No Greater Power

Chapter 13

As they discovered moments later, the diary disappeared, but a small stack of torn out pages remained. Belle huffed angrily.

'She destroyed the book!'

'Oh, Belle,' Gold couldn't help but smile and gather her into his arms. 'That's really not the point. The point is that these pages are about sucking out the darkness with mirrors and how frames help to control it, at least as much as Claudius could understand that.'

Belle's cheeks reddened a bit.

'Yes, right. Well, Rumple, let's read and plan. I'm calling Regina and Emma now. With the cuff gone it's better to hurry up...'

She looked concerned, frightened even, and he held her closer.

'Yes, Belle. We'll do this,' he assured her, hoping to assure himself as well.

The first basic obstacle was of course the lack of the Nightmare Mirror. Kay refused point blank to give it to anyone. It took very long negotiations, incentives and threats from Emma, but he allowed instead to use it in his flat. So they came there: Gold, Belle, Snow Queen, Regina and Emma. Charming even came for a moment, then left to search for Zelena together with Hook. Robin, who came with him, decided to stay.

'You don't have to be here,' Regina said coldly, eyeing the thief suspiciously.

'I do. Our child is here.'

'I can take care of my child and myself.'

'I don't doubt, but I'm staying. You plan to suck the darkness out of the Dark One. This is much more dangerous than anything else I can think of.'

'You have very weak imagination then.'

'Still, I'm staying.'

Emma rolled her eyes.

'Shut it, both of you. He wants to stay, fine. We have more important things to do.' She gestured to Kay and Gerda, who certainly didn't look friendly, but everyone else in their place probably wouldn't either. Gold sighed. He felt his hands trembling. There was, after all, a very great chance that he wouldn't live through this, no matter what happened with the Dark One. He didn't voice this thought aloud, there was no point in scaring Belle, but all he wanted to do was to bolt out of this room, crippled leg or not.

Then again, he was doing this so Belle and Henry would be safe. They and other people too, he guessed. Regina, her child, Emma... Even if Bae wasn't here anymore. If Gold died, it would be only fair. He was living on borrowed time anyway, borrowed unfairly from his son.

Kay's sharp voice interrupted his dark thoughts.

'Here's the mirror. But it can't leave this room.'

'It won't, don't worry,' Belle soothed him. 'We brought the Dream Mirror with us.' Regina and Emma stood at the opposite sides of the room, facing each other. Each one of them held one mirror – Regina the Dream one and Emma the Nightmare one.

'I hope Hook and Charming are nearby as promised, because it's a perfect moment for my wicked sister to crash the party, you know. Like any moment now, bookworm,' said Regina sotto voce to Belle standing beside her. Gold saw that Belle surreptitiously pointed the Dream Mirror at Gerda, checking the reflection. Before he knew what's going on, his heart already picked up the quick, panicked rhythm.

'Why, I don't think she needs to crash anything, right, Gerda?' said Belle suddenly.


'Don't pretend. The Dream Mirror shows your true face.'

Now everybody but Kay looked at the mirror incredulously. Gerda pouted, but pulled a green crystal pendant from beneath her collar.

'Six-leaved clovers from Oz,' she smiled wickedly and transformed into Zelena in a flash of bright green light.

Gold gasped in panic. Belle was with him in an instant and caught him as he stumbled backward, in pure panic.

'How... How long?...' he rasped pointing his finger at the witch.

Zelena smiled with sick satisfaction.

'Just perfectly on time to nurse you through your sickness,' she purred. Belle tightened her hold on him and he was dimly aware of profanities that his sweet wife hurled towards the witch. The Snow Queen was talking to him but the buzzing in his ears was making him distracted and there were black spot dancing before his eyes and Zelena was Gerda, Zelena was the nurse, with him in the hospital, at his most vulnerable, and the horrible level of intimacy of that hospital care...

