A/N: These will be a series of drabbles/vignettes/character sketches, whatever you want to call them. I have eight written, but I figure I'll probably have about fifteen or so by the time I run out of steam. They're between 300-500 words, on average and will each examine an aspect of Rumplestiltskin's life that he once lost and now regains. Relatively chronological.

A huge thanks to Anti-Kryptonite for looking them over, fixing my mistakes, and cheerleading me on. :) Hope you all enjoy!


Baelfire

He walks until his twisted-in foot can hardly hold his weight, until his knee is swollen as thick as his thigh, until his shoes rot away and his feet leave red smears across the moorland, until he cannot take another step. And then he falls. He sleeps. In the shadow of a boulder or beneath the crest of a hillock, in the vast open nothing with dying men screaming in the back of his mind, Rumplestiltskin dreams.

(Rumple has always been a sickly thing with a crooked leg and stringy hair the colour of sawdust; but he dreams Baelfire is strapping with the ability to run and climb and a mop of dark curls falling across his neck.)

He dreams he will return home to find a beautiful little boy, with earth-brown eyes and a smile that will rip his father's heart clean from his chest.

(Rumple is timid; he dreams his son is valiant.)

He left behind an infant. He dreams of uniting with a son who has learned to walk and laugh and chatter under his breath in a language no-one can understand. A son who learned these things while his father tried and failed to learn the longbow; lived on less than nothing from the back of the rations line; watched the ramshackle camp empty of men and fill with children.

(Rumple is so very difficult to love; he dreams Bae shines golden, draws people to love him like the heart of a fire draws moths.)

Now he dreams, but soon he will be home, and one glimpse of his son will drive blood and death and cowardice from his mind. One glimpse will justify the miles of torn feet and the parched-throat days and the moment of panic where the battle turned and so did he.

He promised Bae he would come back. (Even if it means they are poor and he works his fingers to the bone spinning new clothes before the winter comes.) And so he walks. (And he doesn't care what the village will say.) And he walks. (Even if it means living as a coward.) And he walks. (And he won't care what Milah will say.) And he stares in the face of bleak despair and dreams.

He will crest the final hill and ford the final stream, and hold his son again.