HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROBERT CARLYLE!


Regina drummed her fingers against the wooden table with annoyance and slight anxiety. She was almost choked to death tonight yet she was the one being incriminated! She made immediate plans to fire Graham and Swan both for her ignorance, only after they hunted down that monster-incarnated Belle.

The door opened and Swan entered, alone.

"Where's the Sherriff?" Regina demanded. He was a bit more easy to manipulate than the strong-nerved deputy.

"In the hospital." Emma growled. "That woman gave him a hell of a concussion for saving your ass."

"Well boo-hoo for him." Regina shot back. "Since the Sherriff department has so much time to laze around, I suppose that creature has been caught?"

Emma sighed. "I'm closing in on her."

"Ha!" Regina scoffed. "So you know where she is?"

"No but-"

"That thing," Regina growled as she stood, hands on the desk and eyes starring Emma down with malice, "broke into my home, attacked my son, and came after my life as well, and you're just standing there, interrogating me, while she is out there hurting God knows who else!"

Emma slammed her hands down on the table and brought her face level with Regina's. "I am doing all I can!" she shouted.

"If that were so that thing would have been caught by now."

"I don't think you've noticed but we are a Sherriff short and are in a town surrounded by miles of woods where she could be hiding anywhere. The only thing we can do is wait until the morning when we can get a search party together to find her."

Regina grinded her jaw. "And in the meantime I suppose we should get my secretary in here to start adding up he bodies that will show up by the time you get your search party together Miss Swan!"

Before Emma could snarl a retort, a knock signaled an intruder.

"What!" Emma shouted as the door opened. Sydney Glass, much to her surprise, entered.

"Sydney thank God." Regina sighed, running to him with a false smile. "Someone with sense."

Sydney froze for a moment, stunned that Madame Mayor would so openly show him affection-and just for walking through the door! The moment was shattered though when Regina looked into his eyes. Don't tell them anything, they said. Strictly business. But of course.

"Sydney," Emma inquired. "Dare I ask?"

He lifted his eyes. "I'm Regina's attorney."

"Of course you are." Emma groaned.

Sydney took a seat beside Regina, folding is hands together carefully. "Madam Mayor has no reason to be here."

"I beg to differ." Emma argued. She reached behind her and brought out a manila envelope and began shuffling through it.

"I had a chat with the head nurse in the psych ward-you know, the one that doesn't exist."

Regina rolled her eyes.

"She stated that she was paid to make sure that the girl, Belle apparently, never left that basement." Emma crossed her arms and stared at the Mayor. "She didn't have a file of any sort, no evidence that she had a reason to be there."

"What does this have to do with me?" Regina demanded despite the wary look from her "attorney".

"Someone wanted her to disappear." Emma said. "And I think that someone is you."

"Emma," Sydney growled. "You better have proof before you start making accusations like that."

"The proof is all over your client's body." Emma snapped back with a judging finger pointing at one of the bruises on Regina's forearm. "She locked Belle up, Belle got out and went straight for the kill."

"You know nothing." Regina whispered.

"But the real question is why?" Emma went on. "What did this girl do to you to make you lock her up like that? Did she do anything to you? And there's something I really want to know: how the Hell is Gold involved in this!?"

Regina stilled herself as much as possible. Her plans were crumbling right in front of her and she was powerless to stop it. Gold's threat and the sting from his attack still shook her to her core and she was not ready to answer any questions he might have.

Emma threw her hands in the air and grabbed her reports. "If you won't help me I can't help you. But I can help Henry."

Regina's eyes lifted in a death glare. "What could you possible do for my son?"

"Protective custody." Emma answered. "As long as Belle is still out there and any grudge she has against you remains ongoing, Henry is a target, and he is going somewhere safe until all of this can be sorted out."

"And where is this haven?" Regina fought back.

"...Mary Margret's apartment."

"You have got to be kidding me!"

"He'll have direct transportation to school and the police station if anything happens. I trust Mary Margret and I won't let anything happen to him."