He felt his heart explode with pain and his knees buckle, but then he was sitting in the armchair, with Belle holding him close and murmuring sweet nonsense. Snow Queen was checking his pulse, holding his wrist and instructing him to breathe regularly. The pain lessened a bit.

There was something else nagging him though.

'Belle...' he said weakly. 'You knew?'

'I suspected,' Belle admitted, blushing. 'I'm sorry I didn't tell you. It was just a hunch or even much less. I put the Dream Mirror in such position to check. But Regina knew about my suspicions.'

'But Belle, the danger!'

'I didn't want to accuse Gerda without proof.' She looked at him concerned. 'I'm sorry I frightened you. I honestly didn't want to scare you unnecessarily, she was your nurse... Though maybe this was a mistake... Maybe I just wanted to do something on my own. I'm sorry, Rumple... How do you feel?'

'Better,' he said succinctly. Perhaps he deserved that, withholding information from Belle so many times and she truly wanted the best for him.

'Kay!' shouted the Snow Queen, reaching with her arm towards the boy. 'Come here! Come away from that witch!'

But Kay only shrugged.

Gold knew that she killed Kay's parents, that that was why he couldn't forgive her, even if it was an accident. He lowered his eyes to the floor, thinking how he had killed Bae's mother and he hadn't even told him that. Such a coward. Bae had known from Hook. And they had never spoken of it.

'Why would I?' Kay asked in a voice devoid of any emotions.

'Oh, yes, why would he?' Zelena mocked them. 'When I've met him, all those years ago, he could babble only about his terrible, isolated life in your ice castle, Lovis. About how he wanted to be an artist, violinist, all curiosity and awe. He wanted enchanted violins, that sounds like a dream. Did you know that he was going on those little illegal explorations, meeting people? Finally, one day he met an old woman that told him the truth. How the Snow Queen killed his parents and kidnapped him. He didn't want to believe that, but...' Zelena hung her voice dramatically. 'Do you want to know?' She singed. 'This is haunting, isn't it? And that old woman told him that if he wanted proof, if he didn't believe her, he should ask the mirror. She told him how to feed the mirror with his blood and get the answer to the yes-or-no question. Also told him that Rumplestiltskin had the violins and where he lived. And one day, I imagine, after long sulking and the Snow Queen's futile attempts to get to know what was wrong, he checked. And he learned that this is true. So without really thinking he grabbed the mirror and ran away. He felt he could lash out on the Snow Queen all he wanted, she betrayed him and hurt him enough to deserve it. Isn't this a wonderful fairy tale? The Ice Castle slowly melted and the Snow Queen lost her magic, so she didn't manage to stop her beloved child. The child didn't care for his kingdom, the throne was sort of occupied at the moment anyway. He set out for the Dark Castle to steal the violins. The old woman gave him something magical that helped him to get in.'

'The key?' Gold demanded. 'He had that key from you?'

'Yes, my sweet Rumple. Are you proud of your old student? Such an intricate plan, right? And Kay went to Oz at your request not knowing it was me. And I was waiting, I greeted him warmly, explained how Rumplestiltskin is an evil, wicked imp and how he wronged her, many other people, and surely would do it to Kay as well. How he would want the mirror because of its powers. So when Kay would get back with the elixir, Rumplestiltskin would give him the violins, and then trap him in the mirror. The only way to win this would be for Kay to leave his heart in Oz as this would allow me to pull him from the mirror. And he did.'

She lifted her right palm and a red, pulsating heart appeared.

'So be careful. Any attack on me and this heart is as good as a pile of ash. I have an impression you care for the boy, so...'

Robin made a move towards her and promptly was knocked unconscious eliciting a distressed cry from Regina. Everybody in the room, except Kay himself, was looking at her with intense anger and various shades of murderous intentions. Too bad they didn't back then, when she was locked... The Snow Queen started to shout something at that, but Gold stopped her. He suspected it for a long time, though it didn't really make that much of a difference. Not practically. But the possibility always was making him a bit more lenient in judging Kay for trying to trap him. He should have thought first thing after Kay appeared that it might have been like that. But he couldn't even start to imagine that Zelena might not be dead then, too scared and too wrapped up in guilt over deceiving Belle.

