Chapter 11: Not Going Anywhere
"Ben!" Emma's flashlight swept the forest floor, picking out falling raindrops, leaves, but nothing more. She went a few paces up the road, and swept the nearby trees with the light again. "Ben!" A flash of lightning, and she spotted what looked like just a damp heap of dirt. She fixed her light on it.
"Shit…" Emma ran down the embankment, skidding on the wet leaves and coming to a halt next to the curled up, wet bundle. "Ben?" She grasped the man's shoulder, rolling him over.
Ben let out a moan. He wasn't dead!
Emma swallowed hard as her flashlight picked out the patch of pink slowly spreading across the man's shirt. Oh she hoped that just looked bad because he was wet. She pulled up his shirt and drew in a hiss when she saw the seeping wound in his belly. Seeping, but not gushing, was the only good thing she could see about it. Who knew what damage had been done inside?
She was wearing a scarf, and pulled this off, wadded it up and pushed it into the wound and leaned down hard.
Ben moaned again and then shuddered.
"Sorry, sorry…" That had to hurt, but she had no choice.
Now what? She had to get him out of here. If that would even help. No, she couldn't think like that.
Her thoughts were interrupted as the woods were flooded with light. She looked up to see a car pull up on the edge of the road next to hers. Rumpelstiltskin's. "Well, about time…"
The car door opened and Rumpelstiltskin hurried out and down to them, Belle following close behind. He was rushing. She he should, Emma thought, after what he'd done.
The man dropped to his knees beside her. "Bae…?" his voice was wavering.
Emma grabbed him by the shoulder of his jacket with her free hand, startling him and forcing him to look at her. She'd make sure he knew exactly what he'd done here, how close Ben was to death and that he was the only one to blame. Words to that effect were right on the tip of her tongue, when lightning lit the sky again and revealed the look on the man's face. Emma paused. She knew that look. It must have been the same she'd worn when she'd thought she was about to lose Henry. Desperation and fear, its depths unfathomable unless you'd experienced it yourself.
The two stared at each other for a moment. The words died on the tip of Emma's tongue; suddenly she just didn't have the heart. "Hold this." Was all she said as she grabbed his arm and pushed his hand into the damp scarf. She stood to her feet, and retrieved her phone from a pocket.
Rumpelstiltskin's world was falling apart. He couldn't lose Bae. He'd been looking for him for so, so long. When he'd hit upon the scheme to bring himself, and magic, over into this world, everything had seemed like it might be okay again. This would ruin everything, and there was no doubt in Rumpelstiltskin's mind that he had brought this about himself.
And his son. His son didn't deserve this. Even though he had lied to him, not telling him his true identity right away, Rumpelstiltskin could not hold that against him. He should have known who he was, or at worst, he should have believed him when he'd told him in the car. How could he have been so blind? Oh gods, what had he done?
Rumpelstiltskin pulled Baelfire towards him, cradling his head in his free hand. Belle had come to stand behind him, holding the umbrella over them both.
Bae stirred as Rumpelstiltskin brought him close. His eyes cracked open. "Papa…?" He lifted a hand, only barely getting it up, and grasped at his father's jacket. "You. Came back…" He coughed, and a trickle of blood made it past his lips.
"I'm so sorry, Bae," Rumpelstiltskin's vision blurred.
"I can't get any reception!" Emma shouted, snapping him somewhat back to reality. "We'll have to take him to the hospital…" she trailed off as she came to stand beside them again. She was looking down at Bae and something in her eyes said she didn't think that was going to help.
"Emma," said Belle, "I think he'll die if we move him…"
Emma let out a sigh and her shoulders drooped. "I don't think we have much choice but to try…"
Rumpelstiltskin looked back down at Bae. His eyes were slipping closed, and his grip on his father's jacket was loosening. "No… no, I'm not going to lose him again. Bae," Rumpelstiltskin drew in a sob. He could feel himself giving into despair, but he had to hang on just for a few more moments. "I know you're not going to like this… but otherwise I'm going to lose you forever…"
Rumpelstiltskin drew in a shaking, shuddering breath, then pushed Emma's scarf away and pressed his hand to his son's belly. He let a burst of magic flow down his arm and into Bae. He didn't know if this would work. Magic was unpredictable here and he had never tried to do something like this. Not here. But Bae was so near death, he couldn't possibly make this any worse.
A purple glow lit the air around them. Rumpelstiltskin could feel the energy flowing into his son. Healing him? He hoped so. He put every ounce of his strength into that spell. If he could just fix the wound, then that would be enough.
