Author's note: Second Rumpelstiltskin/Belle oneshot. Thank you so much for the amazing responses to my first oneshot and my story. I hope you enjoy this one, based off of the song "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty. Please review! (The first time I tried to post this the story wouldn't appear, so here's my second attempt. Let's see how it goes.)

Disclaimer: The characters belong to ABC, and the song belongs to Disney.

Her eyes fluttered open, the visions behind her lids vanishing into the air like breath on the wind. She clung desperately to the wisps of memory, trying to keep hold of the pictures that played in her mind during the night. But—as usual—the dream evaded her grasp and, after a few seconds, she could remember none of it.

It was a very strange, indescribable feeling: she positively knew that the lost images were incredibly familiar to her, and yet they were always so out of reach. When she woke up each new day she would briefly recall her dreams, but as soon as her full consciousness kicked in the dreams would fade away, and there was never anything she could do to stop it.

There was a perpetual nagging in the very bottom of her soul, insisting that the dreams were important, that for some reason they were crucial to remember. She bit her lip frustratedly and stared at the bitter stone walls, the barrier between herself and the world. She cringed as she heard the walls laughing at her. Then she realized it was merely her tears hissing as they struck the bench beneath her.

I know you. I walked with you once upon a dream...

She lurched upwards, gasping for breath. There had been movement, and violence. It was the violence that had woken her. Like falling off a cliff and waking before you hit the bottom. She could still feel the twisting in her stomach from the moment before the impact- the moment before she'd awoken. But why had she been about to slam into something? What had the dream been about?

Hoping without real hope that she would somehow remember, she fiercely squeezed her eyes closed. She was shocked to find that there was a vague image still floating there in the darkness.

Eyes. A pair of burning, manic eyes.

Stunned beyond belief, her own eyes shot open and she struggled to calm her breathing. Those eyes... She knew now, without a doubt, that she had seen them before, perhaps every single night. That crazed, angry look... but there was so much more held in those blazing eyes than just that. She could see the gleam of genius, the spark of love, the well of emotional depth. She could see the twinkle of a captive soul, of silenced goodness within. She could see the struggling and the fear. There was pain in those eyes as well: great pain and suffering. Heartbreak, and loss.

Her heart began to throb painfully. Confused, she placed a hand on her chest, failing to comprehend her reaction to the eyes of her dream phantom.

I know you. The gleam in your eye is so familiar a gleam...

Mr. Gold sat up rigidly in his bed, rubbing his aching leg. He'd dreamt of her again last night. Of Belle. He could still see her beautiful brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. He saw the crimson red of her blushing cheeks, the pale white of her skin as she gazed upwards at the stars gracing the dark night sky. He heard the echo of her hearty laugh and the quiet of her tinkling giggle. He could smell the soot on her fingers from cleaning out the ashes. He could taste the delicious dinners that she had cooked and served to him.

It was the last of his senses that he was lacking. He could never feel Belle anymore, not the lightness of her dress or the smoothness of her skin. He certainly couldn't feel her sweet, determined lips pressing against his.

Each time he longingly reached out to touch the figure in his dreams, she would skirt away, winking at him or ignoring him completely. Either way, he could never get close enough to touch. He should know that by now. It shouldn't be a disappointment any longer. It shouldn't cause his chest to constrict and his stomach to roil, not anymore. She was just an illusion after all. She wasn't real. Why couldn't he remember that simple fact? Why did he feel his heart breaking all over again every time he awoke to nothing more than a silent, lifeless, empty room?

And I know it's true, that visions are seldom all they seem...

Mr. Gold set his cane down and slipped under his covers, clicking off the lamp on his bedside table. Anxiously awaiting the moment that sleep would take him, he stared up into the ceiling, lost in his thoughts- thoughts that eagerly anticipated the visions which would appear to him in the night, as they always did.

In his dreams, Gold could make a temporary escape. This was invariably followed by relentless pain and regret, but so be it. He would face any torment imaginable just to see Belle again. Once upon a time he had been too scared to believe in another person, so he had avoided the good in order to obviate the bad. But he wasn't scared anymore. He knew what he wanted, and what he wanted was to be with Belle as often as possible. If only he could stay asleep forever, never having to face the vacant world that was his waking life. He could live in a place where he could be happy, just like he had been those many years ago.

But had he truly been happy then? He couldn't quite remember anymore... It all revolved around Belle, he knew that much. If she was happy, he would be happy. But had she been happy? He'd thought so, for a time. He'd convinced himself that she liked living in the castle, liked his company even. But it was all a pretense. Or was it? He didn't know anymore... He didn't know who Belle was. Her perfect image was forever ingrained in his memory, and yet there was something lacking.

