Rumple winced in pain, and put a hand up to his head, "What happened?" Before anyone could answer, Rumple opened his eyes wide, and looked at the hand he'd just put to his head. His eyes scanned his own body, being held by Neal and whispered, "No." He closed his eyes. Everything that had happened to him for the past couple of days came back to him. He shook his head and said forcefully, "No, no, no!" He squirmed and ordered, "Put me down."
Neal set Rumple on his feet, and let go. When the boy wobbled slightly, Neal steadied him with a hand on his upper arm. Rumple yanked his arm away, and hissed, "Stop!"
Neal let his hand drop, and Rumple saw a flash of uncertainty cross his son's face. Keeping his voice calm, Rumple said, "There's no need to treat me like a child now. All of my memories are back."
"Oh," Neal said, feeling awkward about everything that had gone on between him and his father.
The longer Rumple stood there the more furious he became. He glared at Neal and hissed, "I can not believe you entrusted my life, and yours, to the Blue Fairy of all people. You know she hates me!"
Neal crossed his arms, and tried not to let his father's scolding words make him feel like he was ten years old again. Feeling defensive, he said, "No. You hate her. She doesn't hate you. And if it weren't for her, I'd be the one stuck in a child's body, so you'll have to forgive me if I think I did the right thing."
"You should have told me the truth about who I was, Bae."
"No," David said, "that wouldn't have done any good. It just would have scared you."
Rumple's eyes locked onto David's and he advanced on the man a few steps. "Don't!" Rumple shouted. "Don't pretend that you didn't have ulterior motives for every single thing you did while I was incapacitated. Do you really expect me to believe that my former jailer had my best interests at heart?"
David advanced on him a step and shouted, "Yes! You've known me for years. You know how important family is to me, and like it or not, we're family now through Henry. Our children were in love. I can't hurt you without hurting Emma and Henry in the process. I did have your best interest at heart, and I still do!"
Trying to defuse the situation, Snow hung her jacket back up and said, "Maybe we should all be focused on what we're going to do now."
Forcing himself not to engage with David, Rumple took a deep breath, and turned a withering glare towards Snow. "We aren't going to do anything. I'm going to go fix this. It's no longer your concern." He stared walking towards the door.
Neal glanced at David, Snow, and Emma to get their reactions to this news. He could tell none of them approved, but none of them were going to try and stop Rumple either. Huffing in frustration, Neal said, "Wait."
"What?" Rumple said with irritation.
"You're not going out there alone. Cora is still after you."
Rumple chuckled. "And how exactly will it help to have you by my side, Bae? You'll be as useless as you were against Regina a few moments ago."
"No!" Rumple shouted. "It's Baelfire!"
Neal clenched his jaw, and took a few deep breaths. He kept his voice down and spoke as calmly as he could. "We had a deal. You agreed to be my apprentice, and follow my instructions until you found your way home, and I say you don't go out there alone."
Rumple tossed his hands in the air and said, "I did find my way home!"
"Your mind is back, but your body isn't," Neal said.
"You've killed people for less!" Neal cleared his throat, and said calmly, "We had a deal. You've already broken one deal with me. Are you going to break another?"
Rumple felt those words like a punch to the chest, and all of his anger drained away. He shook his head and whispered, "No, Bae, no. I… I didn't mean to break our deal back then. It was just…" He looked around at the other people in the room and said, "…a moment of weakness. Can we talk about this in private?"
Neal shook his head. "I want witnesses. Are you going to keep our deal this time or not."
Rumple sighed, and looked at his boy. The boy he'd been seeking for years was here in front of him, and in an ironic twist of fate, his son was offering him protection from the world at large. There was no way he could deny him. He looked his child in the eye, and said quietly, "I'll honor our deal. I'll follow your instructions until my body is back to its adult form." He held out a hand to shake.
Neal took the offered hand, and shook it once. Instead of letting go after they shook, Neal gripped the hand, and pulled Rumple close. He leaned down to look him in the eye, and said, "I hope you mean it. I don't think I could handle it if Cora got her hands on you. Not after… everything."
Sympathetic to the worried look Neal was giving him, Rumple brushed the backs of his fingers down his boy's cheek and said, "It's going to be alright, Bae. We'll go back to my shop, and I'll do the spell to fix this before Cora has a chance to do anything. Alright?"
Neal nodded, and let go of his father's small hand. "Alright." Neal turned to David and said, "Thank you for helping us." He made eye contact with Emma, Snow, and then Henry too, and added, "All of you."
