Author's note: This is the expository introduction of a story I'm considering writing. The premise is this: Once Upon a Time + Sweeney Todd- The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The story takes place in Storybrooke but all the main characters of this story share very specific parallels with Sweeney Todd characters. Here is the character breakdown: Mr. Gold=Sweeney Todd, Regina=Mrs. Lovett, Belle=Lucy, Ruby=Antony, an OC Jack (from Jack and the beanstalk)=Johanna, and Henry=Toby. The plot will clearly not be exactly the same as Sweeney Todd, but that show is the inspiration and will affect the plot heavily. Also, know that anything in bold is lyrics taken directly from the show.
*WARNING* This story is a tragedy. There will not be a happy ever after for most of the characters. If you know the story of Sweeney Todd, you understand. If not, don't expect Mr. Gold and Belle to reunite happily. I hope you still choose to read, but I don't want to create any false expectations.
Please review, if you choose to give this story a shot. Many thanks to quackyMcquackquack for their help.
Mr. Gold was a complicated man. He had an icy exterior and an interior similarly hardened by the tragedies of his life. He often wore a cold, knowing smile and his calm manner had the effect of unnerving those around him. There was something inexplicably dangerous about the owner of the pawn shop, and the people of Storybrooke avoided him on principle. If asked, certainly no one would say that Mr. Gold had a soft and sweet side, or a core of goodness which he kept hidden under a mask.
But perhaps he did. Perhaps this mask had even been lifted once, for one very special young woman.
Belle was unlike anyone he had ever known. At this time in his life, Mr. Gold had been known as Rumpelstiltskin, and he had been just as feared under this name as his current one. But when a sweet young maiden of brown tresses and blue eyes came waltzing into his life, the melody of his dark castle had shifted, gaining a much lighter tone.
Belle was proud, spirited, and brave. She was energetic, kind, and optimistic. Most of all, she wasn't judgmental or presumptuous. Never before had anyone taken the time to get to know the devilish Rumpelstiltskin, but this woman had, no questions asked.
And she was beautiful.
She had sat with him during the days, performing her chores dutifully but preferring to speak with him when he'd allow her. She had introduced sunlight back into his dreary home. She had laughed and scolded and teased.
And she was beautiful.
But he had been foolish. Foolish to the extreme. He'd pushed her away, thrown her out. He'd destroyed the only happiness that had existed in his cruel existence.
Some time had passed before the Queen had come for a visit, wearing an innocent, smug smile. The Queen had been the one to tell him that his poor Belle, his beautiful perfect Belle, had been driven to suicide by her father. It was all her father's doing.
In an instant, Rumpelstiltskin's reason for living vanished. The world had no light anymore. Everything was dark, evil, twisted.
And vengeance was called for.
Despite the darkness wallowing in his soul, Rumpelstiltskin had taken no action against the father, not even when they were all transported to Storybrooke and Rumpelstiltskin became the man he was today: Mr. Gold.
That is, until Mr. French—Belle's father—stole something precious of Gold's, the only remembrance of Belle that he still had. After his chipped cup was stolen by the wretch, everything which had been restraining Gold vanished. The anger in his soul exploded, and Gold beat the man viciously. To his disappointment, none of the damage was permanent.
At the moment when his cane began to swing for the first time, all inhibitions inside of Gold snapped, his sanity disappearing suddenly. Belle did not exist anymore. And it was all this sleazy wretch's fault. A higher sort of vengeance was called for than a mere beating. With grim maniacal determination, Gold began to plan the murder of one Mr. Moe French.
Regina was good at lying. She'd had a lot of practice at it. Practically her entire life in Storybrooke—not to mention the fairytale world—was founded upon lie after lie. But there was one thing she hadn't lied about: she had in fact loved once and only once, as she'd told Kathryn.
She knew it wasn't smart. She knew that he would never feel the same way. But cold hard logic can never erase the burning heat of love.
She couldn't quite pinpoint when the feeling had taken root inside of her. It was a long time ago, in another land, another lifetime: that much she knew. What was it that had first pulled sharply on her heartstrings? Was it his clever wit, his mischievous wiles, or even the beautifully poisonous words that rolled tantalizingly off his tricky tongue?
It wasn't wise. In fact, it was quite insane to be in love with someone like him. A power-hungry, devious, maniacal madman without moral bounds or inhibitions. Then again, how much better was she than him? She killed thoughtlessly, lied habitually, strove to increase and retain her power. Sometimes Regina wondered which she would have chosen if she'd been faced with a choice like his: power, or love? There was no denying that she cherished the power she lorded over all the citizens of Storybrooke, and yet... Would she give it all up if she could wake beside him each morning, spend each day at his side, and lay beside him as she went to sleep each night?
But this choice will never be presented to me, she thought bitterly. He's too caught up in the past, unable to move on. All he ever thinks about is her. That pathetic girl.
