No Greater Power

Chapter 9

'How are you feeling, sweetheart?' asked Belle first thing when he woke up. It was broad daylight and Belle was sitting in bed, stroking his hair gently.

'What time is it?'

Belle smiled.

'A bit past ten.'

'Ten?... Belle, why didn't you wake me up?'

'Because you were sleeping soundly and you needed it.'

Gold sat up.

'Oh, Belle... I have to go open the shop.'

'No, you don't have to if you don't want to.'

'I must, Belle. I... They can't see me weak...'

'They being who?'

'Everybody...' he admitted in whisper. 'I'm sure everybody knows about the cuff, Blue would know it's been... used. And she'd spread the word so people would not be afraid of me anymore.'

Belle sat closer and hugged him.

'You don't have to look all the time what people think. Stay home with me today, Rumple. We need some rest.'

He shook his head.

'What rest, Belle? I just killed your friend. We're not supposed to go on with the day like nothing bad happened.'

Belle's mouth formed thin line.

'Yes, you killed her, but it was an accident. Yes, I miss her. I'm sad she's gone, and I'm sad for Robin and Roland. But that doesn't mean I don't want to take care of you when you need it. And you need it right now.'

'Let me go to the shop just for a few hours. I'll return early. Is that okay?'

Belle looked indecisive.

'Maybe if I went with you...'

'No, Belle, please. I... I don't want to feel like... Like an invalid or something like that. Please.'

'Okay,' Belle sighed. 'But I'll be calling you and don't you dare not to pick up the phone, do you hear me? Please. I'm worried.'

'Okay,' Gold smiled, relieved. He needed that time alone to fill the prescriptions. He'd had to call Dove to accompany him, there was no telling what some people might want to do if they caught him alone. Belle had enough bad news on her head right now, she didn't need to hear about his heart. And, more to the point, he already felt like that damned invalid. He was one. He just couldn't bring himself to talk aloud about yet another weakness of his.

Belle was worried. She could tell clearly that Rumple was feeling much worse than he wanted her to know. He had nightmares every night for one, but refused to talk about them. Mostly he'd just stay up for the rest of the night. And during the day he seemed so tired, so exhausted. And of course now that he had no magic, his ankle was hurting again.

Despite that, she could feel there was some quiet determination in him. And things he didn't tell her, again. He would disappear to the shop early and once when she dropped by the shop unannounced it was closed.

The other day she entered and heard him talking with someone on the phone. He was in the backroom, but quickly cut the connection when he heard her enter. But she still picked the name – Snow Queen. What business did he have with her and why didn't it end with him being devoid of magic? She wished she'd never agreed to let him keep the secret to himself.

At least the town was calm. It seemed that whatever Blue told the people it had effect. She was getting some weird stares when she was at Granny's or wherever else, but no one tried to speak with her and that was alright. Given Rumple's reputation that was the best she could expect.

Marian's funeral was two days after the accident and Belle was conflicted about what to do. She wanted to go, to give her condolences to Robin and Roland, but would she be welcome at all? Did they understand that it really had been an accident?

She might have been brave once, but now she backed out. She just promised herself to speak with Emma later. The sheriff would know what everyone was thinking and wouldn’t judge her. Belle wished that she and Henry were closer with her and Rumple, they were family after all. But now it was perhaps for the best to take things slowly.

'It will be okay, Belle,' said Ruby, smiling gently. Belle came to the diner on the second afternoon after Marian's funeral. She really needed that time for herself and Ruby eagerly agreed. They were sitting in one booth over warm cocoa.

'It's hard to believe it will,' Belle shook her head. 'Rumple surely doesn't. I feel like everything depends on me and all the same I know that there are things I just can't do and he has to do or want himself.'

'How is he taking the Marian accident?'

Belle smiled with gratitude, even if it was all so sad. Ruby knew how it was to cause such an accident, better than Belle could. And she wasn't going to point fingers. Not for this.

'Bad. He doesn't talk about it anymore, and I think it's because he's feeling guilty. He doesn't talk about anything. And I keep wondering what it is that he's not telling me. He gave up magic, I thought this impossible, but also I thought that then... Well, it's silly.'