'I must admit, my dear Rumple, that you at least you were quick off the mark' Zelena continued with a childish pout. I planned for you to be trapped in the mirror. Kay would fetch me both mirrors and the dagger then. But I had to wait a few years longer to have you all to myself.' She smiled. 'But we had such a good time anyway, right, Rumple?'

Gold didn't deign to respond, just closed his eyes and concentrated on Belle's hands holding his.

'And you know, Rumple, inside this mirror is hell. It's the worst prison ever, everything there is just... wicked. Or so little Kay here told me. Did you try to get him out or didn't you even care? Maybe just once in a few months, you had more important things to do, right? I wonder why Lovis is helping you like that, when you did such a terrible thing to her boy? You would kill the person who hurt Bae like that. We all know you would, you tried. But you didn't, such a failure you are...'

Belle shouted at her to shut up, but Zelena only smiled in delight.

'I didn't tell you yet how I killed Gerda and Marian. What a pity Robin's knocked out, he would love this story!' She giggled maniacally, but everyone was listening intently anyway. 'I killed Marian even before she made it to Storybrooke, you know? When I went on the time trip with Emma and the pirate, thanks to dear Rumple here who freed me from jail! Poor maid, killed by one sister in one timeline and by another in the second one! Then I became her and when I saw the mirror in the vault, well, a little magic and it obediently went with us, where I could control it. The other one unfortunately wasn't in sight, but made it to Storybrooke through the curse.'

Regina seemed to be boiling with anger, though Gold wasn't sure what part of Robin's wife’s fate was most aggravating. But the red nails clutched the mirror's frame as if ready to break it.

'And you, my sweet Rumple,' Zelena said looking at him. He tried not to tremble visibly. 'No one would ever suspect that there was something off about you killing Marian.' She giggled. 'Even Blue didn't understand why her fairy magic didn't work! And then in the hospital, when Gerda came...' Zelena looked at the Snow Queen this time, 'I killed her too and switched places with her. Again no one was the wiser. How convenient that the second curse made me a midwife.'

'Is that all you have to say, sister?' Regina asked sourly. 'Because maybe we could get to business? You're terribly boring.'

'Sure,' Zelena smiled. 'Sister dear. Single mother again, aren't you?'

A blast from Zelena caught everybody, freezing them effectively. Only Gold, as the Dark One, was able break the spell instantly. Looking at Zelena briefly, he raised his hand...

She flashed him her sweetest, wicked smile.

'My dear Rumple, so someone took your cuff off? How did you bribe old Blue? Do you want to murder me now? Do you want revenge? Is that why you are looking at me like that? You can kill me now, dearie, you know!'

Sharp pain forced him to double over. He really wanted to kill her. He should have done so the first time, made sure...

'Don't listen to her!' Belle shouted. Zelena's spell started to wear off, not able to hold so many people and wasting most of its strength on Regina and Emma. 'Think of me! Think of our life together, our marriage, our love! I love you Rumple. I love you so much!'

'I... love... you... too...' he managed weakly through the pain. 'Belle, when the spell ends, run, or tell Regina to take me to town line or open the mirror... I'm... becoming the Dark One...'

Belle moved with difficulty, but still kissed him, hard, the True Love's Kiss, and while it didn't break the curse, it certainly relieved much of the pain. He was able to breathe again.

'Zelena,' said Belle suddenly, 'you wanted to bring here the world as you see it in the Dream Mirror, right?'

Zelena smiled.

'Smart girl you are, bookworm. And I will do just that. The spell of Shattered Sight. You'll see, dear Rumple, what a wonderful student of yours I was, not like Regina!'

