„Death walks faster than wind and he never returns what he has taken.'
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Story of a Mother
"I can give her no greater power than she has already, said the woman; don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her."
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen
Of course something had to happen soon. After all the craziness she experienced since coming to Storybrooke, Emma was sure of one thing: trouble here never ends. The stranger, a boy not much older than Henry, clothed in Fairy Tale Land style and carrying a fancy mirror the size of a large plate, wasn't even that weird - all things considered.
'Hey!' she called to him. The street was fairly deserted as it was still early morning. 'Kid!'
The boy looked at her and stopped, as if preparing to bolt in another direction. But then apparently made another decision and came to her.
'I'm Emma,' she said, because it was a nice and straightforward tactic to get someone to open up.
'I'm Kay,' came slow answer. Kay was looking at her with light, grey eyes. His hair was also light, greyish blond, giving him a vaguely Scandinavian look. This was not a coincidence, Emma decided. Not in Storybrooke.
'Kay as in the tale about Snow Queen?'
'How do you?... How do you know her?'
'Well, I only heard of her. Look, kid, why don't you come with me to Granny's? You look as if you need something to eat and someone to talk to.'
Kay frowned and gave her another suspicious look.
'I don't bite. I just want to check if everything's alright. I'm the sheriff, if you need help, you can tell me.'
The boy slowly nodded and went with Emma to the diner. Ruby briskly brought them breakfast and stayed close, intrigued by the stranger.
'Alright, kid, so what are you doing dressed like that and with that thing?' Emma gestured toward the mirror, carefully laid next to the boy on the booth seat.
'Well, I'm not from here.'
'I see.' Emma had a very bad feeling about that. 'Say, are you from Enchanted Forest?'
Emma waited. Kay managed to stretch the silence for about half a minute, then asked:
'So I am from the Enchanted Forest and now you tell me where we are.'
'Storybrooke. I take it from your confusion, that you somehow don't know about the curse?'
Emma summarized the origins of Storybrooke in a few short words. Kay looked at her with big eyes.
'Well, then that would explain... And you say everybody from the Enchanted Forest is here?'
'Then I need to find her!'
'Who? Snow Queen?'
'No!' Kay looked at her with disgust. 'Gerda.'
'Ah, right, of course,' muttered Emma. 'How silly of me. So, is that by any chance Snow Queen's mirror?'
Kay looked at her as if he just saw a ghost.
'I suspected, given the tale. Well, that doesn't answer my first question. How did you get here? The curse was cast some time ago.'
'I just woke up in the barn on the outskirts of the town... Then I came here. It's a really strange place.'
Emma closed her eyes. So, after all, it was that damn time travel's fault. But the portal closed. How the hell could Kay get through?
'Can you tell me something more?'
Kay pondered that for a minute, then apparently decided that it won't hurt.
'I was trapped in the mirror... The mirror must have gotten transported here. And then I was released, but I have no idea how or why.'
That made much more sense.
'How did you get trapped?'
'I was trapped by Rumplestiltskin,' he said with anger barely held back.
'Oh dear,' said Ruby who listened the whole time. 'Why? Or no, no why, just... I'll ask Granny to give you a room for free. This will be trouble.'
'Is Rumplestiltskin here?' Kay looked around with fear.
'Yes, kid, but he's sort of... reformed. As in not as evil as some time ago and actually, well... just married.'
'How can you say not as evil?' Kay looked at her as if she was also all kinds of evil. 'You are either naive or in cahoots with him!'
'I'm not naive, kid. I understand being trapped in that thing doesn't give any warm feelings but calm down. He has been through a lot recently and maybe we can wait with dragging out the old sins. Anyway, I won't let anyone trap you there again. But I thought the mirror should be in possession of the Snow Queen, not Rumplestiltskin?'
'I took it from her,' said Kay proudly. 'She killed my parents and kidnapped me. But then Rumplestiltskin tricked me and trapped in the mirror. Whatever you are talking about, could've he been through more than being frozen in constant nightmare?'
Well, perhaps, thought Emma, even if she wasn't sure what exactly happened with Zelena. And certainly Neal's death was as close to nightmare as it gets. She didn't make any further comments, though.
'Right, perhaps I could explain how you got here. A time portal was opened between Rumplestiltskin's vault and Storybrooke, I mean this town. So you skipped about five years and landed right here. The mirror must have got caught in the portal and somehow released you here. Any thoughts why now?'
