It is a fact nearly every person living in Storybrooke acknowledges that Mister Gold does not smile unless someone is in very, very deep and desperate trouble. It is, however, not a truth well known why he continually frowns. No one ever regards him as a man with feelings – the majority fear him too much to even go within a hundred yard radius, and the exceptions like Sheriff Swan and her little boy are too busy with their little curse to waste time pondering over the town bully. Well, "bully" may be a little extensive of the truth, but he knew it was how he had established his reputation in this town. But it wasn't his fault that people were so stupid as to make deals with him, and then attempt to evade him. Promises were promises after all.
People don't seem to understand that human beings are complex. Anatomy is one way of looking at it – different bone structures, different fingerprints, different blood types and DNA – but then fine layers of emotions build up over the years, completing someone and their history, the ways that they act and react. The ways that they heal, but then the ways that they break. The reason that he does not let anyone in – allows the town to believe he is nothing but the cruel owner of the antiquities shop – is because he knows, if anyone ever discovered his history, then he would break. Just like he did before.
It just so happens to be exactly four years (or rather three months, seeing as the curse had them deadlocked at one point for an infinite amount of time) since his breaking point was etched into his soul. The girl, twenty six years old, the one he cared for more than he ever admitted, was pronounced missing. Then dead. They buried her without a body, and no one ever spoke of her again. He didn't go to her funeral, no one wanted him there, and when the inevitable asking of a reason for his presence occurred, then he had no excuse.
It had been her father's fault. Mo French – the town flower man – had never loved her enough. He had made a deal, and when the conditions of the deal had come to an end, he failed his daughter. He had hurt her – everyone knew and yet no one mentioned it. That was the way this town worked. But still, everyone knew. And that was enough. After three months of returning back home to her father, she had disappeared, fled into the woods one evening. She never came back.
The terms of his conditions had been simple enough. He saved Mo French's worthless flower business from the loan sharks, and in return, he offered up his daughter to work in his antiquities shop. She wouldn't be paid, bear in mind, and the job would be forever, but she had employment, and they had enough. The girl moved into the flat above the shop, where she lived rent-free for two years. He still remembered her first day working.
Deep copper hair tied up in the most prim and proper way he could imagine, in a little blue summer dress that reached on her knees. Grey eyes sparkling with either anxiousness or anticipation, and hands shaking. Her father had told her all about her employer – his side of it anyhow – and she was worried for how he might treat her. Whether he would make her uncomfortable. She was so frightened he would lash out like in the stories dopey old Mo had told her that she dropped the first thing she touched. She offered to pay for it, her voice tremmoring and quivering.
It was just a cup. A little chip, in a cup.
It took a while, but they became firm friends. Everyone saw it – no one commented. It was probably improper, seeing as he was twice her age, but they laughed together. She was the only person he had ever met who could make him laugh. They would take tea at the same time every day, twelve o'clock, in the back room of the shop. They would have earl grey tea, and a ham sandwich each with a biscuit, usually chocolate digestive. He can't recall now what they talked about, and he cannot delve into that part of his memory for fear of going insane.
Slowly, the strands that connected them began to deepen and become stronger. Nobody realized, no matter how nosy some of the residents happened to be, because they didn't know themselves. Their lives had been weaved together for almost two years, no time had passed (literally), and they turned from firm friends to something indescribable. He certainly didn't know how to phrase it. But it was rich, stingy, cruel Mister Gold, and young, beautiful and kind Isabelle French who somehow managed to fall in love.
When he found out of her…affections…for him – well, that's when it started going downhill. You see, he could still remember. What happened long ago in the land of the fairies and where good versus evil was a daily, non-figurative occurrence. Where Rumplestiltskin had pushed away the only person who could love him. So he did the same. Two worlds, completely different, where anything was possible, running parallel, and yet everything was the same. She told him she loved him, and he couldn't take it. Because who would love him? Who could possibly love the bastard that evicted harmless old ladies, and refused to help scared young children? Isabelle came home one day from having dinner with Ruby at the diner to find all of her stuff packed up in boxes outside the shop, a note dumped on top simply saying,
It won't work Miss French. It never will. Go home.