Gold felt another surge of anger, then pain, but Belle was squeezing his hands and he knew she was telling him to hold back. Did she have a plan? He owed it to her to trust her finally to do something on her own...

If he didn’t have another heart attack from sheer fright that is.

'You wanted to have both mirrors for that, you caused the Nightmare one to fall through the portal from Rumple’s vault.'

'I did!' Zelena giggled, puffing up proudly. 'And now I have both mirrors here, ready to use!'

'I think not!' Belle replied, triumphantly. 'You may try but all you'd get is being trapped in one of them. If you're lucky it will be the Dream one. The only way to avoid it is leaving your heart behind so someone can pull you out. Just like you did with Kay.'

'You are loony, bookworm, if you think you can trick me into leaving my heart for you to take. With both mirrors I can shatter the one I choose. It depends which one I turn against the other. And then you all will know your place!'

She was getting closer to them as she concentrated on ridiculing Belle, already standing between the mirrors, having reflections in both, admiring herself. Then she stepped a bit closer towards Gold and Belle. Gold felt dizzy and he was sure his heart stopped altogether, but Belle was practically crushing his hands, staring at Zelena with such an intent look...

The witch was still holding Regina and Emma with her spell. With one swift flick of her hand she made Emma turn the Nightmare Mirror to shatter the Dream one. The rays of light shot from one mirror into the other and both were shaking in Regina and Emma's grip.

And then Belle bolted from her place at his side, pushing Zelena into her previous spot.

More rays of white, cold light sprung from both mirrors, catching Zelena. She shrieked, flailed her hands, but apparently was unable to do anything. Then, without warning, something like liquid, sparkling tar flew from her in two streams into each mirror a half. Then it was over and she slumped to the floor unconscious.

'What happened?' Gold managed, when Belle turned to him, smiling.

'I figured she would want to use the shattering spell you taught her. But the diary said explicitly that the mirrors worked like that to pull the darkness out of people. They never would shatter one another when someone was standing between them. And she was. Now there is no darkness left in her.' She hesitated. 'Though it was a lot of darkness. I don't know if she’ll wake up... And if she does, she will either be empty or engulfed in remorse, I don't know which would be better...'

'Oh, Belle...' he said, crushing her in an embrace, his brave, amazing wife with such a big heart.

The Snow Queen, crying openly, picked Kay's heart from where it fell to the floor and returned it to the boy, not hesitating for a moment, even if doing it for the first time with a magical heart. Emma and Regina were free, the latter bending over groaning Robin. Emma called Charming and Hook, and they took Zelena away, to the hospital basement. Robin, holding his head and looking unsteady, went with them at Regina's insistence. The Snow Queen also took Kay to the hospital, the boy looking so much different with his heart back, lost and frightened, not at all hostile and gazing at his aunt with outright hope. And the mirrors worked, were able to suck in the darkness. There was hope for him.

It looked like a happy ending.

But it wasn't. Not yet, not for him.

'The frames cracked...' Belle said with a tremble in her voice. 'Around both mirrors.'

Silence that followed was painful.

'What now?' Emma asked, when they were alone, as planned for the operation of removing the darkness.

'I don't know,' Regina admitted. 'I couldn't control the mirror at all anyway. It just went alive and sucked Zelena dry.'

'Same with mine. But you said that this Claudius guy put the frames to control them.'

'He did, though Red Fairy never needed frames to suck the darkness out of people. But we don't have any more information...' Belle sighed.

'Then let's try it as was planned...' Regina said, but Belle interrupted.

'This... this risk wasn't planned! We don't know how to not free the darkness! What if it kills Rumple?!'

'But the mirrors absorbed Zelena's darkness. They worked just fine.'

'They weren't designed to contain the whole darkness' Belle said miserably. 'Only to carry the darkness from the previous owner to the vault. I think the frames broke because of the amount of the darkness in Zelena and the crude, sudden manner in which they were activated. Or maybe if I had pushed Zelena earlier, they might have cracked at the beginning!... They probably will break completely with addition of what is in Rumple. And the darkness may return to him instead of going to the vault. Or find and inhabit Zelena. Or just kill us all.'

