While the two women were busy embracing, Neal rushed around them, picked Rumple up into his arms, and quickly walked towards the convent to get him as far away from Cora as he could while she was distracted. As he was carrying Rumple, Neal muttered into the top of the boy's head, "It's okay, you're safe now."
Rumple wasn't sure which one of them his son was trying to reassure, but he said, "I know."
Neal went past the nuns, and headed for the couch. He sat down with Rumple on his lap, and kept his arms wrapped around the boy, holding him close. Rumple's voice was slightly muffled by Neal's shirt when he said, "Bae, you can let me go now."
Neal squeezed him a little tighter, closed his eyes, kissed the top of Rumple's head and said, "I could have lost you again."
Rumple was uncomfortable having this affectionate moment in front of others, especially in front of the Blue Fairy, but he decided that reassuring his son was more important than his comfort. He wrapped his arms around the man and said, softly, "But you didn't. I'm right here with you, and we're both safe."
Outside, Cora finally let Regina out of her embrace, but kept Regina's hand in her own. She turned to David and Snow, and said, "Please let Emma and Henry come home. I won't be trying to get the dagger again, and neither will Regina."
David shook his head, "We're just supposed to believe you?"
Cora shrugged, "I can't make you believe me, only time will do that." She put a hand over her own heart and said, "I've lived without the feeling of love in my heart for so many years, it's impossible for me to explain how much this changes me."
Regina glared at David and hissed, "You already agreed to call once this was done."
Snow put a hand on David's arm, to calm him before he could say anything. With a glare of his own aimed at Regina, David got the phone out of his pocket and dialed Emma's number. "It's over, you can bring Henry home."
After he hung up, he gave Regina a pointed look and said, "You can tell Henry what you did tomorrow morning. We'll be at Granny's for breakfast at seven, and at least one of us will be there when you tell him, so we can make sure you're honest about it."
"I'm sure you'll spin the whole thing to make me look like the Evil Queen no matter what I say."
"No, Regina," Snow said, "We wouldn't do that to you."
Regina scoffed, not believing that for a second. Cora squeezed her daughter's hand and said with a loving smile, "Regina darling, we should go home. We have so much to talk about."
Not quite recognizing the look on her mother's face, Regina cautiously said, "Okay."
The two women headed down the street towards Regina's house, while Snow went into the convent to find Neal and Rumple. She couldn't keep the smile from her face when she saw the two sitting on the couch holding each other. "Neal?" she said. Once he was looking in her direction, Snow said, "It's over. Emma's on her way home with Henry, and Cora just left with Regina. I don't think Cora will be a problem any more."
Rumple pulled his head off Neal's chest and said, "I wouldn't be too sure about that. Even with her heart, Cora was vindictive and cruel. That's what I loved about her."
"We'll keep that in mind," Snow said, "But right now she's too enamored with the love she feels for her daughter to care about you or the dagger." Snow looked towards the entrance to Storybrook where she knew Emma was, and said, "Trust me, it's an overwhelming feeling to really see your adult daughter for the first time. She's not going to be causing us trouble for months."
Rumple looked up at his adult son, and nodded, understanding exactly what Snow was talking about.
Neal took a deep breath, and stood up with Rumple still in his arms. Rumple immediately whispered a protest, "Bae, put me down!"
"No," Neal said with calm authority.
Rumple clenched his jaw, and suffered through the embarrassment of being carried without adding to it by begging to be put down.
Neal walked over to the Blue Fairy and said, "Thank you so much. For everything."
She smiled at the both of them, and said, "It wasn't just for you two, it was for everyone in Storybrook. Cora can never have the dagger. Her heart was never pure."
Neal nodded, and turned to Snow, and David who was now standing with an arm around his wife's waist. Neal said, "Could you tell Emma I'd like to see her tomorrow morning?"
David nodded. "We'll all be at Granny's at seven for breakfast, along with Regina, so she can tell Henry everything."
"Good," Neal said. "We'll be there too. Thank you both, for everything you did to help us."
"We're family now," Snow said.
Neal smiled, and nodded, he turned to the fairies, and said, "If no one needs us to stay, I'd like to take my father home, and let him get a few hours sleep tonight."
The Blue Fairy waved at the door and said, "We should all try to get some sleep."
David, Snow, and Neal, who was still holding Rumple, all left together, and started walking down the street. Once the convent doors closed behind them, Rumple squirmed once and said, "You know I can walk right?" His voice rose with irritation, "I'd appreciate it if you'd put me down!"
"No," Neal said.
"No?" Rumple said. "Just no? That's all you have to say?"
"I have plenty to say," Neal said, "but I doubt you'll want me to say it in front of David and Snow."
Rumple's eyes opened wide at that, and they walked in silence for a couple of minutes.
They all turned at the sound of a car coming down the road. Emma pulled up beside them and said with a smile, "Anyone need a ride?"
David and Snow headed for the car, but Neal shook his head. "No thanks, we'll walk."
Emma said, "We could all squeeze in for a few seconds."
