The town is too absorbed in its welcome-home celebrations and its post-Pan self-congratulations to notice the lone librarian standing at the foot of the gangplank. She searches each face hopefully, her eyes widening in surprise as David and Snow herd a dozen children past her toward waiting cars. Side by side, Emma and Henry follow, and just a half-pace behind them is the man that Belle's Lacey memories tell her is Baelfire–presumed dead, but now miraculously brought home.
Hook, the last to leave the ship, is alone, just as Belle is. He stops at the head of the gangplank, watches her as her eyes frantically scan his ship. He runs his hand through his hair as he deliberates. Anyone can see what she's thinking, especially a man who's devoted a good deal of time studying women's body language; anyone can sympathize with her, even a man who's devoted his life to seeking revenge.
Well, he's the victor now; he can afford to show some mercy. And maybe he owes the lass a little something, after his less-than-honorable attacks upon her.
He approaches Belle and clears his throat. "Ah, Miss, ah, French, I have some news for you. I'm afraid it's not good." Not good for you, but absolutely delightful for me.
Her face is caught between hope and dread. Her lips part, but no sound comes out.
Hook finds it doesn't feel as good as he had expected it would to dig the dagger in one last time. He decides to get right to it, then, get it over with and then he can catch up to the others. If Emma won't allow him into her celebratory circle, he can always align with Regina. He arranges his features into a mask of sympathy and touches her shoulder. "The Croc-ah, Rumplestiltskin didn't come with us. He remains on the island. Permanently."
Now she manages a word. "W-w-what?"
"There was a vote," Hook shrugs. "He was found guilty and it was determined he should be left behind, barred from all society."
"He's. . .alone?"
"He can't be trusted, Belle. Surely you understand that." When she shakes her head, he persists. "He hasn't changed, no matter how fervently you wish he had. He will do anything, destroy anyone, to get what he wants."
"No," Belle insists. "He has a good heart. I've–"
"No, Belle." Hook squeezes her shoulder. "He tried to kill Henry."
"What? No. . . ." She sways and he has to support her.
"The day before the kidnapping. Henry was at the playground, and the Crocodile used his magic to stage an accident. Snow and Charming interrupted, else Henry would have been killed."
"That's a lie," Belle explodes. "He wouldn't-he loves children–he loves Henry–Henry is Baelfire's son!"
"He would have killed Henry then, if he hadn't been caught red-handed, and the only reason he went to Neverland was to finish the job."
"No. Why are y-you would do anything to get your revenge–"
"You can ask Snow or Emma." He makes his voice soft. "Or Baelfire. I'm sorry, lass. You deserve better." His good deed done, he walks away.
"We had no choice, Belle." To be heard over the laughter and the music, Snow has drawn Belle out to the alley behind Granny's. "He's too powerful to be stopped. The jail couldn't hold him. Leaving him behind was the only way to protect Henry."
"He wouldn't hurt a child! I lived with him for nearly a year in the Enchanted Forest; I've seen how he is with children. He adores them and he cherishes Henry!"
"He confessed, Belle. In front of all of us, he admitted he'd tried to kill Henry in order to circumvent a prophecy that predicted Henry would be his downfall." Snow gives the news time to sink in, but Belle fights it, shaking her head.
"You must have misunderstood."
"He admitted to it to Baelfire. We had no choice. Rumplestiltskin had to be banished. I'm sorry, Belle. In time, I'm sure you'll see we had no choice." With a last pitying glance, Snow walks away.
"Yeah. That's what he said." Bae's eyes shift uncomfortably. Emma is waiting across the street; he's anxious to leave, but when Belle phoned he felt her owed her something, though he doesn't really know her, so he came to the pink house. Like Snow, he assumes that once Belle is convinced of the truth, she'll begin to let go. She's a young woman, resilient; she will mourn, but eventually she will bury her memories and move on with her life.
Baelfire, on the other hand. . . .
"But to leave him behind–to abandon him–I understand it may have felt like it was only fair, after what he did to you, but–"
"That's not why we did it," Bae snaps. "And we all did it. We all decided."
"You didn't have to banish him. If he promised he'd never hurt Henry, he wouldn't go back on his word."
Bae emphasizes each word. "Yes, Belle, he would. He has."
An idea pops into her head and she seizes his arm. "The dagger! What if he gives you–"
"I thought of that, Belle. He claims his shadow hid it and it can't be found." Bae runs his hand over his mouth and glances out the window to the yellow Bug, where Emma waits. "I told him to send the shadow to go get it, but he claimed he'd ordered the shadow to refuse that request. He hasn't changed. He's a liar, a cheat and a killer, and I won't put my son or this town at risk by allowing him back here."
"He's a good man." But Belle's voice wavers.
"Do yourself a favor, Belle." Bae waves his hand around the house. "Don't stay here. Find a place where he's never been. Buy new clothes, a new hairstyle, get rid of anything that reminds you of the past, because he's not coming back." And Bae walks away.
Belle sits in the chair at the head of the dining table in the big pink house. Darkness has fallen but she hasn't turned on the lights, nor has she cooked dinner for herself. She sits with a cold cup of tea in her hands (but not the chipped cup; she can't bear to touch it just now). She tries to remember every nice thing about him: every kindness, every thoughtfulness, every mercy he's shown anyone. It doesn't take long, and visions of Henry keep interrupting.
Right now, it takes all the courage she has to face the truth: Rumple tried to kill Henry.
Bae is right. Infatuation fooled her into seeing a man where there was only a monster. A child-killing monster.
An impromptu town meeting is called at Granny's to discuss the Sad Lady on the Hill. That's what the kids have taken to calling Belle, for since the Jolly Roger's return three months ago, no one has seen her on the streets, in Granny's, or even in the library, which Snow is attempting to run. Only Clark, who delivers groceries to the pink house once a week, has spoken to her; she won't open the door to Ariel or Ruby and won't return Archie's calls.
"It's been months," Ruby grumps, turning expectantly to Emma.
"She's not doing anything illegal. I can't force her to come out. I talked to the bank: she co-owns the house and all his properties. She's within her rights to live there as long as she wants."
"But it's not healthy," Snow objects. "She used to be a lively, gregarious person. Isn't there anything you can do?" She turns to Archie.
"She hasn't done anything to indicate she's a danger to herself or others," Hopper answers. "All I can do, all any of us can do, is keep reaching out. Let her know that when she's ready, we'll be glad to help her."
"And if she's never ready?" Ruby folds her arms.
No one answers.
But in the back of the restaurant, Regina, uninvited but having shown up to the meeting anyway, listens. She smiles smugly: if Rumple could see what his selfish actions have wrought, he'd find that damn dagger and stab himself with it.
Beside Regina, Hook sips a whisky sour in silence.