'Bookworm, pull yourself together,' Regina gritted her teeth. 'Gold, what do you say? You're the magic expert and it's your damned heart!'

But Gold couldn't even fully follow the conversation.

'At least we had a little time together in the end...' he rasped through tears, when piercing pain caused him to fall to the floor. Belle caught him and held closely. 'At least... we forgave each other...'

'No, no, no, no, please, Rumple, don't talk like this. We'll extract the curse in a moment... Gods, when did dr. Andersen say she should be back?!'

'No time...' he whispered pulling the dagger from his pocket. Only the last letter remained, very faint and ethereal. 'I love you, Belle...'

'I love you too, but...'

'Indeed, you idiot,' Regina hovered over him. 'There is something we can do. Quickly, Belle, listen to me. There is something we can do.'

'No,' Gold cut in, quietly, too quietly. 'I've told you I don't want to...'

'You shut up,' Regina snapped. 'Belle, I need you to trust me. I'll take your heart, snap it in two, and give him one half instead of his destroyed one.'

'This will work?' Belle asked with wide eyes.

'Of course. Worked perfectly when I did it to... for the Charmings.'

'Belle, no, that's your heart, I'll taint it, I can't have it...'

'Regina is right, Rumple,' Belle said laying one hand on Gold's head. 'You just shut up and let us work. We're going to save you no matter what.' She was crying, obviously distressed at the prospect of her husband having his heart torn out and destroyed before her eyes.

'Sweetheart, you don't have to...'

'Yes, you don't have to,' Regina cut in. 'I'll do it all.' She buried her hand in Gold's chest with no warning and yanked free the blackened heart. The red spark was practically invisible.

Regina experimentally tried to crush it, but it proved to be too hard.

'Should we even be trying to destroy it?' Emma asked. 'Won't this set the darkness free?'

'I think only the dagger can break it, but it would just transfer the curse to a new host. I mean... the whole curse is probably in this heart.' Belle took a deep breath, a few tears escaped on her cheeks. 'We could have done this so much earlier!'

'But is that really true?' Regina frowned. 'Gold, you told me that if I give you the bookworm's heart, the curse will slowly corrupt it as it did with yours. Seriously, removing the curse can't be as simple as removing the heart and replacing it with another!'

Gold shook his head.

'Dearie, I have no idea. But this still is a possibility as long as the darkness is here. It would love a new, pure heart to devour. And what do you mean by simple, the new heart has to be the one of the Dark One's True Love. Have you ever heard about such besides Belle?'

'Damn!' Regina exclaimed. 'Gold, maybe you should crush it. I don't know what would happen if I gave you the bookworm's heart first.'

He tried, with trembling fingers, but it didn't work either.

Regina sighed.

'Alright then, let's leave that heart alone. Give me yours, bookworm, it's more important to give him that healthy half. We'll worry about the original one later.'

Belle nodded, still crying.

Regina quickly pulled her heart out and cracked it in half, returning one half to Belle and shoving the other one into Gold's chest.

'Rumple? How are you feeling?'

He couldn't answer for a moment, trying to get over the way the world was spinning and his chest felt so light and warm. Eventually, gulping large breaths, he tried to talk.

'I... Warm. It's... I can't really describe it.'

'You'll live then. Probably,' Regina said curtly and looked at the black heart she was still holding. It didn't look any different. 'But we have to do something with this.'

'Let's toss the heart over the town line?' Emma suggested half-heartedly.

'I doubt it would solve the problem... Look!' Belle squeaked pointing at the heart. 'It's breaking.'

