Belle has been changing. After an outburst at Granny's, Rumpelstiltskin, her devoted husband, decides to investigate. What he discovers will change his life forever. Read on!
If his theory was correct, and that not only Belle, but he and everyone else in Storybrooke had been cursed with a meta-magical curse, then what could he do about it?
More importantly, was there anything he wanted to do about it?
A man or woman who could use meta-magic was well beyond even his abilities. He would be helpless against him or her. The difference would be as great as that between an entirely magicless person and someone like him—the Dark One.
Did Zeus do it? Did he have another rotten brother like Hades? There were almost certainly many other demi-gods “out there.” Many were certain to be less than charitable, decent sorts.
Doctor Hopper walked him to the door of his office. “What now?”
Rumpel shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“I’ve got an idea. I’m the most trusted member of this community, even more than the Charmings.”
Rumpel was way ahead of him. “You’re offering to use that trust to do a little digging?”
“I could pay a visit to the Fairies. I go there all the time.”
Rumpel’s brow furrowed. “Whatever for?”
“House calls. Blue won’t let them come into town to see me. It’s apparently part of their monastic code. Being a Fairy isn’t a ticket to psychological health, as it turns out. Lately I’ve just been going and helping around the place since no one wants to visit with me formally. They all believe they’re happy too.”
“Just so I’m clear,” said Rumpel, “right now I am too damn depressed to do anything more than simply consider my alternatives and draw up a loose plan. But that won’t last forever. When I finally decide to do something, and in the interim have discovered the fleas are at least partially to blame by way of your digging around, are you prepared for the consequences that I will surely visit upon them? Because if you’re not, you need to re-think your desire to join me on whatever quest your digging and my anger lead to.”
Hopper stared at him for a time before responding. “As I said, you have changed, Dark One. If the Fairies have earned consequences for meddling in your marriage, with or without Belle’s permission, then I am confident that what you provide to that end they richly deserve.”
“Don’t overestimate this goodness you feel I have inculcated, Doctor.”
“I have learned in this life that if you want to be truly good, you’ve gotta be a little bad,” responded Hopper to Rumpel’s surprise. “I’ve been around a long time too. I’m confident in my feelings towards you.”
He gave a considered and sober nod. “As for your depression, I must thank it. I was depressed too. Your depression knocked mine out of me. So let me return the favor. Let yourself be the Dark One. Go spin gold. Torment a few people. Not too cruelly, but do allow yourself to have some fun. Go to the bar. Go dancing. Get off your ass. Capiche?”
Rumpel grinned. “If we are indeed living under a meta-curse, then I must say, Doctor, I like the way it fits you.”
With that he turned and descended the stairs for the ground floor and the door. Once outside, he thought of magicking himself home, but walked the distance to his shop instead. There he considered what the good doctor had to say.
He watched from behind a tree as Regina walked through the park with Henry. Grinning, he snapped his fingers.
She stopped suddenly and lifted up her heel and grimaced down at it. The dog poo was fresh and plentiful, sticking thickly as she wrinkled her nose and as Henry smirked. She angrily magicked it off, muttering something he couldn’t hear but surely had to do with making sure dog owners understood park rules.
Violet sat on a bench fifty yards on, and Henry and Regina started again towards her. He snapped his fingers again and disappeared. Henry wouldn’t notice till too late that his fly was down and that his boxer shorts had turned a hot florescent pink, and were lace to boot.
Hook and the Savior were next. They had recently purchased a thirty-foot skiff, and frequently went out into the bay to picnic, listen to music, and presumably have intimate relations. From behind a tall stack of pallets he watched as the pirate hoisted the sails and as the Savior manned the rudder, happy, vacant smiles on their faces. When they were a good half-mile or more out, he snapped his fingers.
He had discovered the dead skunk at the edge of the road leading out of town just the day before. It was quite ripe. Now it was in their forward hold, jammed way up into the bow. Very difficult to extract. The odor wouldn’t get to them until they were a couple miles or more out to sea, making the trip back ... unpleasant.
He chortled. “Definitely no ‘find the hidden treasure’ today.”
He turned from the pallets and walked off the docks.
Belle’s bastard of a father was next.
It was very difficult not snapping his fingers and burning the flower shop to the ground with his fat ass in it. It was very difficult not magicking a swarm of killer bees to sting him to death slowly and agonizingly.
He reminded himself to have fun. Shits and giggles. That kind of thing.
He snapped his fingers and walked away. For the next two weeks, the roses in that asshole’s shop would smell, increasingly, like the dog shit the esteemed mayor had to wipe off her heel. Eventually it would become unbearable—just like that dickhead had always been. The effects would vanish a week after that.
He subscribed the Charmings to a porn channel, making sure Snow White really enjoyed it, and for the good Prince to find himself particularly turned on by threesomes involving two guys and a girl. Both would of course hide their secret lust from the other, which would increase daily for a good month and provide all sorts of wan suburban drama. He wondered how long they could handle the strain. Literally.
He cursed Zelena with a new skin color each day for a week, and the Dwarves with erections any time one of their brethren hefted a pick-axe. Still mindful that the Fairies probably had to answer to him much more seriously, he gave them a scorching case of jock itch whenever they flashed and flew around.