Regina remembered going to his castle, the lie tickling her tongue, then spinning off with careless ease. The girl died, poor thing poor thing. Went and killed herself of grief, poor thing poor dear.
Well... she had jumped: that much was true. But she hadn't died. Instead, she had simply gone crazy. The fall had addled her senses, leaving her mentally impaired, no better than a common crazed beggar woman. So Regina had locked her away, where he could never find her, and then she delivered her carefully planned lie, thinking that perhaps he would forget about his lost beauty and look on Regina instead. But she had not been so lucky. He still dwelled on the past with every waking moment, never allowing Regina the chance to slip into his heart.
Ruby was not a happy person, but neither was she unhappy. Life was good enough, she supposed. She had a nice job, nice friends. And that should be enough.
But it wasn't. Ruby had always had a fierce, boundless spirit. She was in love with life, but not with its commonplace monotonies: no, what she loved was the chance to run, shout, paint, dream, push boundaries, and explore new stretches of the world. She loved the excitement and the thrills. In order to free her energetic soul from being stifled by her rather boring day job, Ruby sought these thrills elsewhere, anywhere she could.
Sometimes she ran barefoot through the forest without a destination in mind. Sometimes she would lie out in the street in the dead of night, gazing up at the peaceful stars. Once or twice she had committed minor vandalisms where she took spray paint and decorated the sides of buildings with art.
But what she did most often was sketch, draw. Ruby was an artist, and this is what she did to express herself. Drawing was not dangerous in the way that her other hobbies were, but it provided her contentment. Watching the sharp dark lines extend from the pencil in her hand always fascinated Ruby, sending little thrills through her. She was creating something. She was adding her own contribution to the dull world with her abstract designs and pictures.
As much as her art raised her spirits and kept her content, Ruby always felt as if something was lacking in her life. Something inside of her still felt dull and empty. It was one day serving coffee that she finally understood what it was. She saw it in the short sneaky glance between Mary Margaret and David.
There was passion there. Love. A feeling more intense than Ruby had ever known. It was not until that day that Ruby truly understood how lonely she was. Mary Margaret was a good friend, but they hardly saw each other outside that coffee shop, and clearly their ties of friendship didn't come close to the depths of romantic bonds.
Ruby sat at home in her bed that night and pulled out her drawing pad and pencil. Allowing her hand to move across the page at will, she impulsively sketched the figure of a man. He was of average height and fairly lean. His hair was coarse, brown and curly. His eyes were blue and they twinkled with a curious light. His smile was playful and teasing, but kind and thoughtful too.
Ruby knew it was only a picture, a figment of her imagination, but she could not help smiling back at it. The likelihood that she would ever meet such a man was close to none: after all, she knew almost everyone in Storybrooke and strangers never came to town. But that didn't mean that she couldn't keep the image and spend a few nights dreaming of her perfect man.
'Til I'm with you then, I'm with you there in my dreams, she thought, as she faded into unconsciousness.
Time passed so slowly. Or so quickly. Will wasn't sure anymore. Gazing out his window, he stared blankly out at the grass lawn, the neighbor's house, the blue sky, the birdhouse, the trees... all things that he had looked out at a million times before, stuck in the confines of his lonely house.
Will's eyes followed the movement outside as two chipper birds landed on the birdhouse, chirping loudly. He stared at them in numb silence, wondering desperately, How is it you sing? Will had been trapped inside so long that he felt completely empty inside. He wished with all his might that he could learn to adapt and be happy despite his captive existence, but he could find no inspiration to do so. He couldn't find the will to sing.
"Mother! Mother!" called the frantic young man.
"Yes, what is it Jack?" replied the woman tiredly.
"Come outside, quick!"
"Why, what is it?" she asked, ignoring his command.
Will's mother worked as a bag-lady at the town's grocery store. She never let Will out of the house, claiming that he was too slow, too stupid. The wolves of the world would eat him up without a second glance, she said. Perhaps she was right. Will felt rather dull. His mind was often blank and he had a tendency to stare at nothing for the longest time. He also felt rather... empty. For some reason, he could remember almost nothing of his past.
"Do we have an ax?" Jack cried, bursting into the house.
"Why, what on earth do you need an ax for? You aren't going to chop down that stalk now, are you?"
"That's exactly what I'm going to do. Before the giant follows me back down!" explained the boy, rushing out of the small house with an ax now in hand. Sprinting over to the thick, leafy vines which stretched high into the sky, he tried to ignore how he could see it shaking. Letting out a battle cry, Jack swung at the stalk.
The ax did nothing. It didn't even cut a notch into the green trunk.
Jack cried out in nervous frustration and swung again, but with the same results.
