy those wonderful gems waiting for me in my inbox and I love writing back to thank you personally for reading and reviewing! It helps me know that I'm doing a decent job. Peace and Happy Reading!