Once Regina and Cora left the diner, they got in Regina's car to head for home. As soon as she'd started the car, Regina said, "You did that on purpose."
"What's that, Dear?"
"Got me an hour with Henry every other day."
Cora smiled at her daughter. "I want you to be happy darling. Henry makes you happy."
"Thank you," Regina said with sincerity, as she started down the road.
"And speaking of being happy, you should really give some thought to dating."
"What!" Regina almost swerved out of her lane, but quickly got control of her emotions and the car.
"Honestly Regina, you're a grown woman. You can't live simply for your child. That wouldn't be healthy for you or Henry. You need to have an adult relationship with someone."
"Mother!" Regina blushed bright red.
"Oh come now, we're both adults. Isn't there anyone in town you've had your eye on?"
Thinking of Graham, Regina shook her head.
"Well, there seem to be plenty of single men." Cora thought for a moment, and said, "How about that sniveling Dr. Hopper? He'd be easy to bend to your will."
Shuddering slightly, Regina said, "Never! That's… repulsive."
Cora cocked her head to the side and took a good look at her daughter. "Why?"
"He's so… so…" Unable to find the words to express how wrong the good doctor was for her, she huffed in frustration and went with, "…nice."
Cora's lips turned up. "Very well, how about the Mad Hatter? His daughter looks to be the same age as Henry, and we both know the man has a vicious side when provoked."
Regina's face contorted as she thought that over. "I can't think of him that way. We've known each other far too long, and he could never forgive me for separating him from his daughter for so many years."
Regina pulled into the driveway of her house, and Cora snapped her fingers. "I've got it! Captain Hook!"
"What?" Regina parked, and gave her mother an incredulous glare.
"Hook is the…"
"He's a filthy pirate!" Regina cut her mother off.
Cora scrutinized her daughter and watched the younger woman brake eye contact. Cora slowly smiled. She always could tell when someone protested too much. "Captain Killian Jones could be the perfect match for you my darling. He understands your desire for revenge like no other. He'd never bend to your will without a satisfying struggle, and he's a very attractive man."
"I'm not having this discussion with you, Mother!" Regina yelled, and got out of the car.
Smiling to herself, Cora got out as well, and started formulating plans.
# # #
An hour later, Rumple and Neal were walking towards Belle's room with Dr. Whale. Victor had agreed to the plan as soon as David had laid it out. Once they'd gotten Dr. Whale's approval, David had gone to the sheriff's office to check on Hook.
Rumple could feel his heart racing as they walked into Belle's hospital room. He desperately wanted to spend time with Belle, but letting her see him like this made him squirm with embarrassment. He wanted to be a strong and powerful man in her eyes, not a child who needed looking after. He caught a glimpse of her smiling face, and then moved to stand slightly behind Neal.
Belle turned her eyes to the doctor and said, "Good morning Dr. Whale."
"Good morning Belle. How are you feeling today."
"Just fine, thank you, and before you ask, no I still don't remember anything."
He nodded. "Alight then I think it's time to talk to you about being released."
With panic in her eyes, she said, "Released?"
He nodded and said gently, "Physically you're ready to be released, so it's time to either move you out of the hospital, or if you're not comfortable with that, it's time to move you into the psychiatric ward."
"No!" Rumple said, moving out behind Neal. "That was never part of the…"
"Hey!" Neal said while he clamped a hand over Rumple's mouth before he could say anything else that might make it more difficult to get Belle to agree to their plans.
Rumple glared and pushed Neal's hand away. Neal stared intently at his father and said, "You need to let the adults talk, Paul," hoping he'd get the hint.
Huffing in frustration, Rumple crossed his arms, continued to glare at Neal, and said, "Fine."
Turning an apologetic smile towards Belle, Neal said, "I'm sorry about that, here we are arguing in front of you, and we haven't even been introduced." He put a hand on his chest and said, "I'm Neal, and this," he put his hand on Rumple's head, "is my son Paul."
"Hello," Belle said with a polite smile in place.
"I have a job offer for you," Neal said.
"A job? For me?"
"I know it probably seems odd, since we don't know each other, but we live in a small community, and everyone in town knows about the woman with amnesia in the hospital." He turned to Rumple and said, "Everyone also knows that my son Paul just started living with me a couple of days ago, and it's been a difficult adjustment for the both of us." He looked back at Belle. "I was here at the hospital to ask my friend Victor," Neal gestured towards Dr. Whale, "if he had any suggestions for a full time nanny, when I overheard him talking to one of the nurses about getting your release papers ready. It got me to thinking that maybe we could help each other."
"You're asking me to be your nanny?" Belle asked with one eyebrow raised.
Neal shrugged. "You need a place to stay while you figure out what your next move is going to be, and I need a live in nanny."
"But you don't even know me! I have no idea if I even have any qualifications for that kind of job!"
"I have to admit, I am a little desperate." Neal gave his father a stern expression and said, "Paul is pissed about his currently living situation, and his behavior has been… deplorable."
"Deplorable?" Rumple squawked. "It wasn't deplorable!"
"Would you prefer it if I said you were disobedient or maybe naughty?" Neal said.
Rumple blushed and shook his head.
Neal looked back at Belle and said, "I need help, and so do you. We could try it out for a day, and see how it goes. I'm offering free room and board, along with a salary, and one day off a week."
"Well… I… I don't know," she said. She turned to Dr. Whale, and said, "Can I have a little time to think about it?"
"Of course," he said. "We weren't planning to release you until after lunch anyway. Take some time to think things over, and we'll be back to talk to you around two o'clock."