The glow faded. Did he imagine that his son's heartbeat was a bit steadier under his palm? Rumpelstiltskin swallowed hard, and moved his hand, waiting for the next flash of lightning to show him if he'd succeeded. Emma's torch got there first.
"Shit…" Emma whispered. The light picked out smooth, healed skin where the stab wound had been.
Bae's breathing had steadied, he was still unconscious, but he was alive! Rumpelstiltskin felt a shudder run through him. He wrapped his arms about his son.
Emma had driven them back home. She suggested they still take Ben to the hospital, but Rumpelstiltskin had, in the only words he'd spoken for the whole trip, made it very clear that they would not be going.
"Miss Swan, we're taking him home. Unless you'd like to debate that?"
She'd looked like she was, seriously, considering it for a moment. But Rumpelstiltskin could have made her, and she knew that.
Apart from those words, he'd sat in the back seat of the sheriff's car, his attention solely focused on his unconscious son. He was going to be alright, Belle had told Emma that, and she believed it herself. She suspected Rumpelstiltskin just didn't want the publicity of the hospital, and Ben wasn't at risk.
Belle and Emma had carried Ben up the stairs, and into the spare room. They'd left Rumpelstiltskin upstairs with him.
"You sure he's going to be alright?" Emma shifted nervously. She glanced upwards as she paused at the front door, as if she could somehow see through the ceiling.
"He's not going to do anything to him…"
"That's not what I meant."
Belle sighed. "I know."
"I'm going to come back tomorrow and make sure he's okay," she said firmly. It didn't seem she was too pleased that Rumpelstiltskin had threatened her into not taking Ben to the hospital. But Belle could tell she was just worried.
She nodded. "I don't think that will be a problem. I'll make sure it's not."
Emma smiled, ever so slightly. "Good."
"Emma, in case Rumpelstiltskin forgets… thanks for finding him."
"I'm not expecting a thank you. Besides, I didn't have much choice." She shrugged. "But thanks, Belle. I'll be back tomorrow to check on Ben."
When she left, Belle made her way back up the stairs to the spare room. She hoped Rumpelstiltskin was okay. He had been shaken, that much she could tell. And who could blame him? His son had come so close to death. And it was Rumpelstiltskin who had stabbed him. Belle knew, had he died, Rumpelstiltskin would never have forgiven himself.
She'd reached the top of the stairs when Rumpelstiltskin came out of the spare room, holding a bundle of Ben's wet clothes in his arms. He looked up as he saw Belle. "Is she gone?"
Belle sighed. "Yes. She was just worried… here…" She came and took the pile from him and put it on a nearby side table. She reached out and grasped him by the shoulders. "Are you alright?"
Rumpelstiltskin seemed to look down at her, but his gaze was unfocused and far away. "I was just… going to find a chair."
"You want to stay with him?"
"I'll get you one. But maybe you should go have a shower first." Belle reached up and pushed a damp strand of hair back from his face. "You're soaking wet."
Rumpelstiltskin looked down at himself, as if he had only just realised this. He looked at his hands, which were slightly stained with his son's blood. He looked back up at Belle, and she could see the tears building in his eyes. "I nearly killed him, I…" He closed his eyes tight as a shudder ran through him.
Belle drew him into her arms and held on tight. "It's okay…he's safe now."
Ben woke. He felt groggy, and momentarily wondered if he had a hangover. Where was he? Morning light played across the ceiling. An unfamiliar ceiling. Ben frowned, and just lay there for a moment, letting his mind pull itself into the waking world.
The woods. His father. The Knife. The memories came flooding back. So why was he here? Ben moved his hand under the blanket, feeling his side. There was no wound, nothing. He pushed himself up and squinted at the pain that followed. It was nothing specific, certainly nothing that a stab to the side should bring, just an all over ache. He felt a little light headed as well. And hungry.
Ben rubbed his hands across his eyes, blinking, and took in the room. That's when he spotted his father.
He was asleep. At the bottom of the bed, he had pulled up a chair that could not have been comfortable to sleep in. His arms were folded on the bottom edge of the bed, his head resting against them. He looked exhausted.
Ben stared at him for a moment and then quietly pulled his legs up towards himself with great care. His father didn't stir. He'd probably been there all night, Ben suddenly realised. For a moment, he just watched him. The man who had nearly killed him, now so worried for his safety he had not left his side. Ben glanced down at his belly again. There was barely a mark. His father must have used magic.
