a/n: A quick oneshot before I have to run off to work. Fit between chapter 2 and 3 of my other story "The Importance of Moonlight" but I suppose it can be read on its own.


The floor was waxed to a heavy shine as the thick leather of Rumplestiltskin's heels clicked with each step. He was finely dressed in a coat made of silver trimmed with tiny diamonds. Today was a day of celebration throughout the land in the bringing of two souls to one kingdom. It was also the day he would demand his prize.

It had been only a month since he had granted this young girl's wish and struck a deal yet did not make out a set price. Lets just say he had time to think it over. He knew what he wanted as his reward and thought what better night to claim it than on her own wedding night. It was easy to get through palace guards when most of the ball was a masquerade. His mask was black with emeralds following along the corner of the eyes. Seemed fitting to him.

Rumplestiltskin stood among the rest of the guest as the happy couple made their way down the stairway. He even clapped when they were introduced. Also, he made sure to avoid the false James and Snow as they greeted those around them. Although most of the other attendees had little experience with him, he knew that little Prince Charming would recognize him any day. Although the little twerp should be thanking him, he knew that he was the most feared person in this world, now more than ever with Regina's fall, which still delighted him.

The dance began and he made sure to keep in line. The young women who fell on his arm had no idea whose hand they were touching as he twirled them along. No one knew the darkness present in the room and this sent a small thrill through him.

Power was a thing of beauty.

He manipulated the dance to try and get closer to Cinderella but that damn Snow kept breaking the order. For a princess she was sure bad with social graces. Getting irritated, he was about to just stride up and demand his price be paid until he saw the next woman in his step. She was a small woman with skin pale as cream and hair the color of chestnuts. Wearing a white mask with yellow feathers, her dress was long and golden, similar to that of the one he kept in his attic. Her lips were full and reminded him of…berries. Could this be?

No, she was gone, he told himself.

But this woman in the mask was looking at him and giving him a soft grin, one he could have sworn he saw so many times before. When she met with him and their hands touched, he felt as if he was holding onto someone from the past. Taking her gaze, he studied her as they twirled along the dance floor. The line was proceeding and he was about to receive a new girl. He couldn't lose her again.

"Belle…" He whispered with a hope.

But the woman cocked her head and the image faded. This was not Belle but just some young royalty trying to touch elbows with the richest men on this side of the world. Her skin was more of an ashy complexion and her lips were not so red. Her eyes were a dark shade of chocolate, not the shiny blues his Belle had. It was silly thought that filled his mind for a moment, but love had no place in his life. This he was very well aware of. Shaking his head, he turned his focus back onto Cinderella.

Never once did Rumplestiltskin realize that miles and miles away his love was locked in a golden cage watching the scene unfold through the glass chandler up above. She brought her hands up to her lips in cheerfulness and turned to the Huntsmen who had joined her in watching the ball through the mirror.

"Looks like he has not forgotten you." The Huntsman turned to her.

"So you'd still like to go through with the plan?" The Man in the Mirror asked her when he reappeared from the smoke.

"Yes," She replied, looking out into the night sky. "If he hasn't forgotten, then maybe there is still hope for all of us."

If Rumplestiltskin still had a place in his heart for love, then perhaps they could warn him of his own self-destruction. The Queen could not get to him if they let him know what was coming. Word was that the Queen had a curse she planned on using and if she could just get to Rumplestiltskin and warn him then maybe he could stop it. She just had to have faith and that was something Regina could not take away from her.