'It's not silly. What did you think?'

'I kind of thought that without magic all our problems would disappear.' Belle laughed mirthlessly at her own stupidity. 'But they didn't of course. He still has secrets. He still needs to feel powerful. And I'm still left out and scared and unable to help. I keep expecting that either he'll break under the strain or he'll find the way to feel powerful by doing something to all the people he's seeing as enemies, Blue Fairy at the top of the list. Long list I suppose. He's convinced that either he'll get to them first or they will get to him. And he's creative and determined enough to strike first. I wouldn't know anything until it's too late, I'm sure.'

When Belle was walking out of the diner and heading to the car she borrowed from Rumple for the evening (and which gave her some assurance that he wouldn’t go anywhere to plot gods know what), someone called her name. She turned to see Diana.

'Belle, I'm sorry,' Diana said quickly. 'I didn't want to be mad at you.'

Belle sighed. Diana continued.

'It's just that I was there when Marian... Well, you know. It was my shift at the hospital and even if it's not my ward, I just went there, to check on her. She flatlined so quickly. They couldn't do anything...'

'I'm sorry,' Belle said. 'But this was an accident.'

'You understand that I find it hard to believe.'

'I understand, but still I think you are wrong.'

'I'm worried about you, Belle. And Marian was worried too. You are living with the man who tried to kill Robin once, and who succeeded in killing his wife now. And who captured Kay in the mirror for what must have been forever if not for the time portal.'

'Diana, I wish you could see my side of things. But if not then we at least should agree to disagree.'

'But how is it possible that you have such faith in him? Didn't he ever deceive you?'

'It's in the past.'

'I've heard the rumors that he tried to kill mayor Mills even when he promised you not to.'

Belle cringed.

'I don't think I want to discuss this with you, Diana, I'm sorry.'

'I heard he killed Zelena.'

Belle hesitated.

'He didn't.'

'You don't seem convinced. Belle, I only want to help you.'

Belle shook her head.

'This isn't helping.'

Diana looked at her intensely for a moment.

'Perhaps I know how you could be sure of it.'


'The mirror. It can answer one yes-or-no question for each person.'

'Yes, I know.'

'I don't think Kay would have anything against you asking.'

Belle bit her lip and nervously shifted from one foot to another. Zelena's death was the single thing that didn't seem to leave her mind from the very beginning of her marriage. There wasn't any explanation for it. Rumple denied it of course. But something still was amiss.

She felt her cheeks redden with shame at the clear fact, that she didn't trust her husband. Her poor husband who had been through so much. But precisely for that reason it would be so like him to go after Zelena, to find some crazy loophole to sidestep the fact that Belle had the dagger at the time. Blue gave that as a reason why the cuff was necessary beside the dagger and now it reverberated in Belle's mind loudly.

She went with Diana to her little flat. She tried to not notice Kay's satisfied expression when he learned why was she there.

Diana laid the mirror on the table before Belle. It looked just like the Dream Mirror, but with slightly different pattern to the ornate frame.

'You need to cut your finger on the frame and let one drop of blood fall on the surface,' explained Diana. 'Then you ask your question.'

Belle bit her lip so hard that she tasted blood. But she did as Diana told her. She needed to know. She did so many cowardly things lately, that she really needed to face this one. If Rumple was innocent, then she would have one matter less to worry about. If not... well, it's high time to stop hiding and pretending nothing happened. There was no substitute for sincerity and trust.

The blood on the surface began to sink into the glass. Belle found her voice and asked clear and loud.

'Tell me, did Rumplestiltskin kill Zelena?'

Gold was in the kitchen, making sandwiches and worrying that Belle was late. She should have been home at least half an hour ago. Sure, she probably just lost track of time talking to the Lucas girl, but what if something bad happened to her? He should have sent Dove to drive her there and back, not just let her borrow the car. How could he give up and let her have her way when she didn't understand what could happen. She should be smarter by now, after all she went through just because she was his love. He imagined her kidnapped, bound, thrown into a dark and dirty basement, tortured, wounded, dead. He had to put the cup on the table before it slipped from his shaking hands and shattered into a million pieces.

