Married life suits the couple well; not much changes except that Belle no longer keeps a separate room. Rumplestiltskin, deliriously happy, does all he can to bring his new wife joy and keep her as comfortable as possible; she endures his fussing only because it warms her heart to see him working so earnestly to please her.
Weeks turn into months, and when the first snow falls outside the walls of the castle, Belle nervously pulls her husband aside to tell him something.
"Are you sure?" he asks, eyes just beginning to widen with hope.
"As sure as I can be," she answers, her hand on the stomach that has just begun to round.
They spend the rest of winter preparing for the new arrival. One evening, Rumplestiltskin and Belle are hard at work clearing a room for a nursery. As Belle carefully bends over to clean under a table, she finds the small box that Nova gave her and remembers what she was told.
"Rumple," she calls. "I just found a wedding present."
"Nova, a fairy I helped a while ago." She crosses the room and shows it to him.
"Well, what is it?"
"I have no idea. I only remember that she told me we could only use it once."
Rumplestiltskin turns the box over in his hands until Belle finally asks, "Well, shall we open it?"
"Right…of course." He opens the box and stares at the contents. Belle looks around his shoulder. "What is it?"
"It's…" He hesitates. "It's something magical."
"Doesn't it remind you a bit of when we went through the hat?"
Rumplestiltskin stares harder. "I think you're right."
"Then it's a portal?" she asks, her excitement growing. "Rumplestiltskin, she said to use it wisely because it would only work once; what if she means that it's a portal only to one place?"
He can't speak; the moment he'd opened the box, the prospect of somehow seeing Bae again had entered his mind. It was a hope he'd never dared to entertain; he was already too happy. Surely this much happiness would kill him.
"Rumple?" Belle shakes his arm, pulling him out of his thoughts. "Shall we try it?"
He looks up at her, terrified, before nodding. "Yes. Yes, of course."
He tips the box over in the corner of the room, and instantly, a small opening appears on the floor.
"What if I can't come back?"
"What are you talking about?" Belle gives him a look. "I'm going with you."
"No, I'm going alone."
"I'm pregnant, not an invalid, Rumple. I'm going with you!"
"Belle…" He takes her hands. "What if I can't come back?"
She shakes her head. "That's exactly why I have to go with you."
After a moment, he nods, and hand in hand, they approach the portal and jump in together.
Jack has just turned off the TV and is about to follow Elena to bed when a blinding light fills his living room and his father falls to the ground in front of him.
"Holy…!" he cries. "Papa, what are you—" He doesn't finish before the light flashes again and Belle is in the living room too.
"Oh dear," she says. "I think the portal was a little too sensitive…I didn't think we'd end up in the house."
"Jack?" Elena calls from the back room, prompting him to take action.
"Quick," he says, grabbing his father by the arm and pushing him towards the front door. "Go outside and then knock. I have no idea what's going on but—"
"Jack?" He's too late; Elena is already standing in the hallway, staring at her unexpected house guests. "Who—how—is that your father?"
Everyone freezes before Jack stutters, "Uh, Elena, let me explain."
"How did they get inside? I didn't hear the door…"
Jack leads her to the couch and sits beside her, obviously struggling with the correct words.
"How do I even begin?" he mutters. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, but…they got here through magic."
She stares at him, her expression full of disbelief. "Magic? What are you talking about?"
"It's…it's a long story," he begins. "And I never thought…when I asked you to marry me, I promised I would never lie to you, as long as you never asked me about my childhood. And I've kept that promise." He swallows hard. "But the truth is…see, I really was taken in by Ed and Nancy when I was 15, and they really did find me on the streets, but before that…" He pauses; Elena looks back at him, urging him on with her eyes.
"I came from another world." He pauses for a long time, letting the silence fill the room. Rumplestiltskin can hardly breathe while he waits for his son to continue.
"My real name is Baelfire. I was born in a small village that was on the frontlands of the Ogre Wars. The war was going badly, and at the age of fourteen, children were required to fight. My papa didn't want to lose me, so he made a deal to save me, but it was a deal he didn't understand."
