I'm doing this thing on Tumblr where every now and then, I open up the floor to five-word-and-under prompts from the people lurking me. Then, I take the prompts, and write heartbreaking Rumpelstiltskin things.
This prompt was: "Psychiatric Ward, storybrooke Hospital"
(ahahaha I know what you were referring to, anon, but I refuse to be baited into the expected. Other things worthy of note: the title is a half-quote from the Hobbit. Gold then goes on to quote the Hobbit to himself in the last line.)
And That Means Comfort
The place is a prison. No more, no less. They call it something pleasant, but it stinks—reeks of fear and hopeless desperation, cracks in the soul that cannot be mended with time or magic and his son—his son—
Gold does his best not to think, here.
Everything is the color of burnt oatmeal. The only color comes from the walking scrubs. He himself today is wearing black, black, black. Midnight couldn't swallow him. He is bitter, and he hurts. It rained again last night.
Gold moves down the corridors on old autopilot. He does not hear screaming. No one calls his name. No one sings. No one sighs. No one demands that all pills be swallowed—all of them and we are watching you.
He finds the room marked 23, knocks twice, as always, and eases through the door.
Bae is sitting up today. He is wearing clothes—real clothes—a sweater and khakis. Auspicious change. An empty, food-stained Styrofoam tray balances on his lap—even better. His eyes are bright. His hands are loose-curled and empty. Bae looks as though, the moment before, he might have been smiling.
Belle is sitting at his side.
She reads to the patients here.
He knew that. Gold knew. He'd heard, anyway, long enough ago that he'd taken note and filed it away, and when no tearful reunions commenced in the hallways of Storybrooke's own mental institution, had forgotten it. But he hadn't… he couldn't…
"Oh, hello," Belle said and smiled. "I didn't realize you visited on Tuesdays."
"I don't, usually. I was nearby, thought I'd stop in," he is senseless. He is babbling and blind. He sees only her and only Bae, side by side, until together they fill his vision.
His leg throbs. It is the only thing he feels.
"Well, you picked a good time to pop in. We've just finished An Unexpected Party and we're about to start Roast Mutton." A pause. "Or would you rather I go?"
The Hobbit? Gold thinks, and means to ask, but cannot seem to find the words.
And Bae. Bae does not speak. He hasn't said a word in decades. But his hand moves, lightening quick, fingers tangling up in Belle's bracelets.
"Oh, Ben, don't worry," she says and it jars him, takes Gold a moment to remember their real names are not written down on any paper here. "I'll just pop out a moment. You have a nice talk with your Da, alright? I'll come 'round when you're done."
Bae looks at him—the first time he has met his eyes in years—and the look says how could you and don't you dare fuck this up, too.
"It's alright, Miss Beaumont," Gold says, so gently he barely hears himself over the roaring in his ears. "He and I don't talk so much these days. Please, continue."
Belle looks between the two of them, reads their eyes and their shoulders and comes away with far more than Gold would rather she knew. But she is solid, this woman. She has always kept his secrets and he feels no reason to distrust her now.
He sinks into a chair, one hand on his aching knee, and Belle cracks open her battered paperback again.
"Up jumped Bilbo, and putting on his dressing-gown, went into the dining room," she reads. "There he saw nobody, but all the signs of a large and hurried breakfast."
Bae's eyes are on Belle. He's smiling. Really smiling. And Gold cannot help smiling, too.
All perfectly ordinary, he thinks, swallows, and swallows again past the lump in his throat. Not in the least an adventure.