Then he heard car engine and took a few deep breaths before going to the hall to greet his wife.

'Belle, I was so worried, why...'

All words died on his lips, because Belle was crying and apparently she had been crying for a long time, her face was red and puffy. Gods, she was driving in that state, she could have had an accident!

'Sweetheart, what happened?' He reached to her with both arms, but she evaded him. 'Belle?'

Belle took a deep breath and turned to him.

'I'm so sorry, Rumple! I'm so sorry!'

She hid her face in her hands and just stood there crying.

'Sweetheart, whatever happened surely isn't that bad. Here, come to the kitchen, I've made you sandwiches.'

Belle let him take her by the arms and sit her in the kitchen. She pushed the plate away to him.

'I can't eat. You eat, please.'

'No, sweetheart, I'm not hungry. I've made these for you, I've eaten already.'

He sat on the other side of the table, sensing she would like to have some distance. She allowed him to take her hands into his.

'Now, sweetheart, tell me what happened? Why are you crying like that?'

Several terrible scenarios already flew through his mind, but no one quite fit.

'Rumple...' she sniffed. 'I'm sorry. I'll understand if you get all mad at me, I'm not denying that I behaved awfully.'

'I won't be angry, sweetheart, now tell me,' he assured her softly, rubbing her hands.

'I talked so much about how I wish you trust me more, and then... and then I couldn't really trust you...'

She paused in another fit of tears. He started to get anxious.

'Belle? What have you done?'

'Diana told me that if I want, I can come to her and ask the mirror about you,' Belle explained in a totally miserable tone. 'I told her that she is wrong about you, but... Oh, Rumple, but I went with her anyway. I asked. I'm so sorry!'

'Belle... What... what have you asked?'

'About Zelena,' cried Belle. 'I couldn't stop thinking of it...'

Gold's mind raced. Nothing fit. Did Belle really ask the mirror about his... his last terrible sin against Belle's trust and love? But then why was she crying and apologizing?

'Belle, sweetheart, listen to me.' He waited until Belle was looking at him. 'How exactly did you phrase the question?'

Belle sniffed but answered straight up.

'I asked: did Rumplestiltskin kill Zelena? And the Mirror said no.'

All of the sudden he couldn't catch his breath, the walls were closing in on him, and there was terrible roar in his ears, preventing him from hearing anything that Belle was saying.

No. How was that possible?

He didn't kill Zelena.

He didn't kill Zelena.

Zelena was alive.

His stomach rolled and he barely got to the toilet in time. Gods, was it that? The heart attack? His chest was tight, he couldn't stand up if he tried and he couldn't stop vomiting even if he had nothing else left in his stomach.

Belle kneeled behind him, supporting him, rubbing his arms.

'Oh gods, Rumple... Rumple, what's wrong? I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Can you stand up? Come, you should lie down. I'm so sorry.'

She sounded panicked herself. Gold managed to turn to her.

'Belle... Belle...'

How was he supposed to tell her?

Could he not tell her now? But Zelena was alive. Belle was in danger. And he was helpless. Totally helpless to protect her. Oh why did he agree to the damn cuff?!

'Belle, you have to know... You're in danger... I should be sorry, not you. I've messed that up.' He started crying, but ignored it completely, focusing his energy on telling her. Finally telling her.

'I don't understand, Rumple. What danger?'


'Zelena is dead. She killed herself in her cell.'

'No. She didn't. I killed her.'

'What? Rumple, honey, what are you talking about? The mirror can't lie, I researched it enough to know.'

'I mean I wanted to.'

'But you didn't. You kept your promise and I still didn't trust you...'

'No!' he shouted. She looked at him surprised and a bit afraid. Gold took a deep breath. 'I tried to kill her. I went to her cell and stabbed her with the dagger. I thought she was dead. But now we know she survived somehow!'

Belle's face was white.

'I don't understand, Rumple. What do you mean you've stabbed her with the dagger? I had the dagger. You couldn't possibly do that.'

He sagged against the toilet's wall, head lowered in shame.