Snow said, "That's what family does. Do you want us to come with you to the shop?"
"No." Rumple said. He certainly didn't feel comfortable enough to consider any of them family other than Neal.
"She wasn't asking you," David said. "You agreed to follow Neal's instructions, not the other way around."
Rumple glared at David. He'd always found the man to be insufferable. He wasn't particularly bright, he had the tendency to act before thinking things through, and his insistence on doing good at all costs made Rumple's heart feel heavy in his chest.
"Don't speak to me as if I were still your prisoner Prince Charming," Rumple sneered, "You have no…"
"Okay." Neal interrupted, and put a hand on Rumple's shoulder. "On that note, I think it's time for us to go." He turned to Snow and said, "Thanks anyway, but I think we need to work things out on our own." He kept a hand on Rumple, and started walking them towards the door. "Come on, let's go get you back to normal."
Emma said, "Call us once it's done."
"I will," Neal said, and led a fuming Rumple out the door.
# # #
Neal kept a hand on Rumple's shoulder as they walked across the street. The silence between them was awkward, both wanting to talk, but not knowing where to start. When they made it to the side door of Mr. Gold's store, Neal let his hand drop to open the door.
Rumple went in with a purpose, and started to gather supplies on the desk. Neal stood in the middle of the room and watched. Rumple waved his hand towards one of the shelves that was too high for him to reach now, and said, "Grab me the third vile to the left."
Neal got it for him, and handed it over. When Rumple took it, Neal said, "What's in it?"
"Ash from the cradle I made you when I returned from war."
Neal followed Rumple to the desk, and said, "Why do you need it?"
Rumple looked up at his boy with a smile. "Do you remember how we used to make potions together?"
Neal scowled. "Together? I remember you telling me to sit still and be silent, and then you'd talk to yourself about what you were doing. If I interrupted, you'd make me leave the room."
Rumple nodded with a fond smile, and then gestured to the chair behind the desk. "Have a seat, Bae. Be still and silent, and I'll talk through what I'm doing."
Not liking his father's presumptuous tone, Neal knew he needed to remind him that their relationship had shifted for the time being. He crossed his arms, and said, "The same chair I sat in to spank you yesterday?"
Rumple's entire face turned bright red, and he glared at the currently older man. "Yes," he said with barely restrained anger, "that's the one."
Neal glared back and said, "Maybe we should talk about that."
Rumple turned his glare to the desk chair, and said, "Maybe we shouldn't."
With a sigh, Neal said, "Let me rephrase that. We're going to talk about that. Right now, before you do your potion."
Rumple's eyes snapped back to Neal's. He hissed, "What do you want me to say? That I'm angry about it? I am. That I want to kill David for putting the idea in your head? I do. That it makes me uncomfortable to even think about? It does."
Neal shook his head. "Yesterday you thought you deserved it. I want you to look me in the eye, and tell me if you still think so."
Glaring at the older man, Rumple spat out, "Yes. The boy I was at the time deserved it, and I loath myself for being that boy."
Confusion played across Neal's face. "Why?"
"I was weak, pathetic, and needy. Just thinking about who I was makes my skin crawl."
Neal shook his head, took the two steps that separated them, and put both hands on Rumple's shoulders. The man got down on one knee so they could be eye to eye, and he said with utter faith, "No, Papa. You've got yourself all wrong. You were honorable, brave, and true. I'd almost forgotten what you were like before the Dark One, but seeing you that way made me remember. That version of you is the father who raised me for thirteen years. That version of you is the man I miss. That version of you is the man I tried to get back when I went through that portal."
The man in the child's body felt his anger slipping away along with the walls he'd built up around his heart to block out emotional ties. Rumple cupped Neal's face with his hands. "Baelfire, my boy, I have regretted not jumping through that portal with you every single day since then. I'm so sorry you had to navigate this world without me."
Neal wrapped his arms around his father and hugged him tight. He whispered, "Me too."
Rumple held his son, and carded his fingers through the man's hair. After a few seconds, Rumple said, "Come, Bae, let's get this potion done."
They let go of each other, and Rumple gestured to the chair again. "I do need you to sit still and be quiet for this. I need to concentrate on what I'm doing. The slightest mistake could end in disastrous results."
Neal reluctantly got up, and went to sit in the chair.
For the next half an hour, Rumple got lost in his work. He talked through what he was doing and why, but other than that ignored Neal completely.
Neal closed his eyes a few times, and just listened to his father speaking. It was easy to imagine the older version of the man doing the same thing. It was all comfortably familiar.