Gold had to touch his chest and feel the beating of Belle's heart to remind himself that the black, pathetic thing on the floor wouldn't be his death. Probably. And if the darkness didn't kill them all that is. Something like dark smoke was seeping through the crack in the heart. No doubt it would seek a way back to him, to Belle's pure heart in his chest. Regina and Emma quickly casted a spell to contain it, but it wouldn't last long.

Then one of the shadows shifted and a new person appeared in the room.

'I see you have a problem,' Baba Yaga said, pocketing the talisman which made her invisible. She was smirking. 'But you did much better than I thought, otherwise I would have appeared earlier. You're still alive, Gold. That's good. I didn't plan for that but I'm glad someone took care of it.'

'What do you mean you planned?!' Belle shouted.

'I planned because it seems that there finally is a chance to undo the Dark One's curse permanently. Think of it as fixing old mistakes.'

'So you really are her,' Belle stated. 'The Red Fairy.'

'The one and only,' Baba Yaga flashed her customary predatory smile. 'I created it all and in the end I was unable to destroy it. I couldn't get my hands on the mirrors or the dagger not to mention herding a Dark One between the mirrors. Now I finally have an opportunity. You need to give me that heart.'

There was utter silence and the former Red Fairy sighed.

'The darkness must be dissipated all over the world again, diluted so much that no one would feel the difference. It was naïve to think it could be locked away in the first place.'

'Why did you attack Rumple and take off the cuff?' Belle demanded.

'To speed up the matters a bit.' The Red Fairy shrugged. 'He was dying anyway, cuff or not.'

'You could have explained...'

'And you'd agree? Somehow I doubt, Mrs. Gold. I needed Zelena out of the way, thought Rumplestiltskin could take care of that with his magic. But I must say I'm impressed how you dealt with that stupid witch.'

'You just assumed that Rumple is as good as dead!' Belle screamed at the fairy, not reacting to the compliment.

'I did. I learned long ago to make hard decisions.' The Red Fairy looked at Belle seriously. 'I am glad he's alive. That's much more than I can say for Claudius.'

'You loved him, right? So why can't you understand...'

'Yes, I loved him! Do you know how he died? Do you know who explained to his successor how the dagger works?!'

Belle felt the blood drain from her face.

'You?... But that's...'

'He was a monster by then. Something he never wanted to be. Killing him was a mercy even if he was sent to the Vault. By the way, what I'm going to do will free all the souls from there.'

'Or it could have been revenge for when he deceived and attacked you when you wanted to make the world a better place.'

Flash of pain flickered on Baba Yaga's face.

'You wondered if he didn't just want the power, all freedom-of-will sweet talks aside,' Regina supplied. 'You really loved him. That's why now you're doing what he would want. Though maybe not how he would want it. You wanted to do this from the very moment he became the Dark One, right?'

'But you were powerless already, you were just Baba Yaga. So when you heard that he became too out of control, you advised some desperate soul to go for it and either kill or control Claudius?' Emma asked.

The Red Fairy simply nodded.

'Kill preferably, because I feared what would happen if he was the Dark One for too long and the darkness consumed him and would perhaps act on its own. Just like now. Blue hoped the darkness will be transported to the Vault when Rumplestiltskin dies, just like after that stunt with killing Peter Pan. But permanent solution requires something more.'

'Alright.' Regina took the Nightmare Mirror. 'Let's do this.'

'Yeah.' Emma picked the Dream one, eyeing the smoking heart suspiciously. 'Before it explodes or something.'

The Red Fairy quickly picked the black heart and stood between the mirrors.

'Wait, you're actually going to hold it all the time?' Emma frowned.

'I am. It's only the heart, the darkness may escape. I need to direct it to help it dissipate.'

'Isn't this... you know, dangerous?'

'Of course it is. I think it will kill me. Now, begin.'

Gold, hearing that, wanted to protest. He was supposed to die in the process, it was his heart and his curse! But then Belle hugged him closer and laid her hand over his mouth.