'I switched the daggers. You had fake one. I switched them back later, so you had the real one from the day I put protection spells on your handbag.'

He heard Belle standing, but she didn't leave. Several minutes passed in the silence, but he heard very quiet sobs and they broke his heart even further.

'You proposed to me with that dagger,' she said finally, in a soft, sad voice. 'With the fake one. I asked you to not kill her out of vengeance and you did just that. And such was the beginning of our marriage. You know, this was your idea. You proposed. You gave me the dagger. You didn't have to do any of these things. Did you just want to use me as an alibi?'

He stayed silent because... yes. He did. It was the only way to kill Zelena, to ensure that he fulfilled at least that promise to Bae and that Belle and everybody else were safe from the Wicked Witch.

'Did you think that I asked you not to kill her because I was pitying her or something? I did that for you. I didn't want you heart, your soul to had another death weighing on them. I only wanted...' she sighed heavily. 'I wanted you. All of you. And I wanted to help you be the best version of yourself. Did you remember? These are your words. But it seems that you were wrong, and I don't inspire anything like that in you. Well, Rumple. I think I need some time on my own.'

He looked up now, in pure horror.

'You're leaving?...'

'I'll go to the apartment over library. Oh gods, when I heard what the mirror said I was so sorry, but still I was so happy with its answer. And now...'

She shook her head and went out. He heard her going upstairs. She soon returned with two large bags full of clothes and books, that were overflowing and making it impossible to close the zippers.

'Do you need help?' She asked, setting the bags on the floor. 'How do you feel?'

He slipped on his best mask.

'I'm fine. All passed.'

She helped him to get up, then lifted the bags again.

'I'll take the car, but I'll call Dove to come for it so you'll have it in the morning, don't worry.'


And then she left. Gold slid down onto his previous place on the toilet floor, looking stupidly at the flower pattern on the opposite wall. He felt totally numb. He would probably spend all night like that, if not for the noise that caught his attention. Gold tensed, all coward's instincts screaming, but then only Thumper appeared in the door.

'Oh gods, she didn't take you with her!' Gold exclaimed. He reached for the towel hanging above him and threw it at the rabbit, scaring it away. But at least it snapped him out from the numbness.

Zelena was alive. He needed to do something.

Gold fished the cell phone from his pocket and dialed Regina's number.

'Oh, Ruby, I'm so glad you came!' Belle hugged her best friend at the door of her small library apartment. 'Come in. It's a bit of mess because I really wasn't here for a long time, but it should be okay. How long can you stay?'

'As long as you need me to, I've brought food from diner, wine, toothbrush and pajamas.'

'I love you Ruby!'

'Hey, just don't start to cry just yet, tell me what happened first!' Ruby hugged Belle again. The tears flew anyway and plenty.

'Come here, Ruby, let's sit,' Belle said crying and sniffing, going to the small couch. I'll tell you everything...'

Small eternity later Ruby sighed.

'I see. I'm not surprised that you're feeling betrayed.'

Belle sipped her wine, a bit calmer now, that Ruby knew everything.

'I am worried for him, though he at least can't hurt anyone now' she admitted. 'But this can't go unaddressed. What he did was...' She shook her head, angry.


Belle threw her glass through the room, watching as it crashed into the wall and broken into a million pieces.

'There was always someone who tried to control me, either by force or manipulation,' she hissed through gritted teeth. 'My whole life as a princess was meant to be a life of breeding mare. My father loves me, but he was always so completely sure that he is the one to decide what will happen to me, at least until I marry someone. Someone chosen by him of course and it was Gaston. I've never really mattered as a person. Then Regina imprisoned me and I was controlled again. Then my own father kidnapped me. Then I lost my memory, so once again - no agency. This has to change and I thought it can change with Rumple, but then again, he proved me wrong. Not for the first time too, but I've always forgiven him. Perhaps that's why he didn't really change, he didn't have the need to. What for if I'd forgive everything anyway?'

Ruby sat closer and started to rub circles on her back.

'He still doesn't trust me, still thinks his power is the most important thing in his life. And I was used, manipulated, lied to and betrayed.'