Will could remember being locked up in his room, that was all. Deep down, Will knew that he had not always been locked up. But any memories of such a time were gone, vanished. All that remained in Will's vacant head were random flashes, pictures that he was sure meant something important. But he could never hold on to them for long, and he could never make sense of them anyways.
"Would you perhaps be needing... some assistance?"
Jack whirled around to face two figures standing where no one had been only moments earlier. One was a strange man with shimmering, scaly skin and a mischievous grin. The other was a beautiful young woman with brown locks and blue eyes. What an odd pair...
"Can you help me?" he asked determinedly. The shakes in the beanstalk were increasing. The giant was getting further down in his descent. "Please, can you help?"
"For a price," intoned the man, still grinning frighteningly.
The history that the captive Will could not remember was this:
Once, some years ago in this world, Will had been a normal high school boy (if somewhat of a loner), out and about in the town like the rest of his peers. But Will had a special quality about him that most of his peers did not possess: insatiable curiosity. Will was always exploring new places in town, seeking out new adventures, new peaks of excitement.
One day Will observed the Mayor making her way into the hospital. Feeling his innate curiosity kicking in—and having nothing better to do in his free time—Will followed her inside. He became very confused when he watched Regina make her way to the back of the hospital, then vanish down an eerie staircase. Will dared not follow her, but he immediately searched the surrounding area. As he'd presumed, there was an elevator nearby for the use of the janitorial staff, but there was something strange about this one. Unlike the normal elevators which were free to be used by anyone, this elevator required an ID authentication.
Vowing to come back another day, Will rushed away before the Mayor could find him poking around.
The odd man glanced briefly at his companion, as if to ask her opinion. But her attention had been caught by something across the yard. Both Jack and the man followed her gaze and their eyes rested upon an exquisite, golden harp- one of Jack's spoils of war, if you will.
The man pondered briefly before grinning wickedly and releasing an unnerving giggle.
"I'll offer you a deal! I'll give you my precious ax, which can chop chop chop through anything of course, and you give me... that harp."
"Done," accepted Jack firmly. His mother would not be pleased, but this was a life and death situation; there was little else to be done. The man gave another high-pitched giggle and snapped his fingers. A beautifully crafted silver ax appeared on the ground beside the boy. Picking it up quickly, he swung at the beanstalk in one smooth motion. The ax cut cleanly through, as promised, and the three figures watched as the massive leafy rope came crashing to the ground, and with it, the huge body of a giant. The earth rumbled dangerously as the giant landed on the surface, emitting a boom as loud as thunder and sending all three spectators reeling to the ground.
Will went about the business very carefully. He got hold of and studied the janitorial schedule, and then observed the janitor assigned to the basement for several weeks. Having devised a plan, he came back to the hospital one day ready to finally discover the secret of the inexplicable basement.
The boy checked his watch. It was 5:30 sharp. Perfect. The janitor maintained a very strict schedule. At 5:30 he would arrive. At 6:00 he would head down to the basement to perform his duties. Between these two times, everyday without fail, the janitor visited the restroom, leaving his cart momentarily unmanned. This was significant because as Will had learned through careful watching, the man's ID was kept in a pouch on this very cart.
Jack stumbled to his feet as the other man assisted the girl off the ground.
"Who are you two?" he asked them. The man swept him a mocking bow.
"Rumpelstiltskin, at your service. This is simply my maid. Sometimes I bring her along with me on my little... jaunts."
The woman rolled her eyes at the man and walked to Jack, kindly extending her hand. He grasped it and shook.
"I'm Belle," she introduced.
"Jack," he replied, returning her smile.
"JACK!" The boy cringed and turned to face his livid mother rushing out of their house. "What on earth have you been doing you troublesome boy? Why I thought the house would-"
The woman cut herself off as she finally caught sight of the giant lying dead on the ground. She paled and stumbled back a step, muttering incoherently.
"Well! We'll be going now. Pleasure doing business with you," hissed Rumpelstiltskin teasingly. With a snap of his fingers, the gold harp disappeared from its place on the lawn. Grabbing Belle's hand, the pair was suddenly enveloped in a burst of smoke. When the smoke cleared, they were gone.
"Who on earth were they?" cried Jack's mother. "And where has our harp got to?"
"It's gone, Mother," answered the boy, "And they were no one. Just friends."
Will watched from around the corner as the janitor disappeared into the men's restroom. Quickly he rushed to the cart and yanked open the pouch. There was the ID, sure enough. Grinning excitedly, Will made his way to the elevator and placed the card over the scanner.
The elevator gave a ding and opened its doors. Will held his breath in anticipation as the elevator traveled down one flight before dinging once more, its doors opening.
Will stepped out and turned down the hallway to his left, this being the only way to go. He turned the corner. There on the other side of the room was an intimidating door giving the appearance of a prison cell.
