Chapter 1: Prologue
Once Upon a Time, in a faraway world, there lived an Evil Queen. Her reign extended to all of the Enchanted Forest, and she was feared by all who lived within its borders, except for one man, or one monster… her tutor, Rumplestiltskin.
Long before the queen or her teacher had ever been born, or before anyone had called the place “The Enchanted Forest”, that same place had been swarmed by Giants. When they moved to live in the clouds thousands of years ago, humans started building their own kingdoms below, and for a long while there was peace between the two races.
As a token of good will, the Giants gave the humans five Gems of Life. Each Gem of Life would make the earth around it more fertile and would give increased health and lifespan to the humans in its proximity.
The Gems were distributed evenly over the world, and one was given to each kingdom: Arendelle in the north-west, the Empire in the north-east, Camelot in the south-west, Agrabah in the south-east, and the Enchanted Forest in the middle of it all.
The peace did not last though, and when mankind and giants finally began to fight, that war lasted over a hundred years.
After the war between the last of the Giants and mankind, the Giants went extinct, but their gems and beans continued to work.
Over the past years, Queen Regina has tried to gain control over the gems. She was able to persuade the rulers of Camelot and Arendelle to trade away their gems for other magical objects, but Agrabah and the Empire were not as easily convinced to give up their gems in return for other riches. Their lands had always been on rather infertile soil, and without those gems, food would become scarce and their people would starve. Queen Regina was unable to convince them to trade their gems away, and so one day she did what everybody had feared since her quest had begun: she stole the gem of Agrabah. Without its gem, crops and orchards withered to dust within minutes, and the people were forced to flee.
The Enchanted Forest would not take in these refugees though, for Queen Regina had built a massive wall not too far from the border of their kingdom, and so the poor people of Agrabah were forced to run to the Empire instead, the only land that still had their Gem of Life and was willing to care for them. They took in the refugees and prepared for war, but one thing was for certain: this war would not be won by soldiers. They would need stealth and intellect in order to outsmart the Evil Queen and figure out her next move.
Nobody dared to spy on the Evil Queen, but she had an ally that seemed to know more than most. After all, the Dark One always knew everything that went on everywhere. If someone could get the monster to talk, perhaps they’d finally know how to end this war.
Chapter 2: In the Wrong Place, At the Wrong Time
Princess Belle had been on a diplomatic mission in the Empire when the Gem of Life of Agrabah had been stolen.
She and her father had heard of the incoming flow of refugees and had stood by the Emperor’s side in his palace when princess Jasmine and royal vizier Jafar had given their account of what had happened precisely.
“We hadn't expected this - not like this, at least...” Jasmine had explained, her hands trembling from emotion. “The holy guards are all dead now. She was alone – the Evil Queen – and she fought each and every one of them and then took the gem from its pedestal, and whisked away again. She had undone every protective spell that Jafar had ever put upon it - in less than an hour.”
The royal vizier had initially looked upset and angry with himself, but since a few minutes, he’d been looking at Belle, and his dark eyes had narrowed in anger. At Jasmine’s mention of his name though, he tore his gaze away from hers and spoke to the Emperor as well. “I was foolish. I had been invited by the Dark One for an exchange of information. He told me that I needed to fortify my spells, for the Evil Queen was very close to breaking them. He was stalling and I didn't realize it. But in that very moment, she was already stealing the gem. I’m positive that they were working in tandem – that he was distracting me on her behalf.”
“Jafar,” the Emperor sat up straight in his throne, his long white beard almost touching the ground. “Please, go see the Dragon. He can use your magical expertise. It is of utmost importance that we protect our Gem of Life now. Without it, neither of our people will survive. Perhaps you and the Dragon can be a match for the Evil Queen and the Dark One.”
Jafar almost turned away, before he paused and suddenly gazed back at Belle.
“May I ask what you are intending to do with these nobles from the Enchanted Forest?”
Belle could not help but step a little closer to her father, knowing that they were on the wrong side of the border in this conflict. Home was very far right now, and she hated to consider it.
The Emperor also looked at King Maurice and Princess Belle, and Maurice quickly said: “Please, believe us, we have no bond with the Queen. We all live in the Enchanted Forest, but we are just as clueless as you as to why Regina is doing this.”