'But he doesn't have power now?'

Belle sighed.

'He doesn't. He said he had to control the power so I won't get hurt. And now I can only see how he's treating me like a child or a trinket again, thinking how to regain the power to protect me and himself. I thought something changed when he asked me for help with research... But no, I still didn't know what that was for. He never tells me anything! As if I was something stupid and dependent, which has to be protected. Something that doesn't get any say and must do as he decides.'

Belle drank wine directly from the bottle.

'But Ruby, I'd so love to not be protected. I hate it so much. I want to be treated as equal, is that so difficult to understand?'

'I guess not if you're raised in the States, but back in Fairy Tale Land... It was, you know, middle ages there. Sort of.'

'Sort of. And now all men think that they had to do everything themselves. In the end Rumple has the same mindset as my father. Maybe I should leave Storybrooke and start a life really on my own.'

Ruby looked at her with wide eyes.

'You're serious?'

'Why not? Thanks to Lacey I have all knowledge of the modern world I need. I could find a job, go to university, have a career. See the world. Do something important. I did go on an adventure once and managed to turn Phillip back into a human. And now there won't be any Regina waiting to catch me. I need freedom, Ruby, I need to do what I choose to do, not what someone else tells me to or manipulates me into.'

The logical conclusion that Rumplestiltskin wouldn't ever agree to leave Storybrooke and magic wasn't spoken, but practically was hanging in the air.

'But now he doesn't have magic. Maybe now he'd agree to leave?'

Belle shook her head.

'I don't think so. He'd be too afraid.'

Ruby bit her lips.

'But if, then would you want him to go with you?'

'I don't know...' Belle sighed and her lips trembled with new cry spell. 'Now I really start to doubt myself. If I really was right to see the man behind the monster. Maybe I was as naive as people were telling me... Maybe he really can't change.'

By the time Regina cut the connection, informed Emma and Charmings and teleported straight to his house, devoid of most magical barriers now, Gold was feeling like hell. Still, he stood up and put up a brave front. Pity it didn't last.

'What the hell, Rumplestiltskin?' Regina caught him by his arm and guided to the sofa. 'What's wrong?'

'My heart,' Gold rasped. 'The Dark Curse is destroying it. Without magic I can't cure it.'

Regina was quick to catch on.

'Then you can have a heart attack just as we speak?'


'Holy shit. Do you have any heart medicine here? To take while I'll call an ambulance?'

'No ambulance. Zelena. I don't want her to know...' He took a ragged breath, hissing with pain. 'There's nitroglycerine in the medicine cabinet.'

Regina brought the pills and watched as he took one, holding it under his tongue.

'No matter,' she said. 'I'm just teleporting you to the ER.'

'Can't... Too much people. I'm already much too weak as the cuff won't allow me to use my magic...'

'That damn, blue bug! She didn't have to... Alright.' Regina took a deep breath. 'Then I'll pull some strings as a mayor and smuggle you to the hospital unnoticed.'

'No need. Call Snow Queen. Number's on my cell. Tell her. She knows secrecy. Then you can teleport me to her office or whatever you'll agree on.'

Regina raised her eyebrows already wondering what blackmail was in play. She still wondered about it in dr. Andersen's office, watching Rumplestiltskin having blood drawn and hooked up to the ECG with Snow Queen calmly assessing the situation.

'It's not a heart attack yet.' Dr Andersen stated finally after a series of tests and waiting for lab results. 'Still, I'll have you stay in the hospital for the night at least,' she informed in dispassionate, professional voice.

'No. The pain is practically gone now. I can't stay, just give me something...'

'I already gave you all the meds I could,' Snow Queen cut in, coldly. 'And you might look at hospital as your best chance for surviving. This still may become a heart attack and you want to have medical help on hand then.'

Regina already started to like the doctor.

'Gold, you should stay and you know it. Emma and I can take care of that... wicked problem for now. I assume you don't want me to call Belle?'

Gold sighed.

'No. But make sure she's safe.'

'I will. I have to leave you now then, but I'll come sometime in the morning.'

