A/N: This is where stuff gets real! A lot happens in this chapter, and there might be some loose ends, but everything will be explained eventually.
I own nothing!
Winter hit fast and it hit hard. Rumforde went to bed one warm night and woke up the next morning to snow on the ground and an iced over pond in his back yard.
"It's going to be a cold day." His maid, Mrs. Potts, stated the obvious as he came downstairs to get breakfast. "I laid out your overcoat and scarf."
"Thank you." Gold muttered, grabbing the box of pastries he'd picked up the night before off of the kitchen counter. "I'll be late tonight, don't bother with dinner. I'll eat at the hospital."
"Alright." Potts sighed disapprovingly as she helped him on with his coat. "But I doubt that they have very healthy options there."
"They have salad." Rumforde informed her defensively. "I'll see you tomorrow." He gave her a small wave before stepping outside.
It was still snowing lightly as he walked carefully to his Rolls Royce and climbed in. "Bloody perfect." He grumbled, blasting the heat and waiting for the windows to defrost.
When he got to Storybrooke, he immediately went into the common room to see Belle. He had made it a point to make sure to visit with her first thing every morning. When he didn't find her in her normal seat by the television with a book in her lap he got a little nervous.
"Hello Dr. Gold!" Ruby, one of the friends Belle had made, greeted him. "Lovely morning huh?"
Rumforde chuckled humorlessly at her joke as he scanned the room. "Yes, yes, have you seen Belle?" He asked.
"Um...no not yet." She said after a moment's thought. "Maybe check the lunch room."
"Yeah I'll try there. Thanks." He murmured before heading back out into the hall. He knew he wouldn't find her in the lunchroom. She was supposed to eat breakfast with him in his office for her morning session. Just like every morning.
"Dr. Blanchard!" He exclaimed when he saw the young doctor speaking to Adelaide in the hallway.
"Just a moment Dr. Go-"
"Have you seen Belle?" He cut her off. His voice was more harsh then he'd intended for it to be, but he had to make sure Belle was okay.
"No, I just got in." Mary Margaret said sternly. "She might still be in bed, it's rather early."
"She doesn't sleep past six." He sighed as though it were something she should already know. "Thanks anyway." He waved her off as he stormed away to continue his search.
Going up to the second floor, he stuck his head into the cafeteria just check. As he suspected, no Belle. Walking briskly towards the staircase leading up to the third story he almost didn't see her slight form sitting on a window seat in the hall.
"Belle." He sighed placing a hand over his racing heart as he walked over to her. She jumped slightly at his sudden voice and turned to smile at him.
"Dr. Gold!" She beamed as she pointed out the window. "It's snowing!" He nodded and sat down next to her, slightly out of breath.
"It is." He agreed, sparing a small glance at the white hills outside. "It kind of happened overnight huh?" He couldn't help but grin as he watched her stare at the snow with childlike wonder. After years of being locked up, she had missed so much. It was like everything was new to her.
"Maybe we can go out in it later." He suggested. His heart felt lighter when her face lit up.
"That would be wonderful!" She exclaimed, but she instantly deflated, "I don't have any warm clothes though." She gestured her T-shirt and sweat pants dejectedly.
"I can get you something to wear." He comforted her. "Now, why don't you come finish your book in my office. We still have another hour until our session." He helped her down from the seat and began to lead her towards the stairs.
"I already finished it." She informed him proudly. "Charlotte dies." A small frown touched her lips as they walked down the steps slowly.
"We can go to the library and pick out another one if you'd like." He offered. He wanted to cheer her up, if the fictional spider's demise was weighing on her heart at all.
"No, I can wait until later." She shrugged. "We can just start our session early, or just talk about other things."
"That sounds lovely." He smiled softly as he led her towards his office.
They had a nice morning together. They enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together before their session. At around ten, David came by his office to take her to craft time, just like every day.
After she left, he began to get ready to head out and get her some new winter clothes. Just as he was putting his coat on, Dr. Hopper poked his head into his office. "Dr. Gold, can we speak for a moment?" He asked nervously.
"Just make it quick Dr. Hopper." Rumforde sighed, not sparing his colleague a glance as he searched the office for anything he may need.
Archie came in and shut the door behind himself. "It's about Miss. French." He said quietly. Gold stopped moving about instantly and glowered at the man.
"What about her?" He demanded.
"Well...you see...Regina has thought that it would be better if...I began to take over her treatment." He stuttered. "Which I of course disagree with! But she's sort of...made it an order."
