She wasn't sure what she had expected.
That the purple fog would clear and she'd be back in his castle? That Bae would still be holding her up around the waist? That she'd arrive back in the Enchanted Forest with nothing? No, she wasn't quite sure what she expected...but this wasn't it.
She remembered purple smoke, she remembered being surrounded by it. She remembered watching Emma and Henry disappear across the line, knowing she'd never see them again. She remembered Baelfire taking Archie's place next to her in the thick of it, telling Archie he "had her." And then thunder and lightning and…Ruby? Yes, she remembered Ruby being there. She had thought for sure that they would have disappeared the minute the smoke touched them but obviously they'd lingered for a moment or so. Enough that Ruby had arrived. They had to have. There was no other explanation for Ruby's voice screaming that she'd made it, calling out for Granny, asking if anyone was there that could hear her, she couldn't see through the storm!
But she wasn't sure if she'd ever gotten to Granny, because this was her next moment, the present. There was blackness, perfect blackness. No sound. No sight. Only…a mattress? Her stomach did a nervous roll as she suddenly became conscious of where she'd ended up. She wasn't in darkness, her eyes were shut, and she was lying in a bed. It was soft and warm and welcoming and she had to fight the urge to panic. The only bed she'd ever slept in as luxurious as this one was, as wonderful as his bed, was the bed she'd had in her room when she still lived with her father...in his palace.
The possibility made her break out into a sweat! Her heart hammered at the thought but she managed to keep her eyes shut tight. Had the curse brought her back to her father's castle? Was she waking up away from Baelfire and Ruby and everyone she knew and considered a friend? Was she back in the last place she ever wanted to be again? A princess but a prisoner to a destiny she couldn't ever remember choosing? No! She simply wouldn't stay. This wouldn't stand! She wasn't sure what she expected, she wasn't sure who she was if he wasn't here next to her, but she knew that if he were here, in this world or by her side, he wouldn't want her to go back to who she was. He would want better for her!
Her broken heart pounded at the sudden rush of determination that she felt, but she managed to keep her eyes shut. She wasn't sure if anyone was around her, if anything would happen the moment someone saw she was awake, she needed a plan. That was easy to put together because it consisted of two words: get out! She'd open her eyes, shove off the heavy blankets covering her, and make a run for the woods. She'd get out some way, she'd find Neal, she'd do her best to look after the one thing that he'd cared about as much as he did her. That was it, the only plan she needed. So she took a deep breath, counted to three, opened her eyes, and…
This wasn't what she expected...
She wasn't in her father's castle. She wasn't in the Enchanted Forest. She was home.
She was still in Storybrooke.
The luxurious bed she'd been in wasn't hers, but theirs. She felt as though her heart had stopped and her lungs were working on remembering how to breathe. Her eyes seemed to have no problem remembering their function, though. They filled with tears instantly as she looked around the room, just as she remembered, just as they'd left it…yesterday? Last night? What happened? Why was she here and not in the Enchanted Forest? Was this a trick of some kind? A dream?
She cast a sideways glance over to the spot of the bed he would have been sleeping in. It was empty. No, this wasn't a dream, or a trick. If it was he would have been there, lying beside her. No! He'd have been holding her just as he always did. Like he never would again. She drew her knees up to hug her chest and cried, not bothering to hold back as she sank back against the bed and stared across at the empty spot next to her. None of this made any sense, but why should it? None of what had led up to his death made any sense to her either.
How could it have happened? Everything had been so great when he got back, he'd had his son and his grandson, he'd had her, he was thinking of a future! One with her, his family! How could Pan have slipped through the cracks so easily and caused…this? Was that why she was here? Pan? Was it possible that Regina hadn't been able to stop the curse in time? That they hadn't made it back to Enchanted Forest and they were now living in Pan's version of the curse? "Something hellish" That was what Rumple had said Pan's version would be like, but other than the obvious fact that Rumple wasn't here beside her, nothing about this seemed "hellish".
Remarkably, though she knew that she'd felt emotionless up until this morning, she felt something growing within her. An itch, an urge she couldn't explain to get up and look outside. Curiosity. She was curious! And right now she felt it twitching the muscles in her arms and legs, eager for her to push out of bed and figure out everything that she could about what had happened. She was surprised. She shouldn't feel this way, she should feel as she had what she could only assume was hours ago. Nothing. Numb. Dead. She should want to just lay here for hours, staring at his empty bed side, and crying into her pillow.
But she didn't want to. It was unexplainable. She wanted to give in to her curiosity. She wanted to get out of bed, to look outside, to figure out what had gone wrong, because there was no doubt in her mind that something had gone horribly wrong, or at least not according to the plan that they'd made. She looked over at his pillow one last time, and gave a final sniff, then obeyed her inquisitive nature. Much to her surprise, it wasn't as hard as she expected it to be. In one easy motion she was able to roll out of the bed, taking note that she was wearing one of her night gowns, and went to the windows. They were shut against the cool weather, as they normally would have been. Outside the sky was grey but it wasn't raining. It was clearly morning, there were birds flying over the trees and the small white house that sat behind his own looked perfectly normal, not a shingle out of place.
But it was, strangely enough, the normalcy of it that seemed wrong to her. Without a second thought, or final glance to the bed, she turned and left the room. All normal. The hallway, the upstairs rooms, the bathrooms, just exactly the way she remembered them. Even the one that he'd made for her when she'd had no memories, before she'd been Lacey.