Rumplestiltskin clings to Belle; he's never heard the story told from his son's perspective, and each word dredges up more painful memories. It's all he can do to remain standing; without Belle's support, he'd have collapsed to the ground. Belle, meanwhile, watches Elena, whose face has grown increasingly grave; what must it be like for her, to have everything she believed about her husband completely change in an instant?
"So…now you know," Jack finishes. "I don't expect you to believe me. In fact, I wouldn't blame you if…if you wanted to leave."
Elena doesn't say anything for a few moments, but then she sighs heavily and takes her husband's hand.
"When I married you," she says softly, "I promised before God and everyone that I would love you all the days of my life. I don't understand much of what you just told me, but nothing will change that I love you."
They embrace, Jack in tears, before Elena pulls away. "I can still call you Jack, right? Baelfire is a little…I mean, it's a good name, but…"
"Jack is fine!" he answers, laughing, before turning to his father. "So did you use the hat again? I thought you wouldn't be able to visit…"
"Not the hat, no," Rumplestiltskin replies.
"But you used some sort of portal?" Elena asks hesitantly. "Like the one Jack came through?"
"Yes," Belle continues. "We were told the portal only works once, so we should use it wisely."
"The children," Elena finishes for him. "They won't understand."
"Of course," Rumplestiltskin agrees. "And I must apologize; we didn't mean to land in your home, but sometimes, magic doesn't work the way we want it to.
"As for whether we can go back, we honestly don't know, but…" He looks at their fireplace. "There's still some magic where we came through."
"How did you get this portal?" Jack asks. "Can you ask whoever gave it to you how it works?"
"Well, it was a wedding present from a fairy," Belle says. "But she's on a boat traveling the world right now, so…"
"Wait, wedding?" Jack looks back and forth between the two of them. "Whose wedding?"
"Well, that explains the baby bump," Elena says knowingly.
"Baby?! Papa, what—"
Rumplestiltskin smiles; this is the first opportunity in a long time he's had to share good news with his son. "Looks like we have some explaining of our own to do," he says. "Bae, meet your new step-mother."
After telling Jack and Elena all about the wedding and providing further embellishment to the story of how they met, Rumplestiltskin hesitantly steps into their fireplace and disappears.
He reappears moments later, grinning madly.
"It works!" he cries, overjoyed. After centuries of trying to get to his son, he now has a reliable method to use whenever he wants.
Everyone hugs, with Elena requesting they both visit next week—they can develop an explanation for the children by then—and Rumplestiltskin and Belle go back through the portal to their home.
That night, he lies awake in bed, unable to get over his giddiness.
"You realize, Belle," he whispers, not even bothering to check if she is awake and listening, "that I can see him now. I can finally see my boy whenever I want to."
"Mm-hmm," she replies sleepily. "You finally got your happy ending."
He freezes; she's right, of course, but something still irks him.
"Belle," he says, rolling over so he can see her face, "in storybooks, villains never get happy endings."
"Well, I guess you're not a villain then," she says simply, effectively ending the conversation so she can get her much-needed rest.
Rumplestiltskin dwells on that; he knows he's no hero, so what other role could he have? And if he is a villain, then what horrible thing could befall him to destroy this blissful life?
He puts a protective hand on Belle's swollen belly; he is already infinitely grateful for the child he already has, but if anything were to happen to this new one…
"Rumple," Belle opens one eye. "You'd better not be thinking what I think you are."
"Course not, love," he says, chastised, but he lies awake for several hours and when he does sleep, it is fitful and plagued with uneasy dreams.
Summer comes, bringing with it unbearable heat. Belle is too large and uncoordinated to continue her usual chores, so Rumplestiltskin hires a maid to help out and stay with her when he visits Baelfire's new world.
The morning of his next planned trip, however, Belle looks decidedly uncomfortable.
"Are you sure you'll be all right without me, love?" he asks. "I can just pop over and let them know I can't stay…"
"No, go see your son," Belle insists. "I'll be fine."
