Henry really wasn't sure this was a good idea.
I mean, it had felt clever, when he snuck out of his bedroom, a little after midnight, but now? When he was all alone in the pitch black woods? Not so great.
But he was determined, so carried on through the night, weak flashlight struggling.
A twig snapped to his right and he startled, leaping behind a tree and clutching his wooden sword.
It had been a present from Gramps, one he only just fully appreciated.
He scanned the forest, breathing heavily with suspense.
Suddenly, a flash of white ran at him and he stumbled backwards, tripping over a root. A sharp pain in his head made him gasp.
Looking around, he searched for his attacker. A few feet away, almost hidden in the undergrowth, was the fearsome, white creature. It took one look at him, then scampered back to its burrow.
Feeling angry at himself for getting scared, by a bunny no less, he turned to see what he hit.
A bloody rock lay beneath him, and he noticed warm liquid trickling down his neck. He stood shakily, but a sudden wave of nausea made him grab the tree for support.
'Maybe I should turn back?' He thought, uncertainty grasping him.
But, upon searching for a clear path, he discovered his goal lay in sight. Two black, wrought iron gates sat as part of a gloomy fence, ivy curling up their spines. Thin moonlight filtered down through the forest, reflecting off a rusty mirror.
He stumbled forwards, grief clutching at his heart, and started climbing over the looming gates.
Rumpelstiltskin woke with a start, an uneasy feeling making him sit up.
For days, rough nightmares had disturbed him, Bae's dying face flashing by with that green monster. Tonight had been calm so far, calm enough that he knew something must be coming. A storm.
Dark eyes searched the bedroom, a fireball lighting the darkest corners.
Nothing was wrong.
Belle lay beside him, gently sleeping.
He smiled fondly but his stomach still churned.
He slipped out of bed and peered out the window of their Victorian manor. For a moment he just stood there, gazing out and remembering the horror of the past few days.
"I'm sorry, Bae," he whispered, his breath fogging the glass.
A sudden movement caught his eye and he watched as Henry made his way down the lane, flashlight and sword in hand.
"Now where would you be going, laddie?" He muttered, glancing at the clock, which read half past twelve.
Grabbing his cane and black coat, he ventured outside, the brisk chill biting through his silk pajamas. With a shiver, he set off in pursuit, keeping a distance so as not to frighten the boy.
He told himself it was just curiosity that made him follow, not a protective instinct.
That was until he saw Henry enter the woods.
He sped up, not making much progress, as Henry had darted ahead, breaching the dark tree line. Who knew what dangers lay in there?
He'd be damned if he lost a grandson, just after Bae. Besides he was pretty sure the Charming's would string him up if even a hair on his head was harmed.
Henry dropped to the ground with a thump, his head pounding.
The sight that lay before him was grim, sending shivers along his back, but he moved forwards slowly.
'One part brave, three parts fool', his grandpa's voice echoed in his head and a memory awoke of a better time.
He'd been sneaking out the loft window, trying to follow his mom, after she left on an urgent call.
Climbing down the wall, finding small nooks and crannies, he'd been startled by a sharp cough.
Turning quickly, he caught a glimpse of a suited man, leaning against a fine cane, before he was falling through the air. Bracing himself for the inevitable messy landing, he was shocked to feel a strong pair of arms wrap around him.
He looked up into the lined face of his Grandpa, Rumpelstiltskin, and smiled cheekily. "Thanks, Gramps, that could have been nasty!"
The elder man just shook his head wearily and set him on his feet.
"Yes, well, just use the front door next time!" He said in a dry voice, before continuing on his way. It was a few minutes before he realized he was being followed.
"So where are you going?" A cheerful voice asked. Henry had chosen a new adventure. Emma's job was just so boring now Cora had been defeated.
A sigh was his only answer.
"How's Grandma Belle?"
He continued in this vein until they arrived at the pawnshop and Gold turned around.
"Look, lad, I'll tell you one important life lesson, then you're going to leave me alone. Deal?"
"One part brave, three parts fool."
"What does that mean?" Henry asked, slightly confused over what this had to do with anything.
"Figure it out" was his only answer before the door slammed shut.
Well, at least now he understood. Bravery made his arm strong as he lifted the torch, finding his way over unstable ground, but surely he must be a fool to have even considered this night time excursion? Well, he was here now.
He continued on through the graveyard, heading for the one place on Earth he didn't want to see again, but knew he had to visit.
A good five minutes after Henry, Rumpelstiltskin entered the forest.
He looked around, trying to find some sign of the boy.
Conjuring a fireball, he saw a thread of Henry's red jumper, caught on a thorn. Slowly he picked out a trail, then hastened through the dark.
Over roots and hidden holes, he walked for what felt like hours, but was probably only one.
Several times, he stopped and listened, hearing faint snaps and leaves crunching. Everything echoed through the silent forest, bounding around the miles of trees.
All too soon, he realized where Henry was headed. His heart clenched and, with destination in mind, he disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke. Two seconds later and he appeared just outside a pair of forbidding gates.
Bae's final resting place.
"Hello son," he whispered, scanning the gloomy surroundings for life. Ironic, considering.
Soon, he found the fresh grave, a figure kneeling before it.
With his head bowed, Henry placed a single, white rose upon Neal's grave.
"Hey Dad," he whispered. "I miss you."