“You seem to be on a first-name-basis with her though,” the dark wizard said in a tone that was as cold as ice.
“It was foolish to come here at this time to discuss a new trade route,” the Emperor said in a gentler tone to Belle and Maurice. “But it seems we all underestimated the Evil Queen’s desire to get her hands on these gems. We should have read the signs. We knew of her wall for a while, yet we refused to think she would use that wall to keep our starving people out of her land – and yours.”
“If there is anything we can do…” Belle said carefully, not sure what they could do at this moment.
Jasmine also seemed to feel some form of sympathy for the two nobles from the Enchanted Forest and had a sympathetic gaze in her eyes, but Jafar did not share that sentiment.
“You won’t be able to set up trade routes with our kingdom if the Evil Queen officially declares war,” Jafar continued harshly. “I bet that those people from Agrabah and the Empire that are still within the Enchanted Forest right now might never return at all. We are in no position to fight a war if we’re hardly able to feed our soldiers. The only thing valuable you can give us in exchange for your lives, is information, and it appears you have none.”
Belle gulped. It was a death threat, she was not so stupid that she did not hear the anger in the dark wizard’s voice.
“They might still be of use to us,” the Emperor said softly, looking at Belle and King Maurice for a long while. “They can gain trust where we can’t because of the color of their skin. And let us not forget that these people have always been allies and never enemies. I do not wish to make them such.”
“Perhaps Regina knew this,” King Maurice said, more to Belle than to the Emperor. “She has wanted to control Navarre for a very long time. Perhaps she knew we were here, and decided this was the perfect way for her to get both our country and the gem, all at the same time. They won’t allow us past the wall again.”
Jafar huffed at those words, feeling no sympathy for their misfortune, and the Emperor continued: “Jafar, if you could go and assist the Dragon now… The longer you are here, the more at risk our gem is.”
Without saying another word, Jafar turned around and left the room, but by no means did Belle feel more at ease now. They were simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. She doubted she’d see her home again soon.
Chapter 3: An Easy Deal
Ever since the gem had been stolen from the palace of Agrabah, Rumplestiltskin had kept a close eye on Regina. Her desire to retrieve the last gem had never been greater, but the same could be said for the opposition. Their desire to hold onto that gem was just as great.
The combined spells of Jafar and the Dragon had left her with quite a difficult task and Regina was unable to break into the Emperor’s palace just yet. What Regina needed, was information on how to get to the gem, but she lacked the spies to help her with this.
Rumplestiltskin himself wasn’t particularly useful in that regard either. He had had a good bond with Jafar since before he had become the Royal Vizier, but that was over now. The Grand Vizier had not even spoken to him since he had allowed himself to be distracted by the Dark One, and he knew that the odd relationship between himself and Jafar would probably never be the same. He could not count on Jafar for information anymore, and he had no allies within the Empire to help with that either.
When one year after the gem had been stolen, he received an invitation from the Royal Vizier to visit him in his new working chambers in the Empire, he feared that he was walking into a trap. Yet at the same time, the dark wizard had expressed a desire for diplomacy, and he had never before been a match for the Dark One.
So when Rumplestiltskin left the Dark Castle, he truly believed that he didn’t have anything to fear from Jafar.
In his note there had been clear instructions on where he needed to go, and he had no trouble locating the new tower that had been built just for Jafar, outside of the Emperor’s palace.
Around the tower, many tents were set up – and it seemed like refugees from Agrabah were now living there. Even after a year, they had not dared to settle down, believing that perhaps, due to some miracle, their gem would be returned to them and they could return home. Rumplestiltskin knew how unlikely that was to happen, and made sure no one spotted him as he walked between the tents in dark robes, covering his face from their sight.
As one little child almost bumped into him, he looked down and even smiled, but the child gasped, and Rumplestiltskin knew that the kid had only seen a monster. He quickly moved on, but behind him, he could hear the toddler’s cries of horror while his mother comforted him.
On other occasions, he would even have worn his ghastliest outfit, but today he rather remained unspotted. After all – not even Regina knew he was here, and he preferred to keep it that way. He wore dark robes, and black leather pants with a matching silk blouse underneath. He kept his scaly appearance as hidden as he could from the people that sat in front of their tents. Luckily for him, they were too exhausted and hungry to pay much attention to him.