Kay shook his head.
'You said you are sheriff. Then you should protect me from both Rumplestiltskin and Snow Queen if she is here also. She may call herself Lovis, that was her name in Fairy Tale Land.'
'I don't think I've met anyone called that here. But the curse gave everybody new name, fitting for this land. I'll look for her.'
'And Gerda,' said Kay pleadingly. 'Please, find Gerda for me.'
Belle was happy. She woke up somewhere after ten o'clock, much later that usually, with very pleasant memories of their night wedding. And wedding night. First thing she saw opening her eyes was Rumple, watching her with gentle, shy smile.
She smiled right back, stretching in the warmth of their bed and then the thought struck her: she was actually fully happy, with no urgent nor long-term problems waiting to be dealt with. She was married to the man she loved, she reconciled with her father, no one was trying to kill anyone, and they could stay in bed all day long if they wanted. It wasn't as if the shop or library had to be open every day.
Rumple kissed her on the cheek, then on the jaw, the neck, and went lower and lower. Belle giggled and felt like she was ready to burst with happiness.
'I love you, Rumple,' she murmured into his hair.
'And I am grateful for that every moment,' he murmured back into her cleavage. 'Even if I don't understand how such wonder is possible.'
'Sure it is. You need to believe it finally. It's our happy reality.'
Rumple murmured something more, but she didn't catch exactly what. And in that pleasant moment it didn't feel like the most important thing.
Later they showered together and then she was drying her hair while Rumple just watched her. She blushed with delight.
'We need to tidy here up a bit, Rumple,' she said reaching into small cabinet. Few items dropped out and landed on the floor. 'It's more cluttered than your shop.'
'My shop is wonderfully complicated, sweetheart, not cluttered.'
She picked up medicine bottle from the floor.
'What's that? Nitrostat?'
'Oh, that's nothing, sweetheart. I actually forgot I even have it.'
'But that's heart medicine, right?' She was concerned. It wouldn't be the first time Rumple tried to hide something he perceived as his weakness.
'Yes, it is, but it was something that boring, non-magical Mr. Gold sometimes needed. That was long time ago and I don't need it now.' He wrapped his arms around her and started to kiss her shoulders. As far as distractions went, this was an excellent tactic.
'But shouldn't you... I don't know, check it with the doctor, perhaps?'
'No,' he smiled. 'Sweetheart, no need. Besides, it's a bit awkward when Snow Queen is your cardiologist.'
Belle raised her eyebrows.
'Isn't she supposed to be a villain?'
'She is, perhaps. I'm supposed to be one too.'
Belle hugged him and kissed, hard.
'Not anymore, no.'
With Ruby's help, finding Gerda wasn't all that difficult. Kay reluctantly gave them a small handkerchief that he claimed he got from Gerda. And then Ruby recognized the smell as the one she felt before in the hospital.
'Victor and I were having dinner, but then he was paged back to the hospital and I went too as it wasn't supposed to take that much time. Which it did, but that's another story,' Ruby explained awkwardly.
'Right...' Emma didn't want to know the details. She was still somewhat weirded out after Whale and Mary Margaret's one-night stand.
'There is something you should know, Emma,' said Ruby. 'Not about Victor,' she added hastily. 'In Fairy Tale Land, I've met a woman who was looking for a boy named Kay. She called herself Lovis, said she's his mother. Looked very sincere then, and smelled sincere too, perhaps. But I wasn't aware of... what I can do with smells then, so I'm going by memory only. She might have been Snow Queen. Too old to be Gerda, anyway.'
'Good thinking, Ruby. She might have wanted to track him down to get her mirror back.'
The hospital was crowded and busy, but Ruby confidently led the way through white corridors until they almost collided with blonde, plump nurse with braids pinned up in a crown.
'Oh, I'm sorry!' she exclaimed with pleasant laugh. She looked almost too young to be a fully trained nurse. 'I should be more careful turning the corners. Sheriff, is there something I can help you with?'
'There is.' Emma looked at her curiously. 'Were you perhaps called Gerda in the Enchanted Forest?'
'I was. I'm Diana here. I somewhat prefer Diana, so... How can I help you?'
'Well, it seems that Kay just appeared in Storybrooke,' said Emma and she knew she had that completely non-Savior expression all over her face, betraying she can't believe she just said something this silly.