Rays of light again shot out of the mirrors. Given the amount of darkness, the scene looked like something from a first-class horror, with Baba Yaga visibly struggling, but finally the thick tar dissipated and instead of the heart, a little amount of white ashes remained in the Red Fairy's hands. She was still alive.

'It's done,' she announced in a weak voice. 'And it seems that I am in your debt, Rumplestiltskin. If not for the last bright spots in your heart, I would be dead now.'

Gold smirked, especially when he saw how smugly Belle was looking at the former fairy.

'All's well, that ends well,' Baba Yaga said. 'The job is finally done. And now you have to learn to live without your cursed magic, Rumplestiltskin. It will be hard. I know from experience.'

Gold shook his head. He was still sitting on the floor, enclosed in Belle's arms. Finally free. He vowed silently to do everything to not waste this. If he had to live, then Bae would want him to live as a good man.

'It's alright,' he said quietly. 'And it's Mr. Gold now.'

'How are you feeling?' Regina asked awkwardly.

'I could ask you the same question,' Robin replied. 'You just dissipated the Dark One's curse with magic mirrors.'

'I'm alright,' she shrugged. 'And the baby too.'

'I'm glad.'

'Well, perhaps you would like to go with me for the next ultrasound? See the baby and all.'

Robin almost jumped with excitement.

'Of course! Can I bring Roland?'

Regina smiled despite herself.

'Yes. Henry and Emma are going as well.'

Belle was sitting in the middle of their bed, writing something furiously.

'What are you doing, Belle?' Gold asked, slowly lying down. Recent events clearly had taken their toll on his now purely human body, but the Snow Queen assured him that he'd be alright eventually.

'I'm writing a book,' Belle said, not lifting her gaze.


'I will be a writer.'

'Writer?' Gold scooted closer and put his arm around her waist. 'What are you writing about?'

'I haven't decided yet. I have so many ideas and there are so many things in this world to explore...'

'This world? I would expect you to write fairy tales or...'

'No, no, no, Rumple! I have had enough fairy tales for a lifetime. I'm writing a thriller. Or a psychological drama. Or both. Or something light for my first book, it seems to be easier. Look, there would be that girl working at a call center. Big call center belonging to a mobile phone by Advertise"> company. She has only a few clients, special ones, rich ones, with big businesses. She's very professional and brilliant at her job. But then the new client proves to be different. He's so much more difficult and demanding, no one wanted to work for him, no one could put up with him. But she slowly gains his trust and respect, and they fall in love. Well, she's fired for being unprofessional, but she could start her own business and be with her love. What do you think?'

It certainly wasn't a story he would voluntarily pick to read, but Gold smiled all the same.

'I'm sure you will write it brilliantly.'

'Oh, but I have another one! It's much darker! The heroine, a computer expert is hired by the owner of a big company to prevent a mysterious hacker's attacks. But she doesn't trust her boss, her intuition screams at her that there is something wrong. The boss is a cruel, old woman, destroying lives of her own daughters and mercilessly crushing anyone who dares to cross her. Then the heroine manages to find the hacker, learn his super secret password, then his name. He is one of the cruel boss' victim, motivated by desperation and revenge. They become friends and she wants to help him.'

'And they fall in love, right?'

Belle blushed.


'I like it. I feel like I know these characters.'

He pulled Belle closer and kissed her.

'Are you telling me that I'm stealing my ideas from life?... I just want to write what I like, what attracts me.'

'And that is very good. I'm sure you will write magnificent books. But for now, please, may I have a bit of your attention?...'

Belle giggled.

'You're so sweet, Rumple.'

'Am I?'

'Yes.' She kissed him again, much longer, combing her fingers through his hair.

'I love you so much, Belle. I'm still so amazed that you love me.'

'I do. Just as much.'

'I just feel I didn't earn that.'

'Love isn't earned, Rumple. It's the greatest gift possible. And I thank you for yours.'

She giggled again and ducked beneath the sheets, planting kisses on his chest. In that moment Gold felt like the happiest man alive.

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