The small town of Storybrooke, Maine was just waking up for the morning. The sun broke over the horizon at least two hours ago. A peaceful little town of odd houses, small shops and small classes in schools, it was a place to set the perfect image on a postcard.
Granny's, the family owned diner, was putting out their sandwich board of specials both at the diner and the bed and breakfast. The mechanic opened up his garage, wearing overalls and a rag from his pocket. The florist was turning his sign to welcome customers. The nuns rang the morning bells at the church and a few morning commuters began their journey to work, starting their own day and going about their unknown lives.
Doomed to live mundane lives, never knowing their true selves, the town moved on after that first stroke of the clock. Having to get up day after day, in a world with no magic, a world without a monarchy, a world without hope. Just a normal, simple process where one got up in the morning, had a shower, had a shave, had a breakfast (mostly likely prepared by their own hands over a fully functional working kitchen) and then went about their normal, unmagical, lives.
It was almost an irritating pain to tolerate, similar to what Mr. Gold was currently enduring over his morning tea as his hired help, Leroy, was hammering away hard and loud in the oversized den down the hall. With a heavy sigh, Mr. Gold reached for his cane that was resting against his right leg and steadied it so he could stand. Pressing his tie against his chest, he didn't want the end of his silk piece to brush into his still steaming cup.
The dull ache in his leg was constant, though he tends to forget sometimes that it was there. It seemed to get worse in the colder months, often finding solace late evening by the fire to keep his body warm. Down the hallway he limped, following the blasting sounds of the power tool Leroy had graduated to, after finishing with the hammer.
The hallway seemed even longer when needing to get to the end of it, but the work being done to his home was worth the sacrifice of peace. It was going to stand as a reminder of what once made someone happy. Someone he had learned did not die, but obviously did not share the love at first sight charm that many of his fellow townsfolk had discovered. He thought, of course, of David and Mary Margaret, also known as Snow White and James Charming.
Mr. Gold passed through the archway into the newly remodeled room that was once his normal den. He had torn down the ceiling, making the roof of the second floor the roof to the room. What was once a nice room with nine foot ceilings now had double the height. It was larger, windows allowing natural light to bounce off the walls creating a heaven to be cherished. He had beautiful plans for this room.
"I'm leaving for my shop," Mr. Gold said as he watched the way Leroy was balancing precariously on a ladder leaning against the wall. He had a foot on one step and a knee against the wall to affix one of the many shelves to it. He was making sure the wood was balanced and straight. "Should you need anything to finish up; you know how to get a hold of me."
"I'm probably looking at, maybe three more days, Mr. Gold," Leroy said through the mumblings of a pencil he was keeping in his teeth, using it to make small markings on the wall where to hammer the next nail.
As he turned around, Mr. Gold replied, "And I believe those were the same words you used last week." Without waiting for a retort, Mr. Gold limped towards his front door to put on his suit jacket, coat and gloves.
It had been a plan for quite some time now, his renovations. For over twenty-eight years, long since he "moved" into the house he currently resided in, he always wanted to create some kind of memorial, a reminder if you will, of his departed beloved. A library. A large, lush, well decorated library full of books that told the fairy tales they all once were and the biographies of those they were supposed to know. A safe haven that Mr. Gold, Rumplestiltskin, could enjoy quietly and privately, without the world knowing his inner deepest secrets of the one he lost.
The one he lost...
Or so he believed.
As the world turned so many others' lives upside down, Mr. Gold thought he knew all. He was the one that made so many arrangements, or deals, in this town, that something little, something minor, had slipped right under his nose.
A private, quarantined asylum.
A secured facility reserved for those that had either learned of the curse or tried to convince the town of its existence, sounding like a loon (children excluded) or folks that had wronged the mayor in some twisted doing. It also doubled as a jail for those necessary to incarcerate, lying to the citizens that they had been shipped out to Boston.
Mr. Gold had discovered this location, after watching an orderly enter a private code on a key pad and disappear down a hall that had an elevator that only went down further than the level of the bottom floor of the hospital. Down beneath the surface, closer to what might remain of their world, well maybe not that far.
When his presence could be overlooked, Mr. Gold merely limped over to the doorway, waved his hand over the key pad and was granted access to the hidden hallway. Flickering fluorescent lights led the way towards the elevator that only went down and as he felt the metal contraption escort him below the hospital, the doors opened to another long hallway of sterile walls and metal doors with at least four key locks to each one. Curious, one by one, Mr. Gold approached each door and looked in on the patients. There were a few familiar faces, some he had no idea who they were and Sidney Glass in the second to last cell.
The last cell looked like all the rest, except it had no name on the outside slate. All the locks appeared to be latched, which strengthened his intrigue. Carefully, Mr. Gold slid open the viewing hole to peer into the cell and see if he was familiar with its occupant. At the bang of the rusted metal sliding across, he nearly startled himself. It felt heavier than the others he'd slid open. His eyes scanned the dark room, only having a slit near the ceiling for light. At first, he couldn't make anything out, but then he focused on the silhouette of someone curled up in the corner on a seat against the wall. It was a girl. She didn't look up, but he saw her head move slightly at the sound of the metal. It was obvious she was not startled by the sound. She had long hair that covered her face like a veil.