'Kay!' Gerda, or Diana, exclaimed incredulously. 'But how? I searched for him! Karen searched for him! He wasn't anywhere, what happened?'
'Whoa, slow down,' Emma raised her hands. 'I'm sure he will explain everything to you. It seems he was trapped in Snow Queen's mirror in Enchanted Forest, and now the mirror, well, it time-traveled into Storybrooke and...' Emma paused for a moment. 'Listen, you may not like it. The mirror was transported in time. Kay skipped about five years, so he's younger than you...'
Diana's eyes were wide open.
'Oh... Even younger than he already was? But he's fine other than that?'
'Yeah. A bit suspicious of everybody and unsure in new place, but mostly fine. He has room at Granny's.'
'Oh, good, thank you, I'll tell Karen...'
'Wait. You said earlier that Karen searched for him. She is the Snow Queen, right?'
'Yes,' said Diana with ease. 'Oh, you mean she should be evil as in the fairy tale? No, she's not.'
'Kay thinks differently. And is terrified of her and I promised him that she won't be able to hurt him. So I must ask you not to tell her. I will talk to her, alright?'
'Oh... okay. But anyway, I must see Kay. Maybe I can tell him that Karen misses him even more than I. It's almost the end of my shift, I'll be at Granny's in an hour or so. Is that okay?'
'Sure. Tell me where to find Karen?'
Ruby let Emma go to the Snow Queen alone, but stayed at the hospital and waited for Diana. Somehow she felt the nurse will want to have a friend with her. She smelled very nervous about meeting Kay.
'How did you two meet?' asked Ruby.
'I was working in a tavern. One day he came, all alone. We talked and... you know, we just got to like each other...'
'Then he left and sometime after that Karen came. She was looking for him. She wasn't Snow Queen anymore. We became friends too. We both cared about him and tried to find him.'
'Are you sure she really cared about him? What if she just wanted the mirror back? It was the source of her power, right? And Kay told us this morning that she killed his parents and kidnapped him.'
Diana's expression clouded.
'That was an accident,' she exclaimed. 'She told me everything. And she was a wonderful healer, so dedicated. And she loves Kay. I know she does.' Diana sighed. 'Though I understand that he might see it differently. He escaped her... Well, but maybe now it will be alright when they will be able to talk and explain things!' She smiled brightly. 'But the sheriff said that he was trapped in the Mirror! How did that happen?'
'It seems that Rumplestiltskin did it.'
'Mr. Gold trapped Kay in the Mirror?' Diana looked half furious, half disappointed. 'Belle's husband! Poor Belle!'
'You are friends with Belle?'
'Yes, I'm constantly at the library, searching for something new to read, we love to talk about books... Poor Belle...'
'That was many years ago,' she said a bit hesitantly. 'Things may be different now and much better for Belle. She is happy.'
But Diana didn't look convinced.
Emma found doctor Karen Andersen in the ICU ward. She was a middle-aged, elegant woman, calm and collected. She also had hair and eyes very similar to Kay's.
'Sheriff Swan, how can I be of assistance to you?'
'Is there a private place where we can talk?'
'Of course, let's go to my office,' dr. Andersen led Emma to cardiologist's office, painted in white, with pictures of snowy landscapes. Emma wondered if the choice was curse's doing or awakened Snow Queen's.
'I need to ask you what is your connection to the boy named Kay?' asked Emma bluntly, when both were seated in the office, Emma in a patient's seat, dr. Andersen behind the desk, which gave Emma unpleasant feeling of disadvantage.
Dr. Andersen frowned.
'Why do you ask such a thing?'
'Please, I need to have your answer first.'
'I'm his aunt,' said dr. Andersen simply. 'Now tell me what is this all about.'
'When was the last time you saw him?'
'Sheriff, I will not answer anything if you don't tell me... Did you find him? Is he... alright?'
'Are you the Snow Queen?'
'I was, yes. Until Kay stole my Mirror. I repeat: did you find him?'
Dr. Andersen leaned forward over the desk, her expression losing something of the cold calm she previous wore. But Emma was still suspicious.
'Listen, doctor. I can't let you go near Kay until I know what's going on. He's scared of you. And I don't think I trust you just yet.'
'So you found him...' whispered dr. Andersen and Emma thought she saw her eyes glisten with tears.
'He appeared in Storybrooke this morning. Got transported in time from the Fairy Tale Land.'
'That is why I could not find him...'