So she went. He saw her around town at times, moping around the diner and in the clothes shops, but never spoke to her. He could always feel her eyes burning his skin as she glared in anger and fury at him, but he never responded. Never dared to look up and face her. The coward. Outside, he just looked the same as usual, with perhaps a little more vehemence and vengefulness than before, but on the inside, he was a ruined man. He broke himself, shattered himself into so many pieces that even beautiful, sweet Isabelle French would never be able to put him back together. Even one fateful night, when too much alcohol had been consumed, he cried. Because he loved her, and he lost her.
As the weeks went by, he began to notice changes around Isabelle when he saw her briefly in the street. Even though it was the middle of summer, she wore long jumpers that covered up her arms. She wore tights even though outside it was hot enough to cook eggs on the pavement. She wore layers and layers and layers of foundation on her face which discoloured her skin. It took him a while to find out why.
He didn't know if it was her father, or if it was indeed herself, but someone had been hurting her. Her eyes were constantly puffy, red-rimmed with hopelessness. The darted looks towards him were no longer full of hatred, but of pleading, begging him to help her. And of course, he was stupid enough to do nothing. Instead, he dreamed of holding her, and being able to brush stray strands of hair from her porcelain face, and whispering I love you into her ear in the evenings.
And then, as he said earlier, she went missing. There was nothing linking anyone to anything. After four months, and no further evidence, she was declared dead and the investigation was halted. He tried to make a scene, to get the police to try harder, but there was nothing anyone could do. He hated himself for it. He told himself that if he had done the right thing, not acted like a heartless bastard, she would still be here. And she would still be smiling. He destroyed the shop in an act of madness, only to have Sheriff Graham at his door in the middle of the night telling him to stop. The only thing left in that tact was that bloody chipped cup.
Isabelle French began to plague his dreams. Not like before, when they could be together, his own little world of happiness, but where everything seemed to be hiding in a shadow. On particular nights, he would hear her screaming at the top of her lungs as some unidentifiable person hit her. On others, she would sob uncontrollably, quietly whispering his name. Rarely, he would hear her running through the woods, her pants as she tried to evade a captor. A thump as she fell, lifeless to the floor. Her blood spilling across the ground. Every time he came close to reaching her and comforting her, she would vanish. People began to notice the black bags caused by sleepless nights underneath his mahogany brown eyes. He wished for her to stop. She didn't.
He doubted she ever would.
It was a brisk Saturday afternoon. Business had been slow, as was the usual, but the increased numbers of visitors he had in his shop, sending him strange glances, was beginning to unnerve him. There were whispers that just escaped his reach, half-comforting glances directed his way. One particular old lady even squeezed his hands. By the time Henry, the Sheriff's boy, came into the shop, Mister Gold was about to go and leave to see what exactly had happened.
Henry was a clever boy. He was bright, believed when most others scorned. He was afraid of Mister Gold to a certain extent, but now he had figured out who in the story he was, young Henry sort of found himself empathizing with the man. Truth be told, Mister Gold's story in both fairy-tale land and Storybrooke were heart-wrenching. He arrived, slick with sweat, his breathing unsteady and rough. He swung the door open, very forcefully for a ten year old, and ran up to the desk, the old battered book he carried everywhere in his hands. Mister Gold let a small expression of bemusement tug at his face before, in a reasonable and settled tone, he asked, 'May I help you?'
Henry looked up, caught and swallowed his breath quickly, and rushed out with, 'I overhead my mum telling someone about…' he hesitated for breath, still tired after his sprint here, 'this girl. Some girl. And then she mentioned you, and said something about you thinking she was dead.' He brought the story book onto the counter with a bang, and ruffled through half the pages before spinning it round to face a concerned Mister Gold, and pointed at the girl in the picture. It was indeed Belle, just as beautiful as Gold remembered. Just as beautiful. Just as dead.
'That's her. Belle – that's who they were talking about,' Henry explained, knowing this information was vital, even if he didn't understand, 'but they called her something else. Isabelle I think.' At this moment, he paused and looked at the intimidating and vicious man. Henry felt a brief shudder of nervousness wrack through him, but his mother had mentioned Mister Gold and Belle and fairy tale land in one sentence, and he knew it was important.