"Oh, good." He kisses her on the forehead. "I'm going with them to the zoo; Frankie is very excited to show me the hippos."
"Hippos?" Belle asks wearily.
"A river horse of some sort," he explains. "I'll be back tomorrow morning."
She watches him go, hiding her discomfort until she's sure he's passed into the other world. Frowning, she presses her hand to her stomach before calling for Alma; in this heat, she doesn't even trust herself to bathe alone anymore.
Rumplestiltskin spends a perfect afternoon with his son and grandchildren. After a few hours enjoying the zoo, they head back for one of Elena's amazing home cooked meals.
"Yay!" Frankie cries as his plate is put in front of him. "Lasagna's my favorite!"
Rumplestiltskin ruffles his hair and tries his own lasagna. "Elena, this is wonderful; you'll have to give Belle the recipe."
"Where is Belle?" Joey asks; during her last visit, it was decided that she was much too young to be called 'Grandma' and the children would call her by her given name. "I was hoping she would get to come with us to the zoo."
"Remember, Joey? She's going to have a baby soon," Elena reminds him. "Remember right before Ernie was born, and Daddy had to take you to school every morning?"
"Oh, right," Joey says. "My new aunt or uncle." He frowns. "It's OK if I'm older than my uncle, right?"
"Of course," Jack says, laughing. "How do you think I feel, having a much younger sibling?"
"I wonder if it's a boy or a girl," Frankie says, bouncing up and down in his seat.
"Don't worry; we'll find out soon," Rumplestiltskin says, putting a hand on the boy's leg to keep him still.
"Sooner than you'd think," Elena observes. "She's due any day now, isn't she?"
Rumplestiltskin's fork stops halfway up to his mouth. "She is?"
"Papa, you don't even know when she's due?" Jack teases.
He flushes. "I wasn't there when you were born, so…" He puts his fork down. "Perhaps I should go back home tonight."
"Papa, I'm sure Belle won't have the baby tonight!" Jack says, but Rumplestiltskin is already too worried about his wife to even consider staying.
After dinner, he hugs the children as they go off to bed, pretends to leave the house, then jumps into the fireplace to get home.
He's greeted by darkness. He's not concerned though; Belle wasn't expecting him back tonight, but as he walks through the halls, he finds nothing.
"Hello?" he calls desperately, hoping he'll hear his wife respond from one of the upper or lower stories (curse his impractical castle design), but he receives no answer.
He scrambles up to the top floor and checks their bedroom and the library, then darts down to the lowest floor to check the pantry and kitchen. He is about to turn away and run to the dining rooms when he hears a low moan from the bathroom.
"Belle?" He gets there as soon as he can and throws open to the door.
"Rumplestiltskin!" Belle gasps when she sees him. "You're back?" She's kneeling on the cobblestones by the bath, wearing nothing but her bloodied shift, with the maid frantic beside her.
"Oh, no…Belle!" He can't kneel down to her level so he grabs her hand. "Something's wrong, isn't it? The baby…?"
"The baby's fine," she says tersely. "It's just…this isn't easy."
Rumplestiltskin swallows hard; he's never had problems with children or infants, but childbirth is a bit out of his realm of experience, never mind his aversion to blood in large amounts.
"Alma," he says, breaking the maid from her hysterics. "Do something useful and run to town to fetch a midwife. Quickly now!"
She nods and half-curtsies before running out the door; he hopes she'll at least remember to come back.
"She'll bring help," he says reassuringly. "She'll be back in time."
"I'm sure," Belle says before letting out another moan when her pains hit. "Oh, gods…this is awful."
"What can I do?"
"Nothing, really." She leans back, breathing hard. "I've seen a baby born before; I sort of know what's supposed to happen."
"That's more experience than I have."
"True." She smiles, then frowns. "Rumplestiltskin, there's something I've never told you though."
"I don't…I'm not…" She grimaces, fighting through another contraction. "I don't know how to take care of a child!"