'We have visiting hours,' Snow Queen said.

'And I have several ways to cut the hospital’s budget. Take good care of him.' With that Regina smiled and vanished.

Next morning they could actually talk. Gold was ready to leave the hospital, sighing impatiently at Snow Queen's babble about how he should stay longer.

No way. He needed to find Zelena, and find a way to remove her from the picture for good. He already wasted too much time as it was.

He knew he'd have to see Snow Queen regularly now, still in secret. Though now that Belle moved out it felt somewhat overrated. But he had to be healthy enough to be able to outsmart Zelena, even without magic.

Regina appeared just in time to take him back home, by magic again. He certainly didn't want to be seen in the hospital. It was bad enough that one of the nurses – and of course it just had to be Gerda – knew.

They appeared in his living room and Gold sat on the couch, feeling weak with relief.

'You have a rabbit.'


'You have a rabbit,' repeated Regina. 'And a hungry one too.'

Gold sighed.

'He'll just have to wait.'

Regina shook her head and magicked water, carrots and lettuce for Thumper.

'So you won't have to think of it and the animal won't starve,' she explained.

Gold rolled his eyes, exasperated.

'Can we talk about something important, Regina? Like about your sister?'

Regina sat in the armchair with an expression of a hungry tiger.

'I'd love nothing more. If I were Snow I would try to convince you that Zelena surely hid or left and is trying to be better, having a second chance. But I am the Evil Queen and there's too much at stake for me now to ignore such a threat.'

Gold smiled, even if a bit sadly.

'Oh right, Regina. Congratulations.'

'Thank you,' she smiled widely and brightly, like the one on top of the world. But how much of it was just an act?

'How is your thief reacting to being a father again?' Gold asked, in a much more serious tone.

She smiled again and he didn't really like the fact that she seemed to notice his concern for her. But oh hell, he was already too tired to be more guarded.

'The thief isn't mine. You see, I don't think it's enough to remove the wife, he made some choices, I made mine and that's still standing.'

'The child will need a father.'

'Sure,' Regina sighed. 'And Robin will have full parental rights, I wouldn't limit his time with the child and so on. But he won't be my thief again.'

'That's alright then.'

'Well, let's work on not letting the child's aunt in his or her life.'

'Yes.' Gold hesitated. 'But before that... Did you speak with Robin Hood about his wife?...'

Regina frowned.

'No. But I think he knows you didn't mean to kill her.'

Gold sighed and closed his eyes.

'The whole town knows that after Blue's cuff campaign.'

'True, but think that you at least are somewhat innocent. I murdered her deliberately. Well, at least in some timelines, but still.'

Gold smirked.

'Well, if you put it like that, I won't argue.'

'I've been torturing people, don't forget that, Gold. You were too, sometimes, hell, you've tortured Robin! I know what attacking Marian was about. And Robin knows that too. Though it would help if you told him you're sorry in person.'

'What an advice from the Evil Queen.'

She smirked.

'Don't get defensive, it's counterproductive. But on the other hand, maybe you shouldn't. Blue has done enough damage to your reputation.'

Gold frowned. Regina understood. She actually understood too much for his liking, but with her need of power and control it wasn't surprising at all. You need to at least appear strong if not to actually be. Having Cora for a mother taught her that lesson well.

'I need to get rid of that cuff,' he said, trying to come up with some leverage with Blue.

'I don't think so.'


'Calm down, Gold,' Regina admonished him, irritated. 'You are much too panicky for your own good and I don't think that's just thanks to my sister. I meant that curse's magic will damage your heart even quicker than it's failing right now on its own.'

'I need my magic, Regina, and you know that perfectly well.'

'Then maybe later, when we actually face Zelena. For as little time as possible. Don't you tell me it's not practical.'

'And until then?'

'Until then I have enough magic for us both. Or for three of us, as it happens. Or even four if you make up with Belle.'

'I won't. She's better off without me. And safer.'

'Suit yourself. We have bigger problems, actually. Because something tells me that when the curse is done with your heart, we'll be facing a whole different level of trouble.'

Gold looked away, frowning.

