Storybrooke’s cemetery was empty this time of night - no one to get in her way. Belle stood beside the Huntsman’s grave, one hand over the buried casket, and hummed a little ditty she had invented as a child.
Graham rose up to lie on the ground under her hand. And he started breathing again. He remembered being sheriff; he remembered being Huntsman; he remembered being brother of Romulus. “Who’re you?” he-they asked.
“I’m Belle,” she said. “Would you like to go home?”
“I remember dying in… in Emma’s arms.”
‘That wasn’t death,” Belle assured him. “It was more like the long sleep poisons.”
‘Never did like those. May have to change my opinion now.”
Belle shrugged. “Can you bring R- Mr. Gold to the funeral home? I really need to see him. And your brother will be with us; I’ll bring him.”
“Yeah, shouldn’t be a problem,” Graham said. “I’ll be right there”
Once Graham had gone, Belle asked, “Was that convincing enough, Sheriff Swann?”
Emma and the Nixie stepped out from the darkness. “I’d ask you how you did that, but it’s more story-stuff, isn’t it?” Emma asked.
“From there,” Belle agreed and clarified. “I was entrusted with enough to unlatch the door.”
“You’re Belle, as in ‘Beauty and the Beast’s Belle?”
Emma sighed. “Should I ask who the Beast is?”
“You may,” Belle said. “That is what my foster father called Rumplestiltskin.” As Emma was mouthing that name more to herself, Belle said to Nixie, “Thank you.”
Nixie gave a shallow bow - her legs and feet were weak, both from disuse here and an aquatic nature there. “Whatever he chooses, I felt she would want to be here.”
“So where is this door you’re here to unlatch?” Emma asked Belle.
“Part of it is in the funeral home,” Belle said.
“Let me guess - the wardrobe?”
Belle looked confused. “I don’t understand.”
The three of them found a gaggle of swans resting in the same room where the body of Thomas Kaiser had been laid out.
“How did they get in here?” Emma asked.
One swan lifted its head and informed Emma that, “We used the front door.”
On this week’s scale of Stuff That Surprised Emma, ‘talking swans’ barely registered.
“Thank you for protecting him,” Belle said. “If you would like to return, please stay.”
“We’ve discussed it,” said the third sister.
“We like flying,” the second sister said, and the swans took positions along the wall.
“They, Sheriff Swan, are the swan sisters,” Belle said, “princesses on the other side of the door.”
Belle, Emma, and Nixie were sitting comfortably in the casket room while the swan sisters sounded the cry to all who had awakened and would come -- no one else would be able to hear it -- when at last Graham returned, with Mary Margaret, Henry, and Mr. Gold in tow.
“Belle,” Mr. Gold said, half sure it was a trick. But also knowing that only one person could wield the power to do all of this - And it’s entirely in her character to anoint Belle to do it.
Belle came over to where Mr. Gold was standing and, slowly, cautiously, they embraced. Their faces were a mix of joy, relief, and a suspicion that even after all this, a hug would turn them into an inferno or a bug.
“I thought you were dead,” Gold said.
“Almost, at times.” I came close once or twice. “I met a lot of your friends,” Belle said.
“I should be worried.”
“No,” she said, and took his head in her hands and brought him down for a kiss.
“Uh, Belle, you do recall what happened the last time we tried this.”
“I do. And you have protection now.”
“Oh, I do, do I?” Gold asked with a grin in his voice. Intellectually he knew that not even the Dark One could open a doorway, bookend twins or no. Emotionally…
Belle smiled. “Yes,” and they kissed.
“Now that’s how a story’s supposed to end,” Mary Margaret said. “Uh, what’s happening?” she asked as Mr. Gold’s skin changed.
“Ready and waiting, dearie,” Rumplestiltskin said.
“It’ll have to wait, I’m afraid,” Belle said. “Alice placed instructions in my mind, and now’s the time for the next item.”
“You met Alice?” he asked as Belle turned and returned to the casket.
“I did. She’s nice.”
“She’s someone I haven’t seen since she left.”
“Who’s Alice?” Emma asked.
Mary Margaret thought, Wasn’t there a story about an Alice in early colonial Australia?
“My ex,” Mr. Gold said. “The Empress,” Rumplestiltskin said.
Belle reached into the casket and tapped Thomas on the shoulder. “Wake up, please.”
