Title: The Darkest Hour
Disclaimer: Once Upon A Time and its characters belong to ABC, I’m just borrowing them for a bit.
Fandom: Once Upon A Time
Warnings: Character death
Spoilers: Some, yes, for 2×01.
Summary: A haunting cry sounded, and Rumpelstiltskin lifted his gaze to see Archie cradling a sobbing Ruby in his arms.
The hands of the library clock struck midnight as Rumpelstiltskin fell to his knees at his beloved’s side. Belle, her chestnut hair moving in the wind, stared lifelessly up at the night sky. She’d given her life to defeat Cora, and now – now she was gone. Close by, the Charming family were reuniting with cries of relief and all he could do was stare down at her. His beautiful Belle, who had seen the good in all who believed otherwise, had thrown herself in the firing line of Cora’s magic and given her life for all of Storybrooke. For him.
A haunting cry sounded, and Rumpelstiltskin lifted his gaze to see Archie cradling a sobbing Ruby in his arms.
Guilt coursed through him like hatred had for centuries, and Rumpelstiltskin looked down at Belle again. Desperate, he placed his trembling hand over Belle’s heart. Within moments he could feel the power building in him, could feel it pumping his own heart and coursing through his veins. A purple glow appeared beneath his hand, but he couldn’t feel it working.
“Rumpelstiltskin, you know magic cannot bring her back,” the Blue Fairy, still in human form, said at his right, and he threw his arm out in her direction, the Dark One’s hatred rushing through him.
He’d returned to him days ago, no older than when Rumpelstiltskin had last seen him, and he’d forgiven him.
“Don’t give into your hatred,” Baelfire pleaded. “Please, Papa, please.”
“Promise me you won’t give into your hate.”
Belle’s voice resounded along with his son’s and caused Rumpelstiltskin to lower his arm. He heard the Blue Fairy fall to the ground, and the rush of feet as people rushed to help her, but he could only stare down at Belle. Beautiful, kind Belle, who had seen in him the man he once was. The man he wished he could be again.
“She died for all of us,” he murmured, his breathing heavy. “She died for you, Bae. For the Fairies. The Charmings.” He lifted his tear-filled eyes and met his son’s. “She died for me.”
A hand went to Rumpelstiltskin’s shoulder then and he looked up to find Emma standing at his side, staring down at him. “You haven’t tried everything,” she said.
“Magic can’t bring back the dead,” he heard Regina reply.
Emma tensed her jaw, momentarily looking in Regina’s direction. “Yeah, except he once told me I’m more powerful than I realize. More powerful than you, and I’ll bet more powerful than him.”
Emma looked down at Rumpelstiltskin again. “I jump-started Regina’s powers. What’s to say I can’t do the same for you?”
He felt his breath hitch in his throat. “You’d do that. For me?”
“No.” Her eyes flickered to Belle’s for a long moment, before returning to his. “Not for you. For her.”
Rumpelstiltskin swallowed, glanced down at Belle, then up at Baelfire, who had a hopeful look in his eyes. “You have to try, Papa.”
His heartbeat quickening, Rumpelstiltskin felt Emma give his shoulder a gentle squeeze and he moved his hand to Belle’s chest again. As he felt the power grow within him again, he closed his eyes and concentrated every ounce of his power into bringing her back. He could feel it radiate out, stronger than anything he’d felt before in his life. Only, it was as before, and he couldn’t feel it working.
A distressed sob overcame him, and Rumpeltsiltskin opened his eyes to Belle’s once more. The Dark One had so deeply woven within him, twisting his soul with darkness that there was no light left in him. “I consumed so much power.” Fresh tears welled in his eyes and his face crumpled. “There’s nothing of me left.”
“Belle never believed that, Papa, and I don’t either!”
Hating himself now more than he ever had in his life, Rumpelstiltskin whispered, “It’s too late.”
Baelfire cried out, and someone – Leroy – pulled him away.
Rumpelstiltskin felt Emma’s hand leave his shoulder, and he leaned over Belle, caressing her cheek once more. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart. I’m so sorry,” he cried, and he pressed one last kiss to Belle’s cold lips. It should be me lying there, not you. As his thoughts drifted, a gust of magic brought Belle back to life with a gasp.
His eyes opening, he looked down at her, at her loving blue eyes, as if he was seeing her for the first time, untainted by the all consuming darkness that had taken over him. She reached a hand up to touch his face and he felt warmth ebb through him, replacing the icy coldness of hatred that had twisted his heart and cursed his soul for three hundred years with something else. Humanity.
Her voice, so soft and loving as it had ever been, caused his heart to ache. “Belle,” he whispered, and he caressed her cheek. “You’re alive.”
She lifted her head from the road and kissed him again, her hand going to the back of his head. He revelled in her touch, in the weight of her lips against his. Happy laughter and cheering erupted from Ruby and Baelfire and soon broke the kiss apart. Belle smiled up at Rumpelstiltskin, her hand resting at the back of his neck, and he smiled lovingly at her. He was finally free, and she was alive. His hope. His love. His Belle.