"And you expect me to trust my son's life with a floozy school teacher and the woman who abandoned him?"

Sydney covered his eyes.

Emma bit the inside of her mouth to smother any insult she could throw to uphold Mary Margret's honor and her own. "He's safer with me that he is with you at the moment."

Regina snarled and Sydney had to hold her down.

"Where does that leave me?" Regina shouted. "You expect me to sit in some cell and wait for that lunatic to come after my son or me again?"

"Her home is open to you as well." Emma stated. "But if, and only if, you tell me why this girl wants to hurt you?"

Regina clenched her jaw, a lie coming to her swiftly.

"Regina," Sydney whispered, "Don't-"

"Shut up." Regina sighed. She growled and leaned forward. "Mr. Gold and I have always had a...rivalry if you will."

Emma nodded and pressed play on her nearby tape recorder.

"One day, he started showing a likeness for a local, Belle French, and..." Regina fidgeted a bit, trying to get her story straight. "I began to keep an eye on her as well. Mr. Gold isn't exactly the best influence in this town, so I wanted to make sure she was kept on a righteous path."

"Always jumping in where you don't belong." Emma muttered. Regina glared at her but the deputy simply nodded for her to continue.

"Anyway," Regina growled. "I began noticing a few...changes in her."

"How so?"

"Miss French was always a bit of a recluse. Shy, polite, keeping to herself. But after Mr. Gold began courting her, she became the exact opposite."

"Meaning..."

"She wound up in the hospital several times, complaining of chest pains and men with hooks and gold and nonsense such as that. Things got out of hand when she claimed someone was trying to rip her heart out. Utter nonsense."

"But what does that have to do with you?"

Regina loosened a bit in her seat, satisfyed with where her story was going. "For the sake of the people in Storybrooke, I suggested she be institutialized. She...didn't care too much for the idea and proceeded to barge into my office and threaten me with a stapler. That was enough to assure her a nice long stay in Storybrook General and she's been there ever sense, until someone let her out that is."

"And Mr. Gold did not not take too kindly to that I presume."

Regina shrugged. "Who knows what he really thought. He didn't even show up to her hearing, and as far as I know he hasn't once visited her."

Sydney stared at her. He didn't recall ever hearing such a tale like that on the gossip train, nor was he ever told not to write about it.

Emma clucked her tongue. There was no way Gold didn't care about Belle. His attempt at a nervous breakdown was enough to prove that.

"Because I love her damn it!"

At the moment however, her brain was too scrambled from two days of little to no sleep to rationalize truth from fiction. She didn't trust Regina as far as she could throw her, more or less Mr. Gold, but she did fight to the death for Henry tonight. That would have to do for her.

She turned off the recorder and stood, files in hand. "You and Henry both will be staying at Mary Margret's apartment until Belle is caught."

Regina rolled her eyes. Great, a stay at her despised daughter-in-law's home. Perfect vacation. At least Henry would be there.

Sydney stood with her and ushered her to the door. "May I escort Madame Mayor and her son to their home to gather a few things for their stay."

"I'll send an escort with you."

Sydney nodded and headed out the door into the office where Henry had dozed off on one of the benches. Regina, after smoothing her pajamas, began to follow but was stopped by Emma.

"Ms. Swan?"

Emma pulled Regina close, fire sparking through her irriatation and exhausion. "I know you're not being completely honest with me. But right now, Henry's safty is what's important."

"Agreed." Regina snarled, yanking her arms from Emma's grip. "And for the record, Ms. Swan, this doesn't change anything. After this, Henry's visits with you will be as infrequent as possbile. I already fear how this short stay will influence him, but seeing that my choices are limited, the best I can do is to make sure he stays out from anyone's influence but mine."

"Odd," Emma said, "The last person who was under your influence broke out of the asylum and tried to choke you to death."

Regina turned on her heal quickly to avoid further confrontation. That little tart was going to regret ever putting her in this position. She was going to die for ever putting her hands on her and her son.