Under their breath to the ones they had come here with, May and Mr. Gold said, “Matter can be neither created nor destroyed.”
As she watched Thomas Kaiser get out of the casket, Mary Margaret asked, “You can raise the dead?” and mentally kicking herself for not remembering that law of physics.
“Not dead,” Agent Um said. “Deathlike, if you prefer.”
“Please, don’t do that again,” Belle asked her, looking in the direction Sara’s snark voice had emanated from. Of the twins - Romulus and the Huntsman - Belle asked, “Could you hold hands and lift them as high as you can, please?”
Graham looked at her. “That’s it?”
“Almost,” Belle said.
“’London Bridge’ - wait, that’s a poem, not a story,” Emma said.
“It’s also engineering,” one of the swan sisters said as Belle stood between the twins and crouched down, closing her eyes.
To Emma’s eyes, Belle was blinking in and out of existence, appearing and disappearing between the human archway and the wall opposite everyone. And her clothes in those blinks gave way to a sun-kissed weather-beaten dress. Then she stabilized herself…
And the far wall was gone, replaced with plowed fields. Urashima’s work? Belle thought momentarily.
“Is that home?” Emma asked.
“It can’t be,” Henry said. “Where’s all the palaces?”
“Nearly all are empty,” Belle said.
“Now,” Emma said.
“Yes.” Is this how it was done? Belle wondered. Growing up, it had been an article of faith that the Sheherazads had begun their rule one day after everything was created.
“And what happens when you leave? Does all of Storybrooke go with you? Or does it just vanish in a puff of smoke?”
“It remains here,” Belle said. “As does everyone who hasn’t gathered to leave. Sans magic.”
“You can’t do that,” Henry said.
“You can test your claim after I’m gone.”
“There is one rule,” Belle said to the group. “No reprisals.”
“You’re taking Regina with you?” Graham asked.
“No. She and the other founders of Storybrooke came here for a chance at retirement and its Happily Ever After. Hence, no reprisals, no agitations or insinuations.”
“Unless you care to learn a fuller meaning of ‘For as long as anyone can remember,” Rumplestiltskin said.
“You can’t do that,” Henry said.
“Oh, I can’t?”
“Your magic doesn’t work that way. You can only make deals.”
“This town is a deal,” Rumplestiltskin said. “Your rush to break the spell was a bargain of its own. And you know what happens when someone breaks a deal, Henry, as the book went into detail on that.”
Having read the book, Emma asked, “But if there’s going to be no more magic, what stops -” and stopped herself from saying ‘dealbreakers.’
“The law, perhaps, Sheriff?” Mr. Gold asked, amused. Rumplesiltskin asked, “Besides, wouldn’t it be easier for everyone all around if you showed kindness to some old women in their waning years, than risk seeing if we left just enough magic to spring traplike on deal-breakers?”
There was a knock on the door. And into the room came townspeople, to be ushered through to the other side of the passage. One of them was Urashima. One was -
“David?” Mary Margaret asked.
David Nolan got out of line to speak with her and her friends. “I’m going,” he said simply, with finality.
“What about us?”
“True love follows the ring,” he said, quoting his mother. “With or without magic, I have every confidence you’ll be okay.” But that’s the only thing I have real confidence in.
“No, you can’t go,” Henry told him, standing next to David Nolan. “You have to -”
“Oh, I remember,” Prince Charming said. “That’s the problem. Back there, the world itself was built on principles - evil could manage a holding action, but would never really win; here is different. And that’s what ruined me when I began to remember. As David Nolan, I don’t have the confidence to comit, not really; I can try, I can say I will…but when push comes to shove, I’m a pale shadow of what I am and what I can be as Prince Charming,” he said to Henry, while looking at Mary Margaret.
“And Kathryn?” Mary Margaret asked. “What about her?” We never found a body. Is she dead, or was she brought back like Mr. Kaiser and Graham?
“I don’t know. All I know I know is I need to find my place. And I don’t have a place here anymore. Too much has happened, and I’m no good to anyone if I can’t be true to my word.”
Emma wasn’t about to argue with him. So she left Mary Margaret and Henry to finish talking to David, while Emma herself made her way over to Graham, keeping out of the way of the townspeople making their way through. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Graham said. “Come to say goodbye?”
“I’d rather not. But if you’re determined to go -”
“Why the hell would I go back there? I thought you were leaving.”