Gold stared at him for a moment, before sitting in his chair. "Well, don't you worry about that order Dr. Hopper." He said, his voice was deathly calm. "I will see to it that our arrangement remains as it is."
"I just feel that it's wrong to transfer a patient without cause." Archie explained. "Especially when one has had a trauma like Belle has."
"I fully agree doctor. Thank you." Rumforde led the man out of his office with him. "I will handle this matter promptly."
"Dr. Gold, she's very busy!" Graham tried to stop him as he stormed towards her office door.
"I don't give a rat's ass!" Rumforde snarled opening the door so hard, that it slammed against the wall. "How dare you!"
"I will start locking my door if we don't learn how to knock." Regina scolded as she typed some information into her computer. "What do you want Dr. Gold? Unlike you, I have a lot of business to attend to."
"Did I not make myself clear when I told you that I am calling the shots here? This is my hospital! I own it, therefore I own you!" He shouted. "You do not determine who I treat! You are simply here to watch over the staff! Not me!" He was about to leave, but her voice stopped him.
"You have too much on your plate! Your newer patients need to be transferred to Dr. Hopper. He's had two patients discharged in the last month." She explained calmly. "He's doing very well."
"Well isn't that promising?" Rumforde sneered. "I have been just fine with my other patients! I'm not looking to pawn them off onto anyone!"
"I don't want anyone being neglected." Regina said calmly.
"Really? Neglected? Like in a basement? Being shocked into submission?" His voice grew calmer, knowing that he had her. "You will not take her from me. She is my patient and she needs me. That's final." He gave her one final glare before storming out of the office.
He didn't understand why he was so angry as he drove through the gates of Storybrooke, towards the highway. Regina has been meddling with his patients for years. There had been many times where she would switch patients around on him, and though he would have put up a fight, he never got so enraged.
He just wanted Belle to feel safe. That was the bottom line.
There was something about the girl that brought out a very primitive side in him. She was a little cub who needed his protection. He wanted to stand over her and tear apart anything that came at her.
He was so focused on his rage that he almost didn't hear his phone ringing. Sighing, he dug the small device out of his breast pocket. "Yes, Dr. Gold." He growled. "What?...When did this happen?...Alright, alright. I'll be there promptly!" He hung up and tossed the phone in the passenger seat before making a completely illegal U-turn.
"Belle, it's time for lunch!" Mary Margaret called from the doorway of the common room.
"I need to wait for him." She said quietly, staring out the window at the snow covered driveway. "He'll be back soon."
Dr. Blanchard sighed and looked at her watch. "Okay, five more minutes." She reasoned, watching the patient anxiously. "I'll be back down here for you then, alright?"
Belle nodded, but didn't take her eyes away from the window.
"You don't see anything missing?" Sheriff Swan asked as he wandered through the last room on the bottom floor.
"No, I can't say that I do." Rumforde said, closing the door behind him. "But I do have a lot of stuff." He added with a wink.
Swan rolled her eyes and made a note in her pad. "Okay, well I gave Mrs. Potts my number if you find something." She gave a final look to his shaken maid, before seeing herself out.
"I'm sorry I couldn't stop them Dr. Gold." Mrs. Potts nearly sobbed as soon as they were alone. "They were too fast!"
"It's alright Mrs. Potts. You did the right thing in calling the police." Gold soothed her. "Now, why don't you take the rest of today and tomorrow off. Go see your son and grand kids."
"I...I think I'd like that." She sniffled.
"Good, I'll call Dove to drive you okay?" He sat her down in the living room before walking into the foyer to make the call.
He had been livid when he received the call from Sheriff Swan saying that two masked been had broken into his home. He didn't like to have his privacy violated, but seeing that nothing vital had been taken and that they hadn't gotten into his private study, he decided not to pursue it for now.
He made sure to get Mrs. Potts safely on the road before heading back out to continue his errands.
He didn't realize the time until he turned his car on. "12:36..." He read the analog clock aloud. "Dammit!" Picking up his phone, he quickly began to dial.
"She's waiting for you in the common room now." Mary Margaret chuckled lightly as she jogged down the stairs. "She wasn't too happy about you being late."
"Let her know I'm on my way." Gold told her.
"Will do..." She trailed off when she got to the now empty common room. "Belle?" She called, slightly panicked.
"What's wrong?" Gold snapped.
"We may have a problem."