And if it were up to her, that bastard of a lover of hers would watch.

.,.,.,.,.

Gold reached over for Belle. His mind was still groggy from only a few hours of sleep, but excitement took him quickly with the thought of Belle's warm skin. However, his arm hit cold sheets.

Panic aroused him quickly from sleep and he shot up, searching the room for her. She wasn't admiring the darkness before sunrise, nor was she in the adjourning bathroom. He felt the nightstand for his cane but found it to be oddly missing; unimportant.

He limped downstairs, praying to whatever God existed in this world that she was in the kitchen examining the unknown kitchen utensils or in the living room sorting through his piles of books. She was in neither.

He shouted her name as he searched through the house, hearing only his own voice echoing off the walls. He made a mad dash back upstairs to recheck every room in the house. He was one level away from frantic. What if Emma had snuck into their room while they were sleeping and swept away with her? What if her heart had started acting up again and she was out on the streets massacring the town? God he couldn't let her hurt herself like that. He had to find her now! He had to-

In is daze, he didn't see the edge of the rug curled up at the foot of the steps. He proceeded to trip over it and tumble down and down over each step. He hit the bottom with a cry, fireworks of pain shooting all over his body. He moved slowly to check for broken bones but didn't feel any, though is bum leg was screaming bloody murder and he was more than certain he might have cracked a rib or two.

Just as he was getting on his feet, he noticed something. Straight ahead, the front door was opened just a crack, enough to allow a slither of moonlight in.

Hadn't he locked it when he and Belle got home? Yes he had been frantic with her in his arms yes but he was sure he had closed it and-

Belle was not in the house.

"Oh God no."

.,.,.,.

Where.

Where?

Where am I?

Belle blinked. She was outside on a street, under and dimly lite light. She circled around quickly, eyeing her area. How did she get out here? One second she was curled up to a warm Gold and then-

A pain shot through her chest and she was tumbling to the hard ground.

"Rumpel!" she screamed as red blotches started clouding her vision. "No please! I don't want to hurt anyone else! Please!"

She blinked.

The Queen had to die.

.,.,.

Rumpel sped up and down the street, giving his Cadillac the second hardest workout it had experienced in the last thirty years. His eyes darted all over the streets, searching for the slightest hint of Belle. He had to get to her before anyone else did. They would immediately turn her in-if Belle didn't choke them to death first. Oh his poor Belle, lost and pained in this unfamiliar place.

He turned a corner, and by some miracle, caught sight of an out of place figure staggering up the street towards the mayor's house. He sped towards it and almost sobbed at the sight of Belle's tousled curls flowing down his silk pajama shirt. He was bit stunned by the object she had gripped malicefully in her hand: his cane.

He slammed on brakes and jumped out of the car, stopping just a few feet from her. "Belle stop!"

She stopped.

Belle.

Belle?

Belle.

The dungeon door opened and Belle shot up from her loose sleep. Now days she couldn't get less that a few hours of sleep due to the queen's untimely visits. However it wasn't the queen who walked through the door.

He was handsome, with bright blue eyes and a well-sculpted face. He looked at her with a faint smile on his charming lips.

"You must be Belle."

Belle.

Belle.

She turned slowly and was instantly blinded by a set of lights. Something stepped forward her and blocked out the lights.

"Sweetheart?" Rumpel whispered. He stepped forward carefully, not wanting to frighten her into running away. "It's okay darling, just come to me."

Belle remained rooted, her grip tightening on the cane more. Who was this man? She didn't care. All she wanted was for the Queen to die. She took something from her, and now she was going to take her life.

Gold stepped forward, eyeing his cane curiously. "It's okay Belle, I've come to take you home."

Belle...

Home?

The man, this friend, claimed he was there to rescue her. Belle was relieved, utterly happy, but instantly suspicious.

"We haven't got much time; your father's life hangs in the balance. He's being attacked by the very same monster who stole you away from your family in the first place."