A glimmer of hope had formed inside Gold as the ten year old ranted, but he quickly extinguished it. Isabelle French was long gone. She was never coming back. 'Well thank you for the story, young Master Mills, but I'm afraid this is just a story,' Gold said seriously, lying through his teeth and placing a thin hand on the book, swivelling it around and handing it back to Henry. The boy was probably just talking nonsense.
But he seemed determined to let Mister Gold know exactly what he heard. Henry pulled that face which meant he thought he was dealing with a disbelieving adult, and pulled out a tape recorder from his trouser pocket, placing it on the desk. 'You might not like what you hear,' he mumbled, knowing Gold wouldn't like what he heard if he was Rumplestiltskin who loved Belle, 'but it's important that you know,' he implored, and he clicked play.
For a few seconds, there was static. And then, the voice of the Mayor kicked in, talking at someone who Gold identified to be Sidney, her little worm slash accomplice slash worker. The first few minutes were trivial, or nothing relevant, but a question from Sidney prompted Mayor Mills to finally start talking about Belle.
'We still don't need to worry about her. Gold has no idea where she is, and he's not going to know either-' a chuckle to rival that of a drunken Leroy '-He had no idea that I've managed to fool him and this pathetic little town about the fate of that one. I'm sure in fairy-tale land he might have been more thorough with his investigations, but I'm sure Belle won't be making any surprise appearances soon. Oh, beauty and the beast, what a tragedy.'
'Have you been to see her recently? At the hospital I mean?'
'Oh, where she's locked away in her stoic little bunker? I went last week – she's fine. Has no idea who she is of course, but then only Mister Gold does. And me. I need her kept in there, she's the only leverage I have in trying to destroy that bastard. If she escapes, then this whole operation collapses. It took me months to get her to the point where I could grab her easily, and I'm not letting all those hours of planning be wasted. I need information about Rumplestiltskin. I hate to admit it, but you and I both know that he's got more power than me. In this world anyway...'
At this point, Henry clicked the stop button on his little recorder, bracing himself for Mister Gold's actions. The older man's head was buzzing. What had he just heard? Could the improbable be true? Could she still be alive? Was this just some cruel trick? One look from the boy told him this was real. Isabelle French was still alive.
He was hit by a huge pang of guilt and anxiety and terror at how she was being treated, but then overwhelming feelings of joy. I can fix it, he thought gleefully, I can get her back. I can love her. Show her how wrong I was. A smile ripped across his mouth and he supressed the urge to hug the boy into oblivion. Clearly the children in this town were far more reliable, useful and helpful than any of the adults combined. Oh to see the look on Regina's face when…
Regina. She was the one who…who…
His fists curled into balls so tight that his nails dug into his palms and opened his skin. His eyes deepened to the blackest of blacks, his irises lost in a sea of darkness. His jaw tightened and clenched. Outside, the weather began to turn cold. The blue sky began to diminish into stormy grey clouds, and rain began to slowly pitter patter against the pavements. Henry took back his tape recorder, and pocketed it, grabbed the book off the table and began to move slowly towards the door, watching out for any sudden movements. A raging snarl appeared on Gold's face and he strode towards the door, limping on his cane as little as possible, shoving Henry to one side and disappearing outside into the thunderstorm now raging on. He had one thought in mind.
Make Regina pay.
Mayor Mills sat comfortably in her lavish office, leaning back in her chair, rotating around as the storm began to brew. She sighed out in boredom and sipped at her coffee, knowing today would not be getting much more eventful than this. Looking for something to do, Regina tidied her desk within an inch of its life and then moved one of the plant pots to a space where it would receive more sun as it was looking a little lack. Not that it would get any in this weather.
Just as she was debating going to find her son and insisting on watching a film or whatever else kids wanted to do at this age, an email popped up on her computer. The nurse from the asylum underneath the hospital. Well there was something new, Regina thought, a smile curling her perfectly painted red lips as she read the notice, she didn't know they could get signal down there.
The patient is showing signs of fear at the thunderstorm. She is currently screaming and crying, and there's nothing in the protocol which says how to deal with this. What course of action should be taken?
Curt. To the point. She liked it. Well, what do you know? Little Miss Brave who saved her town was afraid of a bit of rain. Pathetic. But before Regina could compose a reply, there came a gentle knock at the door. Waving it aside, Regina called Come in, unaware of what she was letting into her pristine little office.