'Him, or the mirror?' Emma asked bluntly.
'Him!' Dr Andersen looked at her with anger, brows frowned, mouth twisted in unpleasant grimace, so not fitting the elegant facade. 'You are mother yourself, you should understand! I raised him from infancy, I love him like my own child!'
'But you kidnapped him, right? He told me you murdered his parents.'
Dr Andersen looked down at her manicured hands.
'Let me speak to him, sheriff. If he... If he refuses, I will understand. But... please...'
'I can call him and ask,' she offered, dialing Granny's number on her cell phone. 'But I'm not promising anything. And certainly I won't leave you with him alone.'
Kay's answer was a resounding no. Dr. Andersen heartbroken expression seemed sincere, but who knows. Emma didn't manage to squeeze any more information out of her after that, only the promise she won't look for Kay, though how long would that last was debatable. Emma warned she'll be coming back though, depending on the situation, and keep sharp eyes both on her and Kay.
Meanwhile Emma's parents agreed to take Kay in. He'll be safer that way and they remembered Karen looking for Kay just like Ruby did. After making sure, that Kay and Diana were safe in Charmings' flat, Emma was on her way to city hall.
All the troubles with Kay took her mind from something equally important.
Emma found Regina's office closed. But apparently someone was inside, if shuffling of the papers was anything to go by.
'Regina, please, talk to me,' pleaded Emma. 'I'm sorry. I truly am. I want to help.'
She heard clicking of heels, hard, angry.
'It would be better if you stopped trying to help. That was the cause of all this, if you're not aware.'
'I did what was right and saved her life. How am I supposed to feel guilty for that?'
'You may want to feel guilty for destroying mine,' came the icy reply. Emma sighed.
'Yes, I am sorry about that. But I couldn't possibly know. And you can't know what will happen next as well. Things may work themselves out. We may work them out. And however this will end, please, Regina, you have come such a long way from what you were. Don't throw that away.'
Regina laughed, like one hundred percent Evil Queen.
'Oh, but see what it brought me. Being evil was certainly more profitable.'
'Yes, but you're not good for profit. You're good for Henry.'
This rewarded her with silence. Emma decided to go for it.
'I know you lost something very important. But you're not alone. And who told you that Robin will stay with Marian anyway? We are in America now. We have divorces.'
'Sure they'll have one.'
'Did you talk to Robin?'
'You were there when I did. You should know how...'
Regina's voice broke.
'I don't mean the diner yesterday. And Marian called you a monster, because she doesn't know you now.'
Regina sighed, tiredly.
'I didn't. If he wants, I will talk to him. But apparently he is busy with his wife. Gods, I feel like a movie star from some disgusting soap opera!'
'Regina...' Emma paused, hearing footsteps. 'Well, apparently he's not that busy. He's here. Do you want to talk through the door or...?'
'Alright, Swan, but leave us alone. I managed things by myself for a long time, I don't need a chaperone.'
Emma sighed. Regina managing things alone was exactly what she was anxious about.
'Well?' asked Regina testily, sitting with Robin on the sofa.
'Regina, I... I'm sorry it happened like that.'
'I don't require you to be sorry that your wife is alive,' replied Regina calmly, icily and pointedly. It dulled the pain somehow. Robin flinched.
'That's not what I meant.'
Regina arched one eyebrow and waited.
'Regina, don't do this.' Robin sighed. 'I know you are hurt and I am sorry for that. I care for you and I don't want to see you in any kind of pain.'
Regina bristled, but managed to stay calm.
'You won't,' she said evenly. 'I can take care of myself. Well, if that's all, then...'
'No, it's not all. I love you, Regina. I want you to know that. What we had was real.'
Regina smiled, despite herself and saw Robin smiling too. But then the last sentence struck.
Robin looked at the floor. After few long moments, he managed to look Regina in the eyes.
'Marian is my wife. I promised her life together, no matter what. And I can't take back the word once given. Then I would be nothing.'
Regina fought to keep her face calm and blank.
'Then we are done?' she asked as if talking about city budget. Calmer even.
'I'm so sorry... But yes. I have to do what is right, not what I want.'
'Then I believe there is nothing to add.'
Robin wanted to say something, but before he had a chance, Regina waved her hand and teleported him outside the building.
Now the tears flowed freely and every mirror and window in the city hall broke.