"Oh, darling, I'm sure that's not true…"
"No, really!" she says, her words punctuated with occasional cries of pain. "When I held Ernie for the first time, I was so terrified I was doing something wrong. It was the first time I'd ever held a baby. I've never changed a diaper or dealt with colic or…" She broke off, crying out even louder. "I don't think I can do this!"
"You don't think you can do this? Belle, you strode in the middle of an execution and forced everyone to stop and single-handedly conquered the Dark One by removing his curse. All without magic too." He kisses her forehead. "You've nothing to worry about."
"That's different; that was love," she groans. "This is mothering."
Rumplestiltskin shakes his head. "It's the same thing. Do you love our baby?"
"Then you'll be a fine mother." He bites his lip as she lets out another cry of agony. "Is it getting worse?"
"Much worse! Is Alma back yet?"
"I can go upstairs and look for her."
Belle nods, in too much pain to speak.
"I'll be right back, I promise."
He runs up the stairs as fast as his leg will let him and stares out the window, searching for a light coming back toward the castle. The pathway was dark.
"This is a most inconvenient time to be trapped in here," he mutters before looking up to notice a particular, familiar star, which gave him an idea.
No, he thought. Anyone but her. But he was desperate; Belle was about to have the baby now, and he needed all the help he could get.
"Reul Ghorm," he said in a voice that was barely audible, "I know you're there."
"That I am," she said, before him in an instant. "And I hear your wish. I cannot let you leave the castle, but I can send help."
"Whatever you can do," he mutters.
"All right," she says, waving her wand. "Your maid and the midwife are already here."
"Right." They stare awkwardly at each other for a moment before Rumplestiltskin mumbles "Thank you" as quickly as he can; before he can really think about what he said, he runs back down the stairs to be with his wife.
Alma is blocking the door, visibly frightened.
"I can't let you in, sir," she says. "Midwife says you can't go in."
"Is Belle all right?"
"I don't know, sir. All I know is that I flew part of the way here and I don't want that to happen again."
Rumplestiltskin curses in impatience. "Well, go in there and find out!"
Alma scurries in obediently, and he pulls up a chair, determined to wait right outside the door until he knows his wife is no longer in danger.
A moment later, Alma comes out of the room. "Sir! The baby's born!"
He stands up too fast, almost tripping over his cane, when the midwife abruptly shouts something and shuts the door.
"What did she say?"
"She says you can't come in now, sir; something's wrong."
Rumplestiltskin's heart catches in his chest; something wrong? Who's in trouble: Belle or the baby? And what's wrong? He can't breathe; if anything happens to either of them…
He remembers what he thought last night; villains don't have happy endings. It only makes sense that some of his happiness would be ripped from him tonight.
He hears a wail just as the door opens, and he jumps up, brushing tears out of his eyes. "Is she—are they—?"
"You can come in now," the midwife says in her creaky voice. "Child has good lungs."
He runs in to the room to see his wife sitting up, a tiny, grumpy stranger in her arms. "Belle? Are you all right? And the baby?"
She nods. "I'm fine. The baby wasn't breathing at first, but then some pink dust blew in the room, and she started screaming, so…" She moved the blanket so that Rumplestiltskin could get a look at his child's face. "Isn't your daughter beautiful?"
He looks, vision blurry because of tears. "She is. Oh, Belle, she's perfect."
It's true; she has her mother's nose, a patch of fuzzy brown hair, and when she finally opens her eyes and unsteadily focuses them on her father's face, they are the exact same shade of brown as his.
"What shall we name her?" Belle asks.
"How about Juliette?" Rumplestiltskin suggests.
She looks up, slightly alarmed. "What made you think of that name?"
"One of your books," he admits sheepishly.
"Oh…well, it suits her. Hello, Juliette," she says to the baby, who yawns in response. "You know, that was my mother's name."
"Yes, so it's perfect."
A month later, Belle dresses Juliette in her best outfit and goes through the portal with Rumplestiltskin to introduce the newest member of their family to the rest of them.