And by Zeus and by that bastard Hades, it worked! He started feeling better. He magicked Belle’s entire wardrobe into dust, magicked his vacuums to clean it all up, and then, without magic, thoroughly scrubbed the house down of any trace of her. When all that hard labor was concluded, he felt even better.
He loved her. He really did. And she broke his heart. But, simply put, they were no good for each other, and he knew it. Perhaps he had always known it. She had too much of her father in her: controlling, berating, underhanded, passive-aggressive. And he loved his Dark One power too much, and always would. Though still hurting, he hoped for her happiness with Mulan.
He found himself, more and more, though very gradually, wanting to investigate the curse with some real seriousness, who was responsible, and finding a way, if possible, to hold them to the kind of account that had long since made people even fear speaking his name.
He still had some time yet, so he spun gold at night and walked the city by day. Three weeks after his appointment with Doctor Hopper, he closed up his shop for the final time. But not before sending every single item he had gathered over the centuries back to their owners, even those he hated, and gifting those ones whose owners had since perished (far too many by his hand) to the local museum.
The local news was quick to pick up on the story, trumpeting the headline:
GOLD CLOSES UP SHOP
Multiple interviews were requested; he gave only one, with only one sentence: “Because I wanted to.” With that he magicked the cameraman and the reporter to the edge of town. He walked outside and glanced up at the sign one last time. With a swirl of his hand it turned into a cloud of gold-colored butterflies. Should one land on a Storybrooke citizen, that citizen would find themselves with a nice windfall the next day. Should one be captured by a citizen, said citizen would find themselves facing all sorts of unlucky circumstances until they released it—including those who were fortunate enough to be landed on.
“If you really want to fuck with people,” he muttered with a chuckle, “curse them with money.”
Had the theorized meta-curse led him to take all these actions? It was entirely possible. It was entirely possible that he wasn’t in his right mind, and that if he found a way to break the curse, he’d go crazy with what he’d done. He’d get all his possessions back. He’d reopen the shop. He’d be far less charitable, which to him used to be one of the worst cursewords.
With another swirl of his wrist, he magicked back home, where he hopped into the shower.
He was going out tonight—to the local nightclub.
Would he find Belle—Lacey—there? That seemed likely. He didn’t care. He put on a nice suit, scarlet pocket square to compliment the dark coat, adjusted his tie, took a deep breath, and ...
No. He’d drive there.
He pulled the Cadillac up to the entrance, where one of the doormen greeted him as he stepped out. “Mr. Gold,” said the man, surprised.
Rumpel underhanded him the keys. “See that it doesn’t get scratched.”
“Of—Of course, sir,” stammered the man, who had a better than good idea of what would likely happen to him should one appear. “Of course.”
The entrance had a queue of maybe fifteen, mostly girls and women from the Land of Untold Stories. They gawked as the doorman said over the steady thump of music emanating from inside, “Evening, Mr. Gold,” opening the red-velvet line allowing him immediately in.
The nightclub’s name was Pandora’s Box, which at least four citizens’ petitions had failed to change. The owner was the former pirate Morgan Adams, who spied him from across the circular dance floor to the front and left. The doormen must have radioed her that he had come in, because she didn’t hesitate to walk directly to him.
“Rumpelstiltskin,” she called as she drew close. “What a pleasure. What brings you to my little establishment tonight?”
Morgan Adams was a beautiful woman, mid-to-late 30s (though everyone here was pretty much older than a century, some, like him, much older), with dark brown, wavy hair pulled back behind her ears, and devilish blue eyes. She had given up pirating, rumor was, when she heard of Storybrooke and thought it might be a nice place to settle down. With some of her bounty, she opened this club. It was clear she relished the battles that she had with Mayor Mills and the more uptight members of the community over its name, especially Captain Hook, who had taken a particular dislike of her. She had met Rumpel twice at Granny’s, both times with Belle, who spat under her breath both times after she left: “Tart.”
“Because she owns a bar?”
Belle looked at him as though he’d lost his mind. “It’s the name! It’s perverted! That’s not who we are!”
“ ‘We’ meaning Storybrooke ...”
“Yes ... of course ...”
“Who exactly are we, then?” he pressed.
Belle’s gazed morphed into anger. “We’re not perverts, that’s who!”
Looking at Morgan Adams now, he said, “I thought I’d see what all the hubbub is about.”
Morgan grinned. “Liquor in the front, poker in the rear.”
“So I’ve heard.”
She patted his arm. “Don’t believe everything you hear. We’re a first-class operation. Would you like a private table, a little out of the way? What’s your pleasure, Dark One?”
He watched those on the dance floor. They all appeared to be having a good time. They had thrown off the shackles of the day and now moved and jumped and writhed freely to the music.
“I think I’d just like a spot at the bar, if you don’t mind.”
Morgan had noticed what he’d been watching, and smiled. “There’s nothing like watching beautiful people dance, is there? Come with me.”
She led him to the bar, near its left end, where the view of the dance floor was the best. There were two seats open there; she barked at the bartender, “Keep number two open, Lily. I’d like Rumpel not to be bothered.”
The bartender wheeled about, her eyes growing wide. Rumpel, for his part, was surprised as well.