But she had her memories now. All of them, every last terrible, sad memory was right where it should be. The good, the bad, and Lacey's! If this was Pan's curse she wouldn't have expected that. She should have been back in the hospital, she should have been Lacey, or something worse than both of those terrors combined, but not in their house, aware of who she was, what had happened, and feeling perfectly safe! Or at least as safe as she could feel in his house. But that was suspicious as well. She shouldn't be feeling "safe". She should feel nothing…nothing at all.
She ran down the stairs and looked around again. Perfect. All of it. Her sewing machine, the well dusted furniture, the objects simply laying around the house, even all of his little projects were still sitting right where he'd left them, waiting for him to come back and pick them up. They were terrible, horrible reminders. Reminders that she shouldn't have to deal with because she couldn't…but she could! She should have broken at the sight of his knick knacks strewn out across the tables, just as she'd collapsed broken yesterday. But she didn't break. She felt sad, there was no doubt about that, she was heartbroken and upset at the idea of never seeing him again. But it just didn't feel like it had when she'd watched him die. She'd felt that! A pain in her chest that made her feel as if she had been pierced through the heart just as he had. It had felt indescribable, like no pain physical or emotional she'd ever felt in her life! And she remembered the aftermath, the way she'd felt hallow, and pitiful, torn in half, the way she'd felt as though there had been nothing left for her in the world if he wasn't in it. She still felt those things, or believed them, but they were...duller. In some strange way she felt like they were less real. She couldn't piece it together!
Was that the curse? Had Pans curse somehow taken her love for him or lessened it in some way? NO! Never! No one and nothing, not the Evil Queen, Pan, or Death could ever do that. It was a stupid assumption. She still loved him. She still felt heartbreak and sadness. It just wasn't as prominent as it had been yesterday. Yesterday. It seemed like it was longer than just yesterday. It felt as though it was longer than just yesterday. When her mother had died she'd felt sad too. It hadn't hurt nearly as much as it had hurt to lose her Rumple, but it hadn't been a pleasant time in her life. Yet, over time the pain from it had faded. It never disappeared completely, sometimes she still felt like she could feel it angry and raw beneath her skin, but she'd learned to live with it, to go on despite it. To replace pain with the hope of making her mother proud!
This didn't feel like that. It didn't make sense! She wouldn't have thought it was possible to ever have any kind of semblance of a life again without him, and it certainly didn't make any sense that she'd feel it this quickly. She walked through the house in a state of utter confusion and bewilderment. No, nothing about this made sense at all; none of it.
She stopped suddenly when she arrived in the kitchen, frozen in her footsteps as if someone had slapped her. No, not someone. Something. Something in here was different. She couldn't pick it out, but she knew it was! Something in the kitchen was not as they'd left it, something had changed! She moved around the room slowly. The dishes were all where they should be, even the ones she'd watch him load in the washer before all of her world had disappeared in a flash of light. The sink still dripped slightly. The back door was locked. The burners were off. The food…the food was different! They'd barely had any in the house when he'd gotten home, they'd made plans to restock it together! But it wasn't necessary, the refrigerator, the cabinets, even the freezer, stocked full of fresh food! But none of that had been noticeable when she'd walked in. It was strange and certainly something to add to the mystery but it didn't explain…or did it.
Suddenly her eyes stopped over something on the milk that made her stomach roll. The expiration date. The milk was fresh, but no milk stayed fresh for that long! No. It couldn't be. She felt her shocked fingers release the door handle and the thing sealed, hiding the evidence that had given her a clue. Something was different. Something small that was difficult to notice. Or just not something she thought to check because it didn't seem possible. She turned around and her jaw dropped.
The calendar was different. She rushed forward and paged through it. It was turned to the same month that it had been yesterday only yesterday wasn't yesterday. Yesterday was last year! A year. A year! That was what had happened! She'd gone to bed and a year had passed?! How was that possible? She couldn't remember any of it. Had it happened? Was the calendar just a mistake they'd made? She shook her head. No, she was certain it was there yesterday. Last year?!
How was this possible? How was any of this possible? Was that why she had this dull feeling in the pit of her stomach? Had she gone through the process of devastating grief and just couldn't remember it? Was it possible her body did? She didn't know, she couldn't know, because according to the calendar she was missing a year! She'd been robbed of a year of grief and devastation but still a year all the same! What had happened that she'd lost her memory of that time? What had happened in the last year? And why was she suddenly remembering now?!
Had a new curse just broken? Or had one been cast? Had they even gone back to the Enchanted Forest? Who would have been capable of doing such a thing? Her first guess would have been Rumple but she knew that wasn't possible! So who then? Regina? Would she do such a thing to get back to Henry? Would David and Mary Margaret to get back to Emma? Or…her heart and mind finally stopped racing as a new and completely unexpected thought came to her, a suspect that she couldn't believe she was considering.
Like father like son.
What would Neal have done to get back to Emma and Henry?
She wasn't sure what had happened, she knew this wasn't what she expected but she was sure she knew what to do next. She had to find Baelfire.
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! This is the sixth in the Moments Series, this story begins with Belle waking up in Storybrooke just before Emma arrives in "New York Serenade" and ends with the wedding in "There's No Place Like Home"!
As always because I am working to keep this series as accurate as possible, so if you spot something that is off, something that we saw on TV that I missed or forgot please don't hesitate to let me know so I can correct it right away. I'm pretty good with details but even I miss things sometimes! 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! Also 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 a doing a decent job. So thanks for being here, thanks for reading, and reviewing, and, as always, Peace and Happy Reading!