Emotion welled up inside him, and the dam he'd been building broke, tears flooding forth. Sobs wracked his body as he fell to his knees, the cold mud seeping through his jeans.
Every thought and feeling he'd suppressed, since he regained his memory, was unleashed.
Losing himself to misery, he never heard the footsteps approaching, but felt the hand on his shoulder, an offer of comfort.
Without a second thought he flung himself at the stranger, clinging to his waist as the man knelt.
They stayed like that for over an hour, as Rumpelstiltskin relaxed, offering his grandson the support he needed.
Only he understood what it felt like to lose a son.
And only Henry understood what it felt like to lose a father.
A long while later, Henry's sobs quieted, his tears stopping as gentle breathing took their place.
Rumplestiltskin held him as he slept, subtly wiping his own eyes, only glancing up when a drop of rain splashed down.
The horizon was brightening and soon dawn would arrive.
He shifted Henry in his arms, trying to wake him and suggest they get home. It was only then that he noticed the boy's head. A nasty gash sat there, gaping wide with teeth of black bruising.
Henry wouldn't wake up.
Belle awakened into a cocoon of warmth, very reluctant to rise, even though she knew she must. Breakfast needed cooking and then she had to help Mary Margaret with the school fete.
Turning over, she tried to snuggle with her husband, only to find he was gone.
Panic gripped her, squeezing her throat, before she realized that Zelena was dead and everything was better in Storybrooke.
'Maybe he's downstairs...' she thought and dragged herself from bed to check.
She looked everywhere, running through the house calling, before checking all over town.
She turned the corner, rushing towards Gold's shop when she collided with a figure in a red leather jacket.
"Have you seen Henry?!" Her panicked voice reflected Belle's exactly.
"No I'm looking for Rum- what happened?"
"He wasn't in bed this morning- we've looked everywhere! Where's Gold?"
"I'm not sure... but I have a feeling they're together."
"I hope so," Emma whispered, pain in her eyes.
Belle lay a comforting hand on her arm and they started running towards the pawnshop, a new understanding between them.
"Henry? C'mon lad, wake up!"
His Scottish brogue deepened as dread flowed through his veins.
A purple haze filled his hand as he ran it over Henry's head, time and time again.
There was no change.
The wound had healed first try, but Henry wouldn't wake!
Taking a deep breath, the Dark One thought hard, running a diagnostic spell instead of letting panic cloud his mind. Upon seeing the results, he knew just what was needed.
Gathering the boy up in his arms, they appeared in his shop, engulfed with purple smoke.
He carried the boy across the room, into the back.
Laying him down on the couch, Rumpelstiltskin began a frantic search, through draws and shelves, until at last he saw it.
A light blue bottle, with black liquid inside that shone like stars.
Limping over to his grandson, he tilted his head back, tipping the potion and stroking Henry's throat so he swallowed.
Moving Henry so he could sit down, Rumple leaned the boy against his chest, stroking his hair and reclining against the arm of the couch.
All he could do now was wait.
The silver bell chimed as Belle and Emma rushed into the shop. Scarves were wrapped around their faces, protection against the harsh storm brewing outside.
Belles' bright blue eyes scanned the dim interior, searching for her true love. Emma searched behind the counters, looking for any sign that they'd been there.
"Emma, look," Belle said, pointing at wet, muddy footprints. They lay in the middle of the floor like a chalk outline at a murder scene. She could practically taste the magic in the air, her senses attuned to the spicy feel of his teleportation. Her skin tingled just knowing he was close, but fear crept up her spine, knowing he wouldn't travel like that without serious reason.
A muffled noise drew their attention, coming from the back of the shop. They shared a look of understanding, then began to creep forwards, Emma drawing her gun in case of trouble. She motioned for Belle to stay behind her, but she hadn't put up with the Dark One for months without a stubborn mind and reckless attitude. Pushing in front of the blonde sheriff, she peered around the curtain, trepidation making her breath quicken. What could possibly have gone wrong this time?
Henry awoke slowly, a sense of safety and warmth calming his brief panic, upon awakening with no recollection of where he was or how he got there.
"Where am I?" He thought, trying to turn his head. A sharp throbbing stopped him and he clutched at his temple.
Suddenly it all came flooding back and grief clawed at Henry, but it was lessened somehow, subdued. The pain that had been suffocating him for days was still there, but it didn't make him choke anymore, swallowing back angry words that he would never say.
He remembered his late night trek, how he'd fallen and banged his head. He remembered kneeling on Neal's grave, paralyzed with emotion. He remembered Rumpelstiltskin finding him, how his Grandpa had held him, shed tears with him.
Then there was darkness.
Finding the strength to sit up, he held his head and turned, gazing at his surroundings.
"Grandpa's shop? So where's Grandpa?" He whispered, before looking down and realizing.
Rumpelstiltskin, the once feared Dark One, most powerful sorcerer in the Enchanted Forest, sat snoring gently, head tilted back against the wall, looking every inch his age.
Henry stifled a laugh, vowing to himself that he needed to find a camera, until a wave of fatigue overcame him. Lying back down onto his new-found, very comfortable, pillow, he went back to sleep, never realizing he was being watched.
Belle and Emma observed from the shadows, content to just watch the relaxed scene before them, reassured that both their loved ones were just fine, if not better, than when they left them.
Backing away, they called off the search, leaving Grandpa and Grandson to their much needed sleep.
After all they'd been through, they certainly deserved it.