Belle chuckles a bit. Rumplestiltskin trying to kill her father? No, he wouldn't do something like that.

The stranger continued. "The Dark One. He must be stopped. You've spent more time with him than anyone. There are rumors of a magical weapon that has the power to kill him."

Belle shook her head. "No. No. No. Let... let me talk to him. He's not a monster."

The stranger seemed a bit desperate then. "Belle, your father's life hangs in the balance. I need to know what that weapon is and where to find it."

Belle shot back. This man was no friend. "I don't know what you're talking about and I have no idea how to... kill Rumplestiltskin."

The man's shoulders slumped, he eyed her like she had just said she could birth dragons. "You don't?"

Belle lifted her shoulders. "No! And... nor would I." A small wave of pain flooded her chest. Her first thought was that this man was going to turn into the Queen, proving falsehood on her part, but the man only stared at her with disappointment.

He shrugged. "Hmm... Then I'm afraid I'm not here to rescue you." He raised his hand...no...his hook...and before Belle could react a piercing pain numbed her temple and everything went black-

Something was on her arm. She looked down and there was a hand trying to pull her along.

She lashed out, thrusting the cane against her attackers throat and slamming him against the two lights.

"Belle!" Gold rasped desperately as Belle came closer and closer to crushing his windpipe. Through his blurry vision he could see...nothing. Those weren't Belle's eyes. Belle wasn't that black.

Speaking of black, that color was becoming more powerful. He felt weak, like he could sleep, but his mind was screaming for him to save Belle from herself.

With a quick thought, he shoved two fingers into the gash on her chest. He barely touched her, just grazed the gash really, but it was enough to send her howling, her grip on the cane loosening dramatically.

He hated to do it, but the opportunity was too open. He shoved his foot into her stomach, sending her railing and causing her to drop his cane. He grabbed it quickly and with a breathy apology, swung it across her head hard enough to still her.

He allowed himself two seconds of recuperation before he was at her side.

"Belle," he cried, fingers gently tracing the forming bruise on her head. "Sweetheart I'm so sorry; please wake up!"

Belle flinched out of the darkness. It was so cold, and her head was throbbing.

"Rum...ple..."

Gold sobbed with relief and pulled his love into his arms. "Oh thank God Belle! I'm so sorry Darling."

Her bloodshot eyes darted around. "Where...are we..."

"In the middle of town." he stated as he helped her to her feet. "Come, we don't have much time."

Belle barely moved. "How did we get here?"

Gold clenched his jaw. She'd go hysterical if she told him, yet she'd go even more frenetic if he tried to lie. He rubbed her arm, trying to soothe her for the blow. "Sweetheart, you...walked."

Her eyes bulged as immediate set in. "No..."

She grew heavy in his arms and he struggled with bad knee as he met her at the ground. "Belle calm down it's alright."

"It is not alright!" she screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear.

Out of the corner of his eye, Gold could see a light from a neighboring house turn on. "Belle, we've got to go, please!"

She followed him into the car reluctantly, staring in horror at the large dent on the hood from her attack. She numbed herself out, barely feeling the bumps from the car ride home and, for once, the pain in her chest.

They pulled into the driveway in silence, Belle ashamed to speak and Gold lost for words of condolence.

"I'm so sorry." Belle said suddenly.

Gold look towards her and brushed his fingers across her temple. "No Sweetheart it wasn't your fault." He pulled her into his chest, his heart beating heavily from all the anxiety. "We'll just be more careful. It's my fault Darling I shouldn't have been so careless."

"Rumpel," she sobbed into his shirt, "What...am I?"

He kissed her head before leveling their foreheads, desperate eyes meeting even more desperate ones.

"You're you Belle, and I will save you from this. I promise."

She believed him. Why wouldn't she? The man had put himself through two beatings to save her and she would never doubt him for that. She let him lead her back into the house, glancing solemnly at the sunrise as the door closed.

It was to be a beautiful day, but she would never see another one like it.