Emma frowned. “Why would I leave Storybrooke? The place has been growing on me these past few months.”
“Told you it would,” Graham said.
Emma smiled, despite all the wackiness in the room. “Yes, yes you did.”
Graham grinned at her.
“You really don’t want to go through…?”
“My brother gets all the girls, I get my soul ripped out by a woman who used me as her personal wolfhound, and we haven’t even touched on why I live day to day with little forward planning.”
“We’ll work on that,” Emma said. “Wait a minute, if your brother is Romulus, then…”
“Yes,” Graham said.
“And I don’t think he really gets all the girls,” Emma said.
“No?” he asked, pointedly looking at his brother with the snark…
“You’re going?” Thomas asked Sara.
“I’m a snark, of course I am,” Sara said, though she let her fingertips touch the back of Thomas’ hands.
“You’re not a snark,” he told her. The two of them shared a laugh at that.
“More than that, yes.”
“And there’s nothing I can say that would change your mind?” Thomas asked.
“Compulsion spells would never work,” Sara said.
“That wasn’t what I had in mind.”
“My loyalties are to Midas and to Her Imperial Majesty,” said Sara. “You and I, Romulus, have been enemies longer than some people in this room have existed.
“That we have,” Romulus said. “And while Rome wasn’t built in a day, our human relationship in a way was.”
“A house of cards,” she said. “Easy enough to set aside when memory returned.”
“There was that sting, yes,” Thomas said, one hand on where Sara had stabbed him deadlike.
“Go,” Graham called over to his brother Romulus. “Have fun, you two.”
“It would seem I’m not the only one who holds out hope for the two of us,” Romulus said to Snark.
“It would never work,” she said.
“Would you object to the Thomas in me simply worshipping you?”
Fingering where scar tissue would have been had magic not been involved, “Are you sure he understands what would be involved?” Sara asked.
Romulus smiled. “We were always fast learners.”
“That we were.”
And so on. Those who were staying and knew what was happening, they said their goodbyes to those who were departing. Those who did not know what was transpiring, they had already been said goodbye to.
And with the crossing of the swan sisters, few townsfolk were left who had not gone to the side they wanted.
“Just you two now,” Graham said, not counting his brother - The door can’t leave early after all, right?
“Go through, Belle, Rumplestiltskin,” the Nixie said. “The other side is as empty as it will ever be. Enjoy.”
“Once we go,” Rumplestiltskin asked, “the clock tower’s bell will strike and the residual magic be erased?”
“As my River Demon neighbors have said, the moving finger unwrites.”
“We’ll miss you all,” Belle said.
“Then remake us over there,” the Nixie said.
“We can do that?” You will die, Nixie, I wasn't wrong about that - but I never said when.
With a smile, Nixie said, “It seems you’ve got a very eager apprentice, scorcerer.”
Rumplestiltskin made a face. “My son was the Sorcerer’s apprentice, not mine. And regarding Belle, the word you’re looking for is energetic.”
I have done a lot. More than I ever thought I would do, Belle thought. Remembering that scene from her childhood, I am the second candle, Belle thought. To Romulus and Snark, “Do you want to stay or go?” Belle asked.
“We’ll go,” Romulus said.
Belle extended an arm. “I’ll hold it. Do what you need to.”
“Thank you, Majesty,” Romulus said and went over to Emma. “Sheriff, I need to you act as witness.”
“Okay,” Emma said. Veritable gods and who-not, and I’m his pick? O-kay.
Romulus took out a pen and paper, wrote a Latin phrase on it, re-wrote it in English -- I appoint Ruby to own my properties and my businesses -- and signed it both Romulus and Thomas Kaiser, then handed it to Emma. “Take care of my brother,” he told her.
And then Romulus was standing with Graham, saying their goodbyes.
And then Thomas Kaiser and Sara Um were gone, having passed over to the other side.
“Farewell Sheriff, Sheriff,” Mr. Gold said. “Neither of you made it easy;” and Rumplestiltskin said, “And that’s what made it fun.”
Mr. Gold added, “And Henry?”
“Yeah?” Henry said.
“Goodbye, everyone,” Belle said. “And thank you, Huntsman,” she said to Graham, and motioning him out of the way.
“Glad to help,” Graham said.
Belle and Rumplestiltskin left. The door closing and dissolving after them.
On Earth, all the Storybrooke magic died.
“And this is a story nobody is going to read,” Emma said.