She never told him she had memorized the code to the outside door. She had no reason to know it. She didn't really ever want to escape. She had just seen him enter it so many times when they went on their walks, that it had engrained itself into her memory.
She waited until the orderlies at the front desk were both distracted with phone calls before crawling towards the door and reaching up to blindly enter the code. When the green light appeared on the number pad, she turned the handle and sprinted outside without looking back.
"She's not on the third floor." David told her as he met her at the bottom of the stairs in the lobby. "I had Ruby search the east wing. She said she didn't see her."
"Archie checked the basement." Dr. Blanchard said. "She's not in the hospital." Her eyes began to well up as she ran her fingers through her short dark hair. David patted her back soothingly.
"We'll find her okay?" He said leading her towards the front door. "She got outside somehow. But we'll find her."
She knew why he wanted to get her special clothes five minutes into her walk. Her thin T-shirt and sweat pants did little to ward off the icy winds. She had lost her white slippers when she reached the first snow bank, and her socks were soaked through. But she had to find him. He was never late.
She was just making it to the tree line when she went through another waist deep bank. She whimpered and grabbed a low hanging branch to pull herself out. She could barely feel anything from the waist down, but she continued on through the woods.
Mary Margaret's heart stopped when she saw the black Rolls Royce pull up. "Dr. Gold..." She ran over to him.
"Spare me your excuses Dr. Blanchard." He held up his hand and looked around the parking lot. "I assume that she's not in the building if you're out here."
"David and some of the orderlies are searching the grounds and gardens before spreading out to the woods. Adelaide and I are waiting here in case she comes back." She gestured to the redheaded patient who was sitting on the front stoop with a mug of cocoa cradled in her hands.
"Well you two have fun camping out here." He snarled before trudging through the snow to find his patient.
She slid down a small hill on her hind end because she didn't trust her legs to carry her. She was completely numb from head to toe. But that made it easier for her.
She walked for what seemed like forever before she reached a large opening. She gasped as she stared at the flat plain before her. "Wow." She breathed looking around at the white expanse of land. She slowly began to move forward, hoping that this meant that she was getting close to the road.
She was about a quarter of the way across the field when she began to hear it. A small cracking sound.
He knew he was going the right way when he found her slippers. He walked through the woods as quickly as his bum leg would allow. He could see her tiny foot prints in the snow. He could see where she tripped and stumbled and slid. It made him move faster.
Panic welled up when he saw the clearing coming up. The lake had began to ice over days before when the freeze set in. Now the snow would have covered it. And it would have weighed the ice down. If anyone were to step foot on it, they would surely fall through.
But Belle was tiny. Maybe she'd be fine. Maybe she could get across.
She squatted down to brush the snow away. She gasped when she saw the black ice beneath her feet. She stood back up and looked around frantically.
"Belle!" She heard him before she saw him. "Belle!"
"Dr. Gold!" She yelled back as she searched for him. Finally she saw his familiar form rushing from the direction she had come from. She smiled and began to stumble back towards him, but a another loud crack stopped her.
"Belle!" He stopped when he reached the edge of the lake. "I need you to walk to your right a few feet, and then move towards me!" He knew how to handle ice after many childhood winters playing on the frozen lakes in Scotland. The girl silently nodded and obeyed him.
She sniffled as she walked a few paces to the side before walking quickly towards her doctor. She was about twenty feet from the shore when she felt the ground come out from under her. She barely had time to scream before she felt the ice cold daggers hit her face.
Gold gasped and lunged forward. He threw the rules of ice safety out the window as he ran towards the hole she had fallen in and splayed him self out on his stomach reaching his cane towards the black water. "Belle! Grab on! Grab onto it!" He shouted frantically to the girl thrashing about in the water. She took a deep breath to compose herself as she grasped the golden handle in her shaky hands.
She held on as long as it took for him to pull her upper half out onto the solid ice. Once she was within his reach, he grabbed her under the arms and pulled her as quickly as he could towards the bank. "Belle! Belle!" He choked laying her down on the ground so he could take off his jacket and wrap it around her shaking form.
Her lips and closed eyelids were already turning blue. "Belle!" He pulled her into his lap and hugged her close, burying his face into her wet hair. He barely thought about it as he pulled his phone from his pocket and began dialing. "We're at the lake. Get Nolan down here right away!" He ordered briskly before hanging up and turning his attention back to his frozen Belle.
"You're okay." He whispered, kissing her temple repeatedly. "I've got you. You're okay."