"You guys go ahead," Neal said, "We'll see you in the morning. Thanks for everything you did to help. It means a lot to me. To us."
Emma smiled. "You're welcome. See you tomorrow."
Neal watched them drive down the road, and started walking again. Now that the two were alone in the night on the empty streets of Storybrook, Rumple squirmed again, pushed on Neal's chest, and said, "This is ridiculous. Put me down!"
Neal shifted his hold on Rumple, tightening the arm that was around the boy's back long enough to plant a warning swat on Rumple's squirming backside. Rumple gasped in shock at the light swat and his body stilled immediately, while his eyes darted around the deserted streets to make sure no one had seen. Neal put the arm he'd swatted him with back under Rumple's butt to help hold his weight.
"I'm not going to put you down," Neal said, trying to keep his voice calm with effort. "I don't trust you anymore, and I'm too tired to chase you if you decide to run. I'm also going to be staying awake tonight to keep an eye on you while you sleep, and I'll probably be doing that for the foreseeable future. Emma can keep an eye on you during the day while I sleep."
"You broke our deal." Neal couldn't keep the hurt from his voice. "Again."
"No Bae, I…" Rumple tried to find the right words to take the hurt away, but he couldn't flat out deny that he'd broken their deal, because he had. "…I wasn't trying to break our deal, I just needed to see Jefferson, and you were being unreasonable about it."
Neal shook his head in disappointment at his father's assessment of things. "Unreasonable? If you thought I was unreasonable before, you're in for a nasty shock, because I'm going to spank you the second we get home.""What!"
"You broke our deal, and you put your life in danger because of it. Until you get your adult body back you will be my apprentice, and you will do as I tell you to do, and I will spank you when you don't."
"How dare you threaten to spank me! You're my child Baelfire, not the other way around!" Rumple squirmed more than before, and pushed to get down.
Neal shifted the small body so it was pressed against his chest again, and gave Rumple a solid swat with each word, "Stop squirming!"
Rumple gasped at the first swat, and let out an undignified muffled, "Oof!" with the second.
Carrying him normally again, Neal said, "I'm done treating you like a rational adult. You put all of us in danger tonight when you decided to sneak out like a petulant teenager. You knew Cora was out there looking for you, and you knew we'd all told you not to do it, but you did it anyway. So now I'm going to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I can't watch anyone else torture you. At least not while you look like you're eleven."
As the reality of his situation hit him, Rumple's stomach took a dive. His adult son was actually planning on spanking him, and there wasn't anything he could magically or physically do to stop it. At least not while he was in his thirteen-year-old body. His only hope was to talk his way out of it, and time was running out, because he could see Granny's in the distance.
"Bae, stop and think about this for a minute," Rumple said with a calm he certainly didn't feel. "If you do this it will change our relationship forever."
"Our relationship needs to change. The whole reason we're in this mess is because you refused to accept me as an adult who doesn't want to relive his childhood."
"That may have been true, but I do accept you as an adult now, and I'll only be in this body for a short while. How can I be a father to you once I'm back in my adult body if you do this?"
Neal scoffed, "You haven't been a father to me since I was thirteen. I have a child of my own. I don't need a father now. I needed one back then."
Rumple felt as though he couldn't breath though the pain that statement caused him. Unable to face that truth, Rumple screwed his eyes shut.
When the child in his arms was silent, Neal took a glance at Rumple's face, and realized his words had hurt his father. Then he realized that had been his intention. He'd meant to hurt the man for leaving him all those years ago. But that had been the wrong thing to do, especially in this moment. He couldn't have it both ways. He couldn't lash out at his adult father with his words and then treat him like a child the next second.
Neal rubbed Rumple's back and said quietly, "Papa?"
Rumple opened his eyes, and Neal said, "Just because I don't need a father, doesn't mean I don't want one. When you get your adult body back, I want us to build a new relationship."
"I want that too, Bae. More than anything." Rumple realized they were in front of Granny's and said urgently, "Which is why you can't spank me. How could I ever be a father to you after that?"
Neal walked into the building, and up to their room while he said, "The same way parents become friends with their adult children. Once you're in your adult body, you won't need my protection, and I'll be able to look at you as an adult again." Neal shifted Rumple to one arm, and dug the room key out of his pocket.
As his son opened the door to their room, Rumple started to tremble, and he whispered desperately, "I never spanked you."
Neal shut the door and locked it behind them. "I know." Neal sat down on the corner of the bed, and set Rumple on his lap. "Do you remember the first time you punished me after Mama left?"
Rumple was having trouble focusing on anything other than his impending spanking, and shook his head.
"I asked you if you were going to spank me. Do you remember what you said?"
The memory came rushing back, and Rumple looked his son in the eye. "I told you that I loved you too much to spank you."
"That's right," Neal nodded. "And I want you to know that even though our methods conflict, our motives are the same. I'm spanking you because I love you."
Rumple shook his head, while Neal gently flipped him over so he was laying face down across his lap.
"Bae, please…" Rumple whimpered.