Feeling no connection to the person in the cell, he averted his eyes and slid the metal closed once again. He balanced himself on his cane as he pivoted away, taking only a couple of steps retreating down the hall, before he heard it. A voice. A voice that was pitched enough that made him stop dead in his tracks, tilt his head enough that his brown hair fell into his eyes and glance back at the door he'd left.
"Hello?" the girl's voice asked, muffled by the layers of concrete between them. "Hello? You're not the normal one that visits me! You're someone else...can you help me?"
Mr. Gold felt a deep pang against his chest. Surely, that wasn't her. Surely, that wasn't...Belle. He swallowed hard, almost fearful to approach the door again, not wanting to give his hopes up. He didn't want to believe in the very idea that she...that she would still be...alive.
His cane tapped quickly against the hard floors as he went back to the door he'd just left. He slid open the metal viewing hole once again, only to be met by a pair of eyes. A pair of desperate eyes of a beautiful girl that he would never forget.
"Hello! Please, I don't know why I'm here and you're someone different-" the girl plead, her fingers nearly reaching through the hole to him once she could see him.
Mr. Gold froze, feeling his stomach churn enough to make him want to retch, but anxiety, hate, love and anger took him over. His head was light, his throat was dry and his hand that wasn't gripping his cane with white knuckles started to tremble. Hope grasped his heart like strings, binding it tightly, feeling each thread pulsing through him. He gasped, catching his breath as he looked into those eyes...the eyes of the woman he loved.
Before she was able to even finish her sentence, Mr. Gold waved his hand over the locks and swung the door open with the strength of adrenaline he never knew he harbored. Within seconds, he was standing in the doorway to the cold cell, looking on a frail shadowed version of the girl he had fallen in love with and had sent away. The same girl that called him out for being a coward for not wanting to relinquish his power and condemning him to a life of envy and loneliness.
The girl looked stunned, amazed that she was standing in an open doorway so easily. Her rosebud lips were currently being bitten as she looked upon her rescuer with big doe eyes, unbeknownst to whom she was looking upon. Her body looked stiff, anxious, but relieved all at the same time. She had no words for him, her knight in black suit with red tie, only thankfulness. With what strength she did have, she flung herself into the arms of her savior, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck, not wanting to let go. The sharp clank of his cane hitting the floor of the hallway reverberated against the walls, indicating that he had let go of it, in order to catch her.
She felt warm and soft in his arms, even coming from a cold dank cell, welcoming her as if she'd returned from a very long journey. He lost himself in her long freed locks, taking in the scent of her he had committed to memory a lifetime ago. Their bodies fit perfectly, though hers was a bit thinner since last they embraced and he made a mental note to remedy that in the very near future. His heart pound in chest like a caged bird against its confines, wanting so badly to confess his apologies and welcome her back into his life, even if it was the boring mundane one they currently resided in. What was important was that she was alive.
Finally, Mr. Gold pulled out of their shared hug to cradle her cheek in his hand to better see her. It had been too long since he was allowed to gaze upon one so beautiful that insisted she saw the man beneath the monster he had become. It was something he felt he didn't deserve, but was something he had every intention of taking.
She met his friendly face, age lines around the eyes and a warm smile that was sincere, and gave him a silent "thank you" by the movement of her lips. Her eyes deep on his.
"I believed you had died," Mr. Gold whispered to her. He ran a thumb over her lips, smiling freely and not believing that her blood pulsed through her veins just beneath his hands.
"I didn't," she started to say, her voice sounding a little parched. "I ran away, I didn't want to be home anymore, but that woman took me and locked me up-"
"That woman? Regina? The Queen?" he asked, still cradling her face in his hand. How badly he wanted to kiss her pretty lips that she had been chewing nervously.
"I don't know her name, I only see her," she said, looking away and looking down. She appeared to feel slightly self-conscious with the way he was looking at her. "I'm not crazy! Thank you! Thank you for releasing me!" Her voice was desperate, breathy.
"Of course, sweetheart," he said, almost breaking down emotionally.
"I just...thank you," she said again, hugging him again. Her grip on him was tighter than before.
Mr. Gold welcomed her once again, pulling her in close, acting as a true protector. Still, he needed to see her face, needed to touch those lips he had missed so many offerings before. He pulled her back, his thumb and forefinger holding her chin as his eyes scanned her face and she just offered a slight smile. Slowly, he moved in, practically tasting the way her soft lips would feel against his own after years of deprivation. He was close now; he could feel her breath on his face as he went in...
"Do we know each other?" the girl said, not pulling away from him, but speaking up just before he had moved too close for damage.