Once the potion was complete, Rumple looked up at Neal and said, "That's it."
"Do you drink it?"
Rumple nodded, and lifted the vial to his lips.
"Wait!" Neal said. "What if it doesn't work?"
Rumple rolled his eyes. "It'll work." He downed the liquid in two swallows.
Neal stood, and walked over to Rumple, to catch him if he started having another seizure. For several seconds, the two simply stared at each other, waiting for something to happen.
"How long should it take?" Neal asked eventually.
The boy's face suddenly contorted in rage. "That bitch!"
"Regina!" Rumple shrieked. He knocked several bottles onto the floor with a sweep of his arm across the desk.
Neal took a few steps back. He'd seen his father like this several times. The fits of rage had become more and more common the longer he'd been influenced by the Dark One. The rage had never been directed at Neal, but it had terrified him just the same.
"What about Regina?" Neal asked.
Rumple picked one of the books up off the desk and threw it across the room. "She knew! She knew I couldn't do magic yet!" He kicked the leg of the desk repeatedly with the toe of the tennis shoe that was too big for his foot. "If I'd been but a week or two older, she couldn't have stopped me!"
As the fit went on, Neal started to see his father's actions through the eyes of an adult, instead of through the eyes of the child he used to be, and he realized for the first time, that this fit of rage was nothing more than a tantrum.
"Hey!" Neal grabbed Rumple by the upper arm, and gave him a tiny shake. "Knock it off! Settle down, stop kicking things, and talk to me like a rational adult."
Shocked into being still, Rumple looked up at Neal's irritated face. A scowl slowly appeared on the boy's face. In a condescending tone, he said, "The potion didn't work. I can't fix myself, because this body is too young to perform magic. Someone else will have to do it for me, but there isn't anyone else. I don't trust Regina or the Blue Fairy, no one trusts Cora, and Emma is too inexperienced."
Neal let go of the boy's arm and said, "Emma? Emma can do magic?"
"Yes, but I'll have to train her for months before she can do anything this big." Rumple walked over to the desk chair, sat down, folded his arms on the desk, and lay his head down on them. "I'm stuck like this for months, Bae. Months!"
Neal walked over to him, and rubbed his back in comfort. "That's not so bad. Working with Emma could be a good thing. Henry could come too, and it will give us all time to know each other. What's a couple of months after centuries?"
Rumple turned his head to the side, so he could look at Neal. "It's bad, because I'm vulnerable like this, and Regina knows it, which means Cora will know it too. They'll use this opportunity to try and hurt me, either separately or together. Unless…" Rumple sat up, and said, "That's it!"
"I need to go see Jefferson."
"The Mad Hatter?" Neal asked.
"There's magic here now. He can make a new hat." Rumple stood up and started pulling Neal towards the door. "I can go back in time to before Belle forgot who I was, and she'll give me a kiss. True loves kiss will reverse any spell!"
"Just hold on a minute," Neal said, stopping them. "If true loves kiss can reverse any spell, why don't you just go to the hospital and kiss Belle now?"
Rumple shook his head. "She doesn't remember that she loves me. It wouldn't work."
"But if you kissed her, wouldn't she get her memories back?"
Rumple thought that over for a few seconds. "I don't know. It depends on her emotional state when I did it. Maybe if she were asleep." He smiled at Neal and said, "We can try that as soon as we're done speaking with Jefferson."
Neal shook his head. "I didn't agree to go see Jefferson."
Frowning, Rumple said, "What do you mean you didn't agree? I need to see him."
"Not unless I approve, and I don't. I want to talk it over with David, Snow, and Emma first."
"What!" Rumple was almost at a loss for words. "Are you actually telling me that you're going to keep me from seeing my old colleague until you discuss it with my former enemies?"
"Yeah, that's what I'm saying." Neal crossed his arms. "I don't know this Jefferson person, and I certainly don't trust him. I'm not going to take you to see him without talking to David and Emma first."
"That's ludicrous! I'm telling you that I trust him. That should be enough!"
Neal shook his head. "I'm sorry, but your judgement about keeping yourself safe is clouded by your desire to get your adult body back. I've made my decision. Let's go back to the loft."
"No! If you won't take me to Jefferson's, at least take me to the hospital so I can see Belle."
With a tired sigh, Neal said, "Are you breaking our deal, or are you coming with me to the loft?"
Practically vibrating with pent up frustration, Rumple said, "I'll go with you to the loft."