At the sight of Mister Gold, Regina slammed the laptop shut, and leant forward on her desk. 'Mister Gold, what an unexpected pleasure. How can I help you?'
His curt smile disintegrated immediately, and she gulped nervously. An angry Mister Gold was never something she appreciated, and by the way he stomped right up to her glass desk, she could tell she was in trouble. He scraped a chair across the floor from the other side of the room, the noise like chalk screeching down a blackboard, and she was sure that he had left a great long indentation upon the floor. Great, she would have to get new floorboards. That was going to cost her a fair bit.
Finally resting, laying his cane to one side, Mister Gold gave her a grimacing smirk, which suggested, as she had guessed, she was in trouble. He only reinforced this slight terror when he leaned forwards, forcing her backwards into her chair. He rested his hands on her glass desk, and the tension seemed to mount so high that only a chainsaw could cut it. He looked deeply at her for what she guessed was about twenty minutes as she made nervous glimpses towards the door and the clock, afraid to move for fear he might snap. Outside, lightning was thrashing down upon Storybrooke.
Finally feeling a little impatient, Regina started to speak. 'Well if you've come to stare at me, I'm afraid I'm rather busy,' she began, standing up to move around before Gold literally roared, 'Sit DOWN!'
Regina leapt into her seat and Gold stood up.
'Now you do not speak, you do not breathe loudly,' he hissed menacingly. He followed Regina's eyes towards the door and nodded. 'If you make a sound, do not doubt that I will kill you here and now.' His voice was so acidic that it could burn metal.
He had never threatened to kill her before. Maim her certainly, but never to kill. She shivered, goose bumps tingling up and down her arms. Keeping her dignity though, the Mayor looked directly at Gold and kept her lips firmly shut.
He looked absolutely hellish. And he looked absolutely infuriated. She didn't have a clue what about.
'I thought,' he growled, 'that we had an understanding. You leave me alone, and I don't kill you.'
'But you broke that promise four years ago didn't you?'
She didn't move. Like he requested, she didn't even breathe loudly.
'DIDN'T YOU?' he yelled, slamming his fists down on the table in unison, his bones cracking painfully, but refusing to let her see it hurt. 'You took her away from me and LOCKED HER AWAY!' Outside, a horrendous clap of thunder roared across the town, and a flash of lightning sizzled through the atmosphere. The sky blackened, making it look like night-time even though it was barely four in the afternoon. The rain only intensified, slamming mercilessly against every window pane, each extra drop threatening to shatter it completely.
Her stomach turned. He knew. How could he have possibly found out? Everything was going to plan, it was all perfect. No one apart from Sidney knew, and he wouldn't ever tell. But that wasn't important now. She needed to feign her innocence – she could get out of this unscathed.
'I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about Mister Gold,' she said innocently, shaking her head and widening her eyes to try and make her story sound believable. He let out a quiet sarcastic laugh to which she nervously smiled, and then he pounded his fists back upon the glass and she snapped out of it.
'Don't play games with me "Your Majesty"' he mocked maliciously, 'Now tell me. Where is she?' Mister Gold demanded, his scowl becoming a permanent feature on his face. For someone so slight, he was powerful and terrifying. And somehow, in the bright light at the lightning sparked, she could swear she saw another man. A grotesque and ugly person. A beast.
'I'm afraid I shall have to call Doctor Hopper. I think a psychiatrist might be in order,' Regina trailed, trying to convince Mister Gold that she was actually worried about his mental sanity, and she reached towards her phone. Instead, before she begin dialling the numbers, Mister Gold picked up the phone, and with a huge roar, threw it at the opposite wall where it created a huge crack and then fell to the floor, dead.
That could be her if she wasn't careful.
'Now I'm going to give you one more chance,' he breathed so quietly that Regina was straining her ears just to make out his threat. 'Tell me where she is, and how I can get her out, or the next call from this office will be me, telephoning an ambulance to inform them that you accidentally got thrown out of a window,' he hissed so violently that Regina had to step on her foot with her heel to stop herself from whimpering. She was the god-damned Evil Queen, and here she was, quaking with fear underneath the empty threats of an old man. She could easily overpower Mister Gold.
But she couldn't say the same for Rumplestiltskin.
