Rumple + his Protective Instincts
One of my favourite under-appreciated moments of 2.19 is Rumple (on seeing that Robin has a bow and arrow and is about to fire it into a confined space) quickly moving from his position beside Belle to draw fire away from her.
He vanishes clear to the other side of the room and that arrow, aimed far too close to Belle for his comfort, moves with him. He shifts Robin’s attention and weapon as far from Belle as he can in that moment, and when Robin explains that (because of magic) he cannot miss Rumple takes an arrow to the chest so he can quickly end this nonsense, remove the weapon from the equation, and make Robin pay for his risk-taking.
This comes just after Rumple’s flailing because Belle cries at night and he’s trying desperately to act like he doesn’t care about her even as he’s clearly feeling certain things.
You are sad and that makes me sad too; how do I deal with these umcomfy concerned feelings because this feels awful; umm, have a pillow, just don’t be sad okay; I don’t know what to do; I want to help but please, please do not notice that I want to help because I’m not supposed to care.
There’s also the incongruity of him being all I am a very bad monster who will make you sleep in the dungeon but he leaves the door wide open when he hears something. It doesn’t naturally occur to him to lock her in; this is exactly the reason Belle has the chance to follow him, but once again (unfortunately) her curiosity/eagerness places her in a potentially dangerous situation.
To say Rumple is pissed off about Robin even daring to threaten them would be an understatement.
His anger at Robin isn’t just because he invaded his home, shot him and tried to steal from him, it’s because Robin invaded their home, could have shot Belle and could have easily been there to steal her away too.
(Later on, when Belle frees Robin, he indeed does try to take her with him. Rumple’s fears are not unfounded, which means while the worst doesn’t always happen to him far too often it comes too close to happening for comfort.)
All this upset on top of his being generally distrustful and taking things out on Robin because Robin reminds him of himself and his own ‘folly’ is why he’s so angry that this happened. People who steal magic never have good intentions! Except Rumple did when he stole the dagger, just as Robin has good intentions with the wand. Rumple was/is living under a terrible curse but that was the price he had to pay to get enough control to save his son (and all the other children) from dying as child soldiers. Robin wants to save his wife and child and despite how casual he was acting on being discovered he was, like Rumple was, desperate for any means of saving his family.
When Belle insists he shouldn’t kill Robin for trying to save his wife and child Rumple misses on purpose because he understands Robin’s plight and Belle is right. He doesn’t need to be so harsh to Robin, and he doesn’t have to be so harsh on himself either. Sometimes you go as far as it takes to save your family and you can’t beat yourself up over it forever.
Belle’s message, whether she fully understands it at that point, knowing little of his past, isn’t just be more forgiving of others, it’s be kinder and more forgiving of yourself. Open yourself up and let reason (Belle) in and your life will be better for it. Which is why we see him give her the library he made her at the end of the episode, he’s realised Belle has faith he can do more than he thought he was capable of, and after that hug he has hope too, that she can’t hate him, and that there could be more there if he continues to open up to her.
This encounter with Robin is the catalyst for all that comes after but the thing that gets me? Even at the end of the ep Rumple wouldn’t be able to admit to doing this, to protecting her, because the thing that scares him most is Belle knowing that he cares. It’s absurd but he’s turned absurdity into an art form, and this is precisely why Belle doesn’t take his bluster seriously at all. She knows he’s full of it, she can see right through him, and really, he couldn’t be more grateful of that fact because admitting it is still too much. It took losing Belle for him to admit what she meant to him, but that’s another meta entirely.