When they came through the portal, Elena greets them heartily.
"You're just in time; Jack will be home with the children any moment. Now let me see the precious little angel."
She holds Juliette, singing a Spanish lullaby to her, while Rumplestiltskin helps Belle to the couch.
"You'd best sit down; the children will want to jump all over you," he warns.
The door opens a moment later, and Jack comes in with all three boys bursting with energy.
"Is our aunt here?" Joey asks while Frankie yells, "Yay, Grandpa and Belle!" and runs to hug them both.
"Hold on, lad," Rumplestiltskin says, skillfully intercepting the boy and keeping him from climbing onto his wife. "Belle's tired, so no jumping, all right?"
"OK," Frankie agrees before sitting next to his step-grandmother and giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Where's my new aunt?"
"Mama's holding her," Joey explains as he peers through his new glasses at the infant. "I still find it so strange to have an aunt who is younger than all of us."
Jack comes over to take a look. "Wow, she looks just like you, Belle." He shifts Ernie to his other hip so that his son can see. "See, Ernie, see your Aunt Juliette?"
"Baby?" Ernie, only recently beginning to talk, doesn't quite understand the concept of family relations, but he knows the word for this phenomenon. "Baby?"
"Yeah, Ernie, we know it's a baby," Frankie says. "Can I hold her? Please, please, please?!"
"Only if you sit down," Belle says, "but you and Joey have to take turns, all right?"
"I'm quite all right not holding her," Joey says, a little jealous that he didn't think to ask first.
While Frankie holds the baby with a little help from Belle and Elena, Jack gets the camera from his bedroom.
"OK, we're going to take a family picture since it's the first time we've all been together since Juliette was born. Papa, why don't you get everyone situated while I get this set up?"
Rumplestiltskin obliges, seating a child on either side of Elena and making a space for his son, then taking up his position by his wife. Jack finishes setting up the camera and turns to review the seating arrangement.
"Oh, Papa, come on; you've got to be in the middle."
"Well, this is your family, isn't it?" Jack laughs. "Everyone here is related to you by blood or marriage."
"I…I suppose you're right." Rumplestiltskin moves to the center of the couch; Jack gets the camera set up then sits at his father's right. Belle and Juliette are on the other side, and Elena and her children squeeze in next to Jack.
"OK, it'll go off in about ten seconds," Jack instructs, "so everybody, smile!"
Rumplestiltskin stares at the blinking light on the camera ticking away the seconds before the flash will go off. Certainly, in Storybrooke, he'd been photographed, but this is his first time while free from his false life as Mr. Gold.
How strange, he thinks, that a life lasting hundreds of years, through not one, but three Ogre Wars, with widespread fame from countless deals and trades made to acquire more and more power, was so poorly documented with pictorial evidence.
Somehow, it doesn't matter. That life had been an eternity of darkness, with only brief flickers of joy sprinkled throughout; this life, the life that had begun when Belle kissed him, is infinitely better.
He has no power, and the threat of mortality now hangs over his head, but looking at his son and grandsons, his wife and daughter, there's nothing more he could want in any world.
"Papa, smile!" Jack urges, and Rumplestiltskin obeys just in time for the camera to flash. Jack gets up immediately to check how it turned out.
"Hm, shall we retake it?" he asks, showing it to the group. None of the children are looking at the camera; Ernie has a finger up his nose, and Frankie is cross-eyed. Juliette's face is contorted from apparently being in the middle of dirtying her diaper, and Belle's brow is knotted in concern and disgust. Elena's eyes are closed, and Jack's mouth is blurred from speaking. But in the middle of them all, Rumplestiltskin is sporting the widest grin he's probably ever smiled in his life.
"No, I like it," he says. "Let's keep this one."
"Really, Papa?" Jack says, giving his father an incredulous look. "I mean, we can definitely take a better one."
"I'm certain." He looks at the picture again and smiles. He understands now; maybe he hasn't got a happy ending, but the new beginnings he's experiencing daily bring him more joy than he'd ever thought possible.