When he arrived at the wooden door of the tower, he noticed how it was open already, and as he walked inside, he headed up the stone, spiral staircase. Jafar’s magic could be felt all around him, but he did not sense a trap, not even as he finally reached the top floor and emerged from the staircase into a wide, round room.
He lowered his dark hood as he looked around.
It appeared like Jafar had moved many of his old trinkets with him to the tower, and besides cauldrons and bookcases, there were plenty of cabinets and desks around that held even more clutter and potions. From the ceiling, there hung six cages, and while he spotted a flying monkey in one cage and a tiger in another, the other cages were empty, save for one.
The moment he had entered the room, the young woman in the cage had turned around and held onto the bars as she leaned her forehead against them, looking at him with an exhausted expression.
Her brown hair was messy, her lips were dry, and she had a nasty gash of dried blood on her forehead. Her cheek was swollen and bruised, like she had received a beating. She wore nothing more but a very thin white undergarment, which showed blood stains on her arms, her side and her legs.
But despite her clear injuries, what struck him the most, were her bright blue eyes and her pale skin. She wasn’t from Agrabah or from the Empire. She was from the Enchanted Forest, and though he did not know how, she had fallen into the hands of Jafar, and it seemed like she was only around for him to take his frustration out on.
He wanted to ignore her, because after all, he was here on business and it wasn’t like he wasn’t used to cruelty or blood, but a part of him felt more sympathy than he wanted to admit. She was of the wrong color to be in this area of the world, and he knew that it was cruel to keep her in that cage, which was hardly big enough for her to lay down in. She looked like she was starving, and he could imagine that Jafar didn’t take to feeding her properly. After all: the Empire and the people of Agrabah were rationing their supplies, and there was probably not much food for them to give to enemies of their states.
Jafar was nowhere to be seen yet, and Rumplestiltskin did not feel his presence either, and so he looked around the room, folding his arms over one another before he looked at the girl again. She was still staring.
He didn’t want to share his gaze with hers, and so he snapped: “Did no one ever teach you it’s impolite to stare?”
She gave the faintest shrug, averting her eyes for only a moment as she replied in a hoarse and quiet tone: “Do your worst.”
There was no feistiness left in her voice. She sounded defeated already, and he felt slightly offended by the fact that she had the guts to challenge him to hurt her. Should he? If he killed her, it would be an act of compassion to her… But also something that would anger Jafar.
“Is Jafar around?” he asked instead, and he saw how she rolled her eyes.
“Do I look like his secretary? I don’t know.”
He raised an eyebrow, honestly surprised that she still had a sense of humor after all this – even if it was a very dark sense of humor that could have put herself in harm’s way.
He remained quiet for a while, not really seeing an opening to respond to her, but she suddenly beat him to it, for the first time truly averting her gaze as she instead looked at her hands.
“I must apologize for snapping like that. I meant no offense.”
Surprised by those words, he took a few slow steps closer to the cage that hung from the ceiling, looking up at her.
“Dearie, I hardly think you’d be able to offend me in your current state,” he said softly, and as she looked into his eyes this time, he noticed how much more emotion she dared to display now. She even seemed close to crying.
Even the Dark One wasn’t immune to empathy. Or perhaps he was, but Rumplestiltskin certainly wasn’t.
“Have you been on this side of the wall since the war began?” he asked, and as she nodded, he continued: “I’m sorry. I really am.”
He felt his heart race as she looked at him with a truly surprised gaze, as though those were the last words she had expected to hear from him.
They both startled a little by a cough on the other side of the room, and as they looked up, they saw Jafar sitting behind his desk, a scroll casually opened in his hands as though he had been sitting there for hours already.
He hadn’t, and Rumplestiltskin wasn’t impressed by that entrance. It was clear that Jafar had been studying him in that regard.
He stepped away from the cage as though he had merely been bored, but Jafar had seen enough.
“If you want her, there’s a price to pay,” he teased the Dark One.
Rumplestiltskin’s eyes narrowed to tiny slits. “Why would I be concerned with the well-being of one silly girl. We’re at war.”
“Shame,” Jafar replied, and he slid the scroll towards Rumplestiltskin. “I was hoping you’d like her enough