Chapter 7

Belle slept like a rock that night. It was the first decent night of sleep she had had since being cast from Rumpelstiltskin's castle so many long years ago. At long last, she felt safe.

She woke to the sun streaming in through the large bay window the next morning. She blinked slowly, her eyes bleary and full of sleep. Stretching, she sat up and threw back the large patchwork quilt that had kept her warm last night.

She slid out of the large four poster bed and her feel hit the floor. The bed was the exact same one she had slept in Rumpelstiltskin's castle. It was comforting to know that somehow the bed had been brought through time and space to this world. Belle wondered how many other things had come with Rumpelstiltskin.

Belle heard a rustling sound come from downstairs. It was Rumpelstiltskin, she knew. He probably hadn't slept all night. Since he was back to being immortal again, he didn't need the sleep.

She wandered down the stairs to find him. As she stepped off the last stair, she turned and saw him in the front room, cleaning. Attemptingto clean would be a more accurate word. It seemed magic had a mind of its own in this land, and right now was no exception.

There was a large pile of dust in the middle of the room that it looked like Rumpelstiltskin was wanting to get rid of. Every time he snapped his fingers though, the dust merely moved to a different part of the room. She could have sworn she heard a mirthful giggle come from the dust pile.

Rumpelstiltskin heard her in the doorway, and he turned around. With a shrug of his shoulders, he threw up his hands. "It seems there are some things that are still done better the old fashioned way."

Belle laughed. She entered the room and slowly walked around looking at everything. Some things in the room were familiar. A chair here, a painting there, all covered in dust and cobwebs. It was all crowded together, and hardly looked like the grand furnishings of a castle, but they were, nevertheless. She noticed some pieces seemed to be missing. They must be at his shop, she thought.

And then she saw it. Her eyes had glanced to the fireplace mantle, and not seeing anything of immediate interest, nearly moved on. But there it was, small and unassuming.

Rumpelstiltskin followed her gaze to the mantle. It's just a cup, he had said. They both knew it was more than that.

Belle picked it up. Sure enough, the chip was still there, though slightly larger than it had been before. She held it up and looked at Rumpelstiltskin. "You kept this all these years?"

He crossed the room to her and took the cup from her hands. He twirled it around gently in his calloused fingers. "It was all I had left of you." he said quietly. "When I was told you had died..."

Regina talked me into stealing some stuff of his. Her father's words rang in the back of her mind. Nothing special.

Suddenly, the pieces clicked together in Belle's mind. "He took this cup, didn't he?"

Rumpelstiltskin gave her a sharp, guarded look. "Who?"

"My father. He took it with the rest of the things he stole."

A strange look flashed across Rumpelstiltskin's face. Was it anger? Sadness? Guilt? Belle couldn't tell. He quickly composed himself. "He told you?" he asked, with a bit of resignation in his voice, as if he didn't want to have this conversation, but yet he knew it had been coming.

Belle's face softened as she looked up at him. "He was worried about me. He was afraid you would hurt me too."

Rumpelstiltskin laughed short and hard. "I would never hurt you." he said.

"He doesn't know that." Belle reminded him gently. "And you shouldn't have hurt him." she reprimanded him.

He had the good sense to look ashamed. "I know. I was wrong." Rumpelstiltskin forced out. Belle knew that admission was hard for him. Instead of dealing with the difficult parts of life, he typically hid behind his magic.

"You should tell that to my father, not me." Belle told him.

"We'll see." Just like that, Rumpelstiltskin brushed the conversation under the rug for another day.

The stranger, under the dark cover of night, walked up the drive of a mansion. He had been told a man of magic lived there.

He straightened the collar on his thin jacket in nervousness, and knocked on the door. He looked over his shoulder, checking to make sure he wasn't being followed. The door opened, and a strong hand pulled him inside.

He blinked, trying to adjust to the bright lights after being in the dark. "You must be Jefferson." he spoke to the man standing in front of him. He had heard tales of Jefferson before. Stories of his magical hat and how he somehow managed to know everything about everyone.

"And you must be the man who has been asking around town for me." Jefferson gestured for the stranger to come and sit down. "For someone who is trying to keep a low profile, you certainly have been creating quite a stir."

The stranger ignored Jefferson's comment and sat on the large sofa. The stir he had caused around town had been inevitable. That was why he had come in the dead of night to see Jefferson. He was afraid someone would try to follow him, which would potentially destroy his plan. People had an inherent curiosity for things they had no business being curious about, he thought to himself. He leaned forward, on the edge of his seat. "So I presume you know why I am here?"

Jefferson lowered himself into a chair and crossed one leg over the other. He leaned back in the chair. "Actually, I don't." He clasped his hands together in front of him. "Why don't you enlighten me?"

"I'm here about a dagger."

Jefferson's lips curled into a smile and pretended to not understand. "A dagger? I'm sorry, but I don't deal in weaponry." Jefferson began to rise slowly from his chair, intending to see the stranger out. "I'm afraid you came to the wrong person. Perhaps-"

"The dagger." The stranger said in a low voice. "What do you know about the Dark One's dagger?"

Jefferson slid back into his chair, and his smile grew larger. His bluff had worked at drawing the information out of the man faster. "What do you want to know?"

The stranger looked at him in the eye. "I need to know where to find it. Do you know were it is?"