At midnight Belle was dead asleep. Gold slowly caressed her long hair, tossed everywhere on the pillows in a pleasant mess. No hurry, he was telling himself. The night is long. And it wasn't as if he was planning to sleep.
He had all long night to admire his beautiful wife, who was softly snoring in the most adorable way.
At three o'clock he gathered all the courage he had and carefully got out of bed.
'Rumple... Where are you going?' murmured Belle.
'Just the bathroom, dear,' he whispered and went exactly where he said, afraid she will become suspicious. But when he came back, she was asleep again.
He carefully stepped out of the bedroom and went down the stairs.
He retrieved his dagger, the real one, from its magical hiding place. Then he reached for Belle's purse, where the fake one was hidden. Drawing shuddering breath, he quickly dissolved the fake, then placed real one in the purse.
Then he casted every protection spell he could think of on the purse, some of them twice or thrice, though he still doubted it was enough. He also made sure the protection spells on the house were holding, then casted some additional ones.
He just hoped Belle will be able to use her purse normally and won't notice additional magic.
He turned to the stairs, then turned again. He almost took the dagger back, and hid it where no one could find it.
But he already lied to Belle so much. He didn't want to become the full monster again. He did what was necessary to avenge Bae, now he wanted to be the man that Bae wanted him to be. The man that Bae gave his life for.
He pressed one hand to his chest, where his black, dark heart was beating. At least Belle was there, the last flicker of light he had left.
There were noises in the living room when Emma woke up. She got up quickly and went to check on Kay. The boy was sitting on the sofa, wide awake and clutching the mirror.
'She will want it back,' he said looking sharply at Emma.
'Snow Queen? Well, I told you, she didn't look like a vengeful witch. More like a worried aunt.'
'Do you really believe that?'
Emma sat in the armchair.
'Don't know, kid. But we need to keep the possibilities open.'
'You promised to keep her away.'
'Yeah. That's just something for you to think of. What's up with the mirror, though? Are you using its powers?'
'No!' Kay looked furious. 'I'm not like her. I'm just keeping it so no one else could grab it!'
'Calm down, kid. I'm just saying that maybe we should think of a safe place for it.'
'No need. And, besides, I'm moving to Gerda's place today.'
'And you're telling me it only now?'
'So? Yesterday everybody was so busy with this Regina thing.'
'Okay, I suppose you're right. Still, will you be safe with her? She's working...'
'I know,' snapped Kay. 'But she's my Gerda. I want to be with her. And you know that Rumplestiltskin might want the mirror too. Maybe even more than Snow Queen. You can't really find a place for it safe enough. I somewhat doubt that it'll be safer here than with Gerda.'
'We'll try to think of something anyway,' sighed Emma. 'And I'll go talk to Gold today, see what he's up to.'
Rumple was behaving weirdly. For one, he clang to her all the short way from the house to the car and from the car to the shop. And earlier pausing frequently in the corridor, staring at something. When he started to maneuver himself in the shop so he will stand as close to her purse as possible, she was certain.
'Rumple. Take the dagger back if you want. I can see it's making you nervous.'
He quickly shook his head.
'No, no, Belle, I'm sorry.' He actually blushed a little. 'I'll... I'll just cast some protection spells on your purse, alright? You won't mind?...'
They had a conversation about proper use of magic shortly before the wedding. Belle didn't mind if it were for a truly justified situations. Also perhaps didn't mind if it were about sweet, little gestures like conjuring some flowers for her out of thin air. But apparently Rumple was afraid of doing something wrong. It was kind of sweet in a way.
'I won't, Rumple. I agree with you, it should be protected carefully. That's why I would like to give it back to you.'
'No, please, keep it. Please.'
He sounded desperate.
'Is there something you're not telling me?'
'I...' he paused after casting third protection spell on her purse. The air around the thing cracked a little. 'You are the brightest thing in my life now,' he whispered. 'If you have the dagger... maybe, ah, maybe its magic won't be so dark?'
He sounded hopeful and he looked at her in that shy, unsure way that always made Belle want to hug him and kiss all troubles away.
'Okay, I'll keep it. But remember you can have it back if you want.'
'I don't want to.'
'Alright. Also, I think that the purse can't take any more of your magic. It's sparkling, Rumple, and I'm a bit afraid to touch it now. Will it bite me?'
He frowned, looking at the offending item. He waved his hands over the purse again.
'Sorry. I took the latest layers off. It's safe, don't worry.'