Ben let out a quiet sigh, and slipped out of the bed. His clothes were clean, lying on a nearby dresser. He slipped them on, not failing to notice the slit in the side of his shirt. He looked again at his father, and the feeling he now could admit to himself was fear, came back. He could wake him now. But he wasn't quite ready for that conversation yet. He slipped quietly through the door and downstairs.
Belle smiled at him as he entered the dining room. "Hello… you feeling alright?"
Ben nodded, though he did still feel a bit out of it. "Yeah, just a bit hungry."
"Well, that's one thing I can fix." Belle headed into the kitchen. She came back moments later with hot coffee and some pancakes.
They were a bit burnt, but Ben was ravenous, and after consuming half of what she had given him he was starting to feel a bit more like himself. He studied his next mouthful, and deciding there were more pressing matters than continuing to fill his stomach, turned to Belle. "What happened?""
He didn't need to extrapolate. She looked up at him, and gave a half-hearted smile. "You were nearly gone. I managed to convince Rumpelstiltskin who you were, in time. He saved you."
"He used magic?"
Ben frowned, but could not bring himself to condemn his father's actions. They had after all saved him. Well, not his actions after he'd realised who he was. "He still tried to kill me," he said quietly.
"If he had known… Ben, I'm sorry, I should've just ignored you, and told him who you were as soon as I knew."
Ben smiled slightly. "Yeah. Can't say I've taken the best approach with this… but…" It still ate at him. He'd proven what he'd set out to prove from the start. Or rather, what he had hoped to disprove. His father had been happy to do away with him simply because he viewed him as a threat. What had the Knife done to him?
Ben felt himself tense at his father's voice. He looked up at Belle, giving her an imploring look.
"I better go check the kettle…" said Belle, standing up from the table.
Though Ben followed her with his gaze until she entered the kitchen, she either didn't realise he wanted her to stay, or was ignoring her entirely.
Ben drew in a breath. Well, it was time to stop running scared. He stood from his place at the dining table and turned around.
His father stood in the entrance to the dining room, leaning on his cane. He had it firmly planted in the ground, as if he could keep himself standing there just by pushing it as far as he could into the floorboards. Rumpelstiltskin stared at Ben for a moment, as if lost for words, then finally came out with. "Are you feeling better?"
Ben shrugged. "I was just… hungry…" he gestured at his half-finished breakfast.
Rumpelstiltskin nodded. For a second he moved his weight off the cane, as if he wanted to come towards Ben, but then he paused again. "Bae…" He forced himself to look away, at some point on the dining table. "I'm so sorry. I was just… there's no excuse…"
"I should have told you who I was…" Ben started.
"No," Rumpelstiltskin shook his head, cutting him short. "I can understand why you didn't. I let you come here alone. What sort of father would do that? You've had to grow up here all alone. You had to find out if I really still wanted you. But Bae… everything I have ever done since I lost you was to find you! I missed you so much!" His lip quivered as he spoke, and Ben could see the tears filling his eyes.
"Everything? The magic…" He shook his head, not willing to pursue that right now. "Papa, I knew you wanted me; that wasn't the reason. I needed to see how you'd treat me if you didn't know who I was. You can't… just… off someone because they frighten you. How does that make you any different?" Ben knew those words would cut his father deep, but he couldn't not speak them.
His father swallowed hard. A tear escaped and slid down his cheek. "I know you might not like what you see, Bae. I know you never really did. But this is what I am."
Ben shook his head in disagreement, but he could not actually think of any words to rebut his father's last statement.
"And after everything I've done to you, I can completely understand if you want to leave… I won't try to stop you." He trailed off and hung his head. Ben could see his shoulders start to shake.
Ben felt his hands tense into fists. He knew his father was not the man he had hoped to find. He was far, far from it. Ben had given up his whole world to try and save his father. That had failed, miserably. His father had attempted to fix it in perhaps the worst possible way, but he too had given everything. Though he'd brought magic, the very thing Ben had tried to save him from, despite all that he had given Ben something. His father was here now, and he had a second chance to save him. He didn't know how to go about that but he would not abandon him now.
Ben stepped forward and put his arms around Rumpelstiltskin's shoulders, drawing him close.
His father only hesitated briefly before letting himself grab onto Ben, holding him as if he would never let him go.
"Papa…"Ben clung to him, suddenly realising how much he'd wanted this moment. "I'm not going anywhere."