Neal ignored the plea, and landed a hard spank on the seat of Rumple's jeans.
"Ah!" Rumple exclaimed, not expecting it to be quite so painful. He was positive that Neal hadn't been hitting that hard when his mind had been thirteen as well as his body. The next swat fell just as hard as the first one before Rumple had time to get past the sting of the first. "Ah!" When the third punishing smack landed, Rumple's legs twitched, and he tried to push himself off Neal's lap yelling, "Ow!" When he felt Neal's arm clamp around his waist to keep him in place, his frustration spilled out, "This is ridiculous Baelfire! I'm a grown man!"
"If you were a grown man, you could have used magic to protect yourself against Cora." Neal emphasized his statement with another solid whap to the child size backside over his knee.
"Ow!" Rumple bellowed.
"If you were a grown man, I wouldn't have told you to stay away from Jefferson to keep you safe." Neal smacked the boy's bottom twice in a row.
Rumple kicked his legs wildly in the air, and pounded a fist against the side of the bed repeatedly, finding the whole situation unbearable. He hadn't felt this helpless when Cora was torturing him earlier that night. In fact he hadn't felt this overwhelmingly vulnerable for many decades. "Stop! Stop this right now! You can't do this to me! I'm the Dark One, not a powerless child!"
Neal was surprised to hear anger in his father's tone for a split second, since there had only been repentance the first time he'd spanked him, but he immediately realized anger is what he should have expected from this version of his father. With a disappointed frown, Neal smacked his backside hard again and said, "This isn't the best time to have a tantrum, Papa, it's only going to make this take longer."
"Tantrum!" Rumple screeched indignantly, and thrashed around trying to get off his son's lap. "How dare you imply… Ow!"
Neal rolled his eyes, and started spanking at a much faster pace mid way through Rumple's rant. As he spanked he said, "I'm not implying it, I'm flat out telling you that you're a child right now, and because you're a child, you're going to obey me."
"Aaaah!" Rumple yelled as the rapid swats kept coming.
Neal spoke up to be heard over the sound of the smacking and yelling, "But no matter what size your body is, you should be ashamed of yourself for breaking our deal. You put everyone who cares about you in danger tonight."
All of the pain, anger, frustration, guilt and regret Rumple had inside built to intolerable levels in his chest. Before he even realized it was going to happen, there were tears running his face, and apologies coming out of his mouth. "I'm sorry! Bae, I'm sorry! Please forgive me."
Shocked, Neal stopped spanking mid swat.
Rumple continued to plead and kick for a second after the spanking stopped. "I didn't mean to put you in danger! I'm sorry."
Wanting to make a couple of points crystal clear to his father, Neal said, "Are you going to obey me until you get your adult body back?" He punctuated the question with a lighter slap that wouldn't have hurt if Rumple's backside hadn't already been sore.
"Ow! Yes! Yes I will."
"Are you going to run off again in the middle of the night?" Neal asked with another lighter swat.
"No! I won't! I promise!"
"Are you going to break another deal with me?" Neal gave him a harder swat for that question.
"Aaah!" Rumple struggled to speak through his tears, but quickly got out the words, "No, Bae, never again."
For the first time in a long time, Neal believed his father's words were sincerely truthful. Feeling a rush of affection both for the boy Rumple currently was, and the man he would be again, Neal gently picked him up, and turned him over so he was sitting on Neal's lap. He guided the small head to his chest and pulled him into a secure hug.
"I believe you," Neal whispered, and kissed the top of Rumple's head. "I believe you, and I forgive you. Not just for tonight, but for the last time you broke our deal too."
Those words of forgiveness caused several more tears to run down the boy's face and into Neal's shirt. Rumple knew he didn't deserve them, but in this moment in time, he was too overwrought to care. He wrapped his arms around his son's chest, and hugged him back.
"I'm sorry," Rumple said, his voice hitching as he spoke.
Neal rubbed his hand in a circle on the boy's back. "I know." They were quiet for a few minutes while Rumple calmed down and stopped crying.
"When Cora was torturing you..." Rumple had to pause to keep from breaking down into more tears. "I wanted to kill her."
Neal patted the boy's back and said, "That's how I felt when I saw her torturing you too."
"When I get my adult body back…"
"No," Neal interrupted him, and leaned back enough to look the boy in the eye. "Cora has her heart back now. We have to give her another chance."
Rumple wiped at his wet face with his sleeve and shook his head. "Cora was full of hate and revenge before she took her heart out."
"I'm sure that's true," Neal said, "but maybe all those lost years with her daughter will make her change her ways."
Rumple couldn't help but see the correlation to his own relationship with his son, and gave in with a nod. "Alright, she gets one chance," he said, and leaned his head back against Neal's chest.
They sat together for several more minutes, until Neal felt the body in his lap going limp with sleep. Neal picked up the small body, and gently lay his father, stomach side down, on the bed to get some sleep. He took off the boy's shoes, and pulled some covers over him, before grabbing a book to read at the kitchen table until morning.