'Spill it, Gold, we don't have time.'

'The Dark One will remain. Only him.'

Regina nodded.

'And this certainly isn't something I'm going to let happen. I wonder if Blue knows how that works. If she does, then she won't take off the cuff, no matter if Zelena were going to murder the whole town. Also, is there even one person you've told this before me?'

'Snow Queen.'

'Ah, your doctor. That's something at last. Because I wouldn't want to find out that there's potential doom again over us without any forewarning.'

'You need to keep it in secret. Regina, if people know, then they would toss me over town line in a second. And even if I die there, the Dark One may find its way back.'

'For now I won't tell anybody. But for now.'

'Fair enough.' He was well aware that Regina would break any deal if she thought that it's a threat to her child. He wasn't about to argue in vain.

'And what about Belle? She's your true love, couldn't she have stalled what's happening to your heart?'

Gold grimaced.

'I didn't tell her.' Belle shouldn't feel pressured into being with him anyway.

'When she'll find out on her own, probably when it will be too late, she is going to be so pissed off at you,' mused Regina with smugness that was masking her concern. Gold wondered in exasperation if it was pregnancy that suddenly made Regina so concerned about him and probably about everybody else around too.

'She... Well, she's the Beauty and I am the old monster, right? And contrary to popular belief our lives are not fairy tales.'

'Mmm, she won't understand, that's what you're going to say?'

He nodded, his mouth thinned into a line.

'Well, I am surely able to understand many things about you that Belle couldn't,' Regina said in a hard, guarded tone. 'But then again, for you it would be much better to have her, not me, around. I'd never be able to help you like she can.'

Gold felt the need to either toss Regina out of his home or to run away as far as he could. When did this conversation become about helping him? And why it was the bloody Evil Queen saying things like this?

Regina sighed.

'You know, Rumplestiltskin, I have killed so many people and I don't know the names of most of them. I did it out of revenge and rage. In this world I would be a mass murderer, or a war criminalist maybe. When you want to get better and atone for what you did, you start to remember more and more and more. You can't sleep. You can't talk to people you love. You think you are a monster, without right to anything, starting with living. And you at least did all you've done under the curse, which you even didn't take selfishly but to save someone you love. How is that being a proper monster? I did all I've done by myself and out of hate. But here I am. So I think there is hope for you yet.'

'It's not so straightforward, dearie. The curse makes sure that there is as little hope as possible.'

'Yes, Gold, I understand that this Dark Curse is influencing you. Without it you wouldn't do anything morally suspicious, probably.' She managed to say it as if it were something improper or against savoir-vivre rules. 'This is also why your human heart won't be healed if the curse were to be lifted. It's pure you, suffering under the crazy darkness. I sort of suspect that at least part of the coronary thing is just the stress. Really. No magic, just you fighting with the enormity of what you've done to other people. I'm speaking from experience here. And, yes, not too long ago I wouldn't believe that I'm able to give such a speech, especially to you. Perhaps that's the fault of my hormones.'

Gold was looking at her a bit, or more, shocked. Regina shrugged.

'You've got to earn your happy ending, as popular saying goes.'

'Perhaps...' he allowed, mostly to close the topic. 'Can we concentrate on the other problem? The wicked one?'

'The wicked one might just speed things up for your heart by keeping you for the whole year without free will to defend the curse.'

'The more reason to eliminate it.'

'Agreed. I'll start by taking something that belonged to her and using the elixir to find her. Surely we can get something hers from her house.'

Gods, he was at her house. And she might have been there, watching... But no, it's not time for this. Gold forced himself to focus.

'I don't think so. We don't want her to know that we found her. Elixir is the last resort. Especially when she didn't show herself. She might be planning something dangerous and it's better to check the board before hooraying in. You start to think like the Charmings, I don't appreciate it. Though I suppose you always have been hot-headed and less than subtle.'

Regina glared at him irritated.

'So what do you propose?'

'Search for any of her magic that might be active. I suppose her brooch disappeared from your vault?'

'Yes, sadly.'

'Well, but I have something in my shop. The globe I used to find... You're Zelena's sister, your blood will work.'

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