Feeling apprehensive, Will approached the looming door, crouching down so that he was on the same level as a small flap. He lifted it up and looked in.
News took a long time to travel in this land, but Jack was always very attentive when it came. This time it came in the form of a young girl, Goldilocks—rather appropriately named—who said she was merely passing through before continuing on to the forest the next day.
"It's just the most dreadful thing," said the girl loftily.
"What is?" Jack politely inquired.
"There's this King you see. His daughter is the most beautiful girl in the land, so they say. I think her name is Belle. Very fitting, don't you think?"
"Belle?" yelped the boy in surprise, accidentally spilling some of his porridge onto his lap. Quickly he mopped it up as his mind spun. Though he had not known Belle or Rumpelstiltskin very long, he'd always thought on them fondly—even the man, yes—and had often wondered how they were faring. "What do you know of Belle?" The girl shot him a judgmental look, but clearly wanted to finish her tale anyways.
"She used to live with this crazy old trickster she did, but finally he got tired of her and threw her out." Jack let out a shocked gasp, earning him another look. But he couldn't help it. It had seemed so clear to Jack in their very brief time together that Rumpelstiltskin had cared deeply for Belle. Why on earth would he throw her out?
"Anyhow... she went back home to her father, but he didn't like it one bit. She had been living with a strange man after all. So now he has her locked up I hear, and he's trying to purge her soul of her sins with fire and penance. Isn't it just dreadful?"
"Yes," he said honestly, his heart crying at the injustice, "It's awful."
Will felt his heart stop ever so briefly. That girl... That woman who was staring back at him in such obvious confusion. She looked a wreck. But also... familiar. Didn't he know that face? That long brown hair, those blue eyes...
Suddenly, it all came back to him. Everything. He stumbled away from the cell, the flap slamming shut loudly as he landed against the wall. He could see it all in his mind. A different world, a different life. Fighting giants, meeting Rumpelstiltskin—Mr. Gold!—and above all, Belle. In coming to this world, Belle had been erased from everyone's memories. Now, seeing her had brought back his memories from the fairytale world, the only world in which Belle had a history.
"What are you doing down here?" snapped an angry voice. Will—Jack—locked eyes with a woman who was glaring dangerously at him.
"I'll just... I'm just going to..." Unable to finish his stammered thoughts, Will sprinted back to the elevator, tumbling inside and pressing the button to close the doors. His nerves were racing as the elevator lifted slowly up, finally stopping, dinging, and opening its doors for him.
Will raced out of the metal box, only to halt dead in his tracks. The Mayor—Evil Queen—smiled cruelly at him.
"Hello there. It's Will, isn't it?"
"I know who you are," he whispered hoarsely, "I know what you've done. I'll tell the whole town. I'll get Belle released, I swear it."
"I don't think so," replied the Mayor with a confident smirk. "You'll be coming with me I'm afraid."
Having received vague directions from the annoying little girl Goldilocks, Jack set out towards Belle's castle. He wasn't entirely sure what he would do once he got there, but he liked Belle, and he had to try something. Someone had to stick up for her, help her fight against her insane father.
When he finally got there, it was as if fate had dictated the timing of his arrival. Jack dropped the sack he'd been carrying in shock as he watched a body soar out of an open window and down towards the ground below.
"No," he whispered, "No, NO... BELLE!"
The body hit the ground. Jack ran as quick as he could, praying with all his might for the impossible.
Or perhaps, not impossible. There was a pulse, a very faint pulse still in her. He cried out with relief.
"Move aside," snapped an impatient voice. Jack jumped away as a woman with pale skin, black hair, and regal black attire swooped down beside the unconscious girl.
"Who are you?" he asked shakily. The woman smirked.
"Someone that can help her, unlike you. I suggest you leave now." Jack clenched his jaw firmly.
"No. I won't leave her."
The woman stood, sending the boy a mockingly innocent smile.
"I don't think you truly have any choice in the matter."
"What do you-" Jack collapsed unconscious to the ground as he was clobbered over the back of the head.
"Excellent," said the Queen to her guard. "Now take the girl. Put her in the carriage."
When Jack finally blinked his eyes awake, he bolted up from the ground only to find that he was all alone.
After this event, Regina had enlisted Will's mother into her service. Together, the two women ensured that the boy would never leave his house again. For extra measure, Regina gave into the mother's possession a drug to be administered in his meals- a drug to slowly erode one's memories over time.
Like most other people in the town, Will's mother was frightened of the Mayor, and though she did not know why her son must be locked away, or what the drug did, she followed Regina's instructions anyways. She'd never been too terribly fond of Will anyways—he was often more trouble than he was worth—and Regina had implied that should the mother fail to meet her conditions, she would have no hesitation in dispatching of her.
And so it came to be that the one person in Storybrooke who knew the truth was kept locked away in his room, like a captive bird in a silent cage.