Belle nodded, and then said to Neal, "Is that okay with you?"
"Sure. We'll see you then."
Neal and Dr. Whale started to leave, but Rumple found he couldn't leave without pleading his case. Now that he knew her only other option was the psychiatric ward, he desperately wanted her to come with them instead. He hated the thought of her being locked up again. He walked right up to the bed, took Belle's hand in his and said, "Please agree to come stay with us Belle. I promise I won't give you any sort of trouble, and you'll have lots of free time to read."
Looking into the child's eyes, Belle found herself inexplicably needing to reassure him. She put her free hand over his, and gave it a small pat. "That's very sweet of you to say, Paul."
"My father isn't the only one who needs help. I miss…" Unable to tell her that he desperately missed her, he went with the best lie he could on short notice, "I really miss my mom. Having you there would help."
Belle pushed some hair off of Rumple's forehead and cooed, "Oh, poor baby."
Neal walked back over and put an arm around Rumple's shoulders. "Come on, let's go. We need to give her time to think it over."
"No," Belle said, looking up at Neal. "I don't need anymore time to think. I'll do it."
Neal grinned. "Great. We'll pick you up at two when you're released."
"Okay," she said.
As they were leaving the hospital, Rumple said, "We'll need to stay at my place." Neal glanced down at him with both eyebrows raised. Rumple said, "Well we can't take her to Granny's! She'll need a room of her own, and books. Lots of books. I want her to be as happy as possible."
Neal couldn't hide his smile. His father's desire to please Belle was going to work out well for everyone. "I thought you lived in that back room of the shop."
Rumple scoffed. "Of course not. Though I suppose I could see where you might think so since I am there most nights. I have a home on the east side of town near the Storybrook boarder."
"Why didn't you tell me about it?" Neal asked.
Rumple shrugged. "It just hadn't crossed my mind. Apparently I was too busy being disobedient to worry about where we slept."
Ignoring the barb, Neal said, "Will there be enough room for all three of us?"
"More than enough."
"Okay, then we'll go check out of Granny's after you train Emma and I have a nap. Then we'll check out your house before we go to pick up Belle."
Rumple nodded, and then after a pause he said, "Bae?"
"I hated the idea of Belle seeing me like this, but… now that I've seen her, I can't stand the idea of her in that hospital for another second."
Neal smiled, and wrapped an arm around his father's shoulders. "I think Henry was right. Did you see that look she was giving you? I think she'll love you like a mother would within a week."
# # #
Four hours later, Neal's alarm woke him up. He was still groggy, but he got up, and went to see how things had gone with Emma's training. When he walked into his father's store, there was no one in the front, but he heard laughter coming from the back room. A surprised, but hopeful, smile lit his face as he went to investigate.
The door was open a crack, so he peeked in before letting them know he was there. Emma's hair was completely soaked, but she was laughing so hard that she was bent forward with a hand on the desk to steady herself. Neal was struck with the memory of her laughing like that once after they'd broken into a dilapidated old motel room during a storm. They'd stripped in the dark, hung their clothes on the shower rod to dry, and gotten in bed together to warm up. Guilt reared up, as it did so often when he remembered how in love they were before he'd left her.
He forced his eyes away from her, and onto the boys. They were standing together a few feet away, both laughing as well.
Henry saw Neal first, and said, "Dad guess what?"
With a grin of his own he walked into the room and said, "What?"
"Rumple taught Mom how to levitate stuff."
Neal turned his smile to Emma and said, "That's great, but it doesn't explain why you look like you just took a shower."
Emma's laughter had subsided enough to say, "I was levitating a water balloon."
Neal raised an eyebrow and turned to Rumple. "That sounds like an accident waiting to happen."
Rumple waved an impatient hand at his son, as if waving away the questioning eyebrow. "Liquid is easier to levitate than a solid when you're first learning. I suggested going to the harbor to practice with ocean water, but Emma refused to take us anywhere in public. Henry suggested water from the sink, but I refused, because it's nearly impossible to control at first, and I didn't want a huge mess to clean up. We compromised with a water balloon. As predicted, Miss Swan couldn't control it."
"But she did finally levitate it," Henry said proudly.
Rumple tipped his head forward in acknowledgement, and said, "She did quite well for a beginner."
"That's great," Neal said, extremely pleased that they'd all gotten along. "What time should we meet tomorrow to practice?"
"Right after dinner?" Emma said. "By the time Henry has school, and visits with Regina it will be dinner time."
"That should work," Neal said. He turned to Rumple and said, "We'll have dinner with Belle, and then let her have some free time in the evening while we come over here." Rumple nodded in agreement. Neal turned back to Emma and said, "Let's say seven o'clock here at the shop?"
Emma nodded. "Works for me."
Neal gestured for Rumple to come to him and said, "We need to get going. We only have an hour to check out of Granny's, and make sure your house is in order before we pick up Belle."
"Remember," Rumple said to Emma, "practicing without me could end in disaster."
Emma rolled her eyes, "Trust me when I say I don't really even want to practice with you. There's no way I'll be trying anything on my own."
Rumple walked over to Neal and muttered, "You're very odd, Miss Swan."
"Odd?" Emma asked.
"You have so much potential, so much untapped power, and yet you don't seem particularly interested in using it. That's unusual." Rumple eyed her as if trying to figure out a puzzle.
Emma put an arm around Henry and pulled him to her side. "Being able to wield magic is an empty power if you don't have love in your life."
Rumple frowned while contemplating that statement.
Neal said to Henry, "Have a good day tomorrow."
"You too, Dad."
Neal put a hand on Rumple's shoulder, and guided him out the door.