'When you tell me who "she" is referring to, I may be able to offer some assistance. However, I would recommend Sheriff Swan if you wish to find a missing person,' Regina suggested helpfully, in a last ditch attempt to save herself. She had known it wouldn't work. But she had some hope it would stall him. No such luck.
With some immeasurable amount of power that it was almost impossible for anyone to possess, Gold placed his hands underneath the table, wrenched it off its four legs and threw it across the room where it shattered into pieces, some as large as his head, some as small as his fingernails. Regina watched in dismay as her barrier was absolutely destroyed, and she swiftly twisted her head towards Gold, who was bristling with fury.
Mayor Mills stood to her feet, and wobbled a little prematurely, but then attempted to side step Gold and leave the room. Instead, he pulled her towards him with his cane and grabbed her cheeks, tilting his head to the left slightly.
'This is harassment, I'm calling the police,' Regina muttered, squirming helplessly as the devil began to awaken inside Gold. He looked at her with such malevolence that it could kill. But then if looks could kill, she would have been dead half an hour ago.
'You pretended she was dead. You took away the one thing that I loved,' Gold muttered, for the first time sounding a little…sad.
Regina smirked and then managed a laugh, 'And now you'll never find her. I'll die before you get to her.' She suddenly heard a deafening roar and she felt her head smashing backwards into a wall. She cried out in pain, knowing blood had been drawn, before two hands wrapped tightly around her throat, pinning her to the wall.
She looked at Mister Gold, and then, with the highest and most intense level of horror she had ever felt in her entire lives, saw that it wasn't him. In his place was an impish man, with dirty green-tinted skin, and wavy brown hair, with the blackest of black eyes, and rotting teeth.
'What…what are you?' she gasped, choking for breath as everything began to twist and turn. The creature's thin lips curled into a disgusting smile and then it leaned in and whispered the word, 'Rumplestiltskin.'
'How?' Regina cried, the hands around her throat cutting off her air supply, the storm outside brewing ferociously. She doubted she had ever been this terrified before in her entire life. 'How are you Rumplestiltskin? You can't be? Those two words are parallel!'
'Don't get yourself worked up dear,' Rumplestiltskin muttered in her ear with a snarl. And then Regina understood. Getting yourself worked up. Gold had always remembered his time in the other world, in fairy-tale land, and the spark which joined his two forms together was simple anger. But this was anger like no other. This was anger for losing someone you love, thinking they were dead. Living with the guilt that it was your fault that you didn't help. Having to live with the shame of failing that person. And all the while they were still alive.
'Now tell me. Where is she? What have you done to her?' Rumplestiltskin asked for the final time, loosening his grip of Regina ever so slightly. She gasped in air and tried to escape, but her head was again slammed against the wall. Everything was beginning to go blurry. The whole room was spinning. Outside was giving her a pounding headache. She looked down and saw crimson red blood trickling down her white wall. She was going to die, unless she answered. She thought. Belle was one bargaining chip, she could find another.
'She's underneath the hospital,' Regina muttered, 'There's a code to get in: 2507. She's in one of the rooms. Has been for years.'
There was silence. She had answered his questions. But this was Rumplestiltskin, he was still in control, and she was very close to being killed.
'You are everything I despise. You take joy in other people's miseries. You ruin lives just because of one little boy who your mummy didn't like,' Rumplestiltskin growled, clenching Regina's throat once again, leaving harsh bruises and finger marks where he was slowly strangling her, 'People die all the time. Everyone loses someone. You're just the heartless, insane, hostile bitch who decided to hurt everyone else as well.'
He finally released the Mayor, and she dropped to the floor instantly, her legs giving way due to lack of oxygen in her brain. Her head swam for a few moments before she looked back up and saw Mister Gold, leaning on his cane over her, smiling. 'Thank you for your co-operation Madam Mayor,' he whispered menacingly, 'and remember this – if you ever hurt Belle again, if you ever touch her, if you ever come near us ever again, I will take intense pleasure in watching the light in your eyes fade. Do you understand?'
She simply nodded, but even that hurt. Her whole body felt broken. 'Deal,' she muttered, grabbing a stray wad of tissues from the floor where her desk was shattered against the wall, with half the filing cabinet destroyed as well, and pressing it against the wound on the back of her head.
Just as Mister Gold left the room, he turned back, and called, 'I'll hold you to that.'