The truth behind the picture. The girl behind the veil. He could see Belle's figure just fine, but he would never be able to see into the heart of a mere illusion.

But if I know you, I know what you'll do...

Mr. Gold raised his cane and rapped on the door twice, the appearance of complete calm and collectedness, despite his rather excited insides.

"Coming!" he heard from within. Soon enough, the door swung open to reveal a rather surprised Emma.

"Miss Swan. I heard some very interesting news," commented Mr. Gold lightly, with a tinge of vicious glee. A look of resigned understanding crossed Emma's face and she stepped aside so that Gold could enter.

"I suppose you're talking about the Mayor's current residence in my cell?" she asked bluntly, shutting the door behind him. Mr. Gold grinned.

"Yes, something like that. May I ask what you finally got her in for?"

"Unlawful imprisonment. That horrible woman has kept a girl locked up for years in a cell under the pretense that she's a severe mental patient, but I did a little digging, and it's all a fake. The girl is completely fine. Regina locked her in the psychiatric hospital without any valid reason."

"Oh?" Gold was honestly surprised by this. He'd been aware of most of Regina's underhand work, but never had this crossed onto his radar. Who on earth could she be imprisoning? And for what earthly reason? His mind began to flash through a host of images of faces belonging to people he'd known in the fairytale world, trying to discern what person could possibly be such a threat to the Queen... "Why would Regina do that?" Gold asked.

"I don't know yet, she won't talk. I'm worried that even with this on her she'll find some way to get out soon, but... at least I was able to free the girl I guess. I'll take what I can get. For now."

"Indeed," agreed Gold with a smile that, as always, raised Emma's hackles. "So where is this girl now, if I might ask?"

"Actually, she's staying with me," revealed Emma, "right now she's-"

Emma cut herself off as the woman in question walked into the room, now dressed in some of Emma's clothes.

Gold's eyes flew wide open at the appearance of the ghost that haunted him in the night and his breathing stopped. Forcing himself to inhale, his breaths became quick and jagged, but he didn't care about this at all. He cared only about the phantasmal figure standing in front of him- an impossible girl. Impossible because she could not be standing there, no way no how... She was dead. But she wasn't. She clearly wasn't. This was no illusion, no vision. She was alive, with a heartbeat, and a pulse. Her long brown hair was just as he remembered. Her wide blue eyes sparkled with shock and her pale white skin looked slightly sicklier than in his memories. But she was still beautiful. Gold's heart began to pound erratically, trying to burst out of his chest and return to its rightful owner, the woman standing just across the room.

The girl stopped in her tracks at the sight of the man. Their eyes locked. A candle of recognition sparked in her, and she immediately knew who she was looking at: the man from her dreams. Those eyes that had once looked at her with such pain and sorrow, anger and wrath, but also with love. Love. Suddenly it all came rushing back, flooding her insides with a torrent of her history. Every dream, every memory. Her name, it was Belle. His was Rumpelstiltskin. She'd hated him once. Then she didn't. Then she loved him. She remembered it all. Tears sprang to her eyes that she could ever have forgotten such a thing, that she could ever have forgotten the existence of her true love. She'd been correct in her gut feeling that the memories were essential to be recovered. And now they finally had been.

Belle stepped forward hesitantly, clasping her hands in front of her stomach. Rumpelstiltskin still had not moved. Indeed, he looked frozen as solid as stone. Her pulse was racing out of control, partially from her sudden discovery and partially from fear. What if he was angry? What if he didn't care for her anymore? What if he simply threw her out again?

Ignoring these doubts, Belle continued to step forward until she was mere feet away from him. Finally, he moved out of his intimidating, rigid stance. He slowly took the final step to seal the distance between them. Reaching out a gentle hand, he wiped the shimmering tears from her cheeks. Belle gave a start at his touch. She had not even known she'd been crying, but it was hardly surprising considering what she'd been through in the past minute. And at the moment... her tears were of no importance to her. What was important was the feel of his hand softly caressing her face- the wonderful, perfect feeling that set her heart alight and made her stomach turn over with butterflies that she had not experienced in so long.

Rumpelstiltskin began to draw his hand back, but Belle's hand flew up to catch it. Her hand—so soft, so tender—caressed his palm for a moment before she entwined her delicate fingers with his, squeezing tight.

Searching his striking dark eyes, Belle broke the silence.

"Do you love me?" Her question prompted a glistening in his eyes, which reflected the glistening in her own. In each other's eyes they glimpsed their shared hopes, desires, and dreams: haunting dreams of the past, and wishful dreams for the future.

"I always have, dearie," he whispered. The amazed smile on her face was so much brighter than his shadowy recollections had ever been. His dreams had never done justice to her sweet, innocent beauty. Not once.

"But can you still love me?" he continued. Belle smiled warmly.

"I always will."

You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.