The fire had already gone out hours ago, but Belle still sat in the chair in front of the fireplace. In the past, it had been Rumpelstiltskin’s chair, but since his death, it had been the only place in the Dark Castle where she hadn’t felt so alone. Sometimes she imagined she could hear him spin behind her, or there was that faint smell of magic that gave her the hope that he had found a way to return to her.
But she knew how silly that hope was. There was no returning from death. And Rumpelstiltskin had known this as well, which was why he had left her a note, written months before he had died and left her alone in the Dark Castle.
Not even the books had been able to comfort Belle, and the only thing she had read, over and over again, was that bit of parchment. Each time she read it, she could hear his voice in her head and then it was like he was still here. But not only that, each time she read it, she considered the alternative he offered her.
She could remain where she was and mourn her loss, or she could grasp the second chance he offered her; the chance which he had believed she deserved.
She could go back in time and undo everything. She could stop the spinner from turning into a Dark One, and thus she would be able to stop him in his quest for power, his son would not run away and the curse would not be enacted. Storybrooke would then never be and everybody’s life would be much simpler.
Rumpelstiltskin had blamed himself for many things, but with him gone, it sometimes seemed unfair to Belle that he had trusted her to clean up that mess after him.
If she were to return in time, there would be no coming back for her. She would be stuck there, forever, and she would not have him back. Yes, there would be a Rumpelstiltskin, but he would hardly be a shadow of the man she had known. And Rumpelstiltskin had left a very clear remark in his note: he could not predict the exact moment or place she would travel back to. It was possible that Rumpelstiltskin was younger than her and unmarried, or maybe he would already be a single father - or anything in between. And maybe she would land in Rumpelstiltskin’s kingdom, or maybe three kingdoms further. Time-travel was a tricky sort of magic that hardly any wizards or witches understood. Yet Rumpelstiltskin had given it his all to make this spell as exact as possible.
But it still required a big leap of faith from Belle.
For months, she had considered how to go on without him and now that she found herself without an answer, contemplating the lives that had been lost because of the curse and its aftermath, Rumpelstiltskin’s spell was becoming more alluring to her by the day.
Life in the Dark Castle had become depressing and many days Belle could not even bring herself to even open up the curtains. And so, after growing tired of the darkness and loneliness, she started doing what Rumpelstiltskin had described in his note. She began gathering the items he had figured she would need and she took a little book which Rumpelstiltskin had written for her, leaving her with information on important dates in his life, as well as a map of the world during the time that he had lived there.
She had seen a lot of the world after their return to the Enchanted Forest, but now it was time to take the next big step in her life, to travel not to a specific place, but to a specific time that was alien to her. She would go back to the man she had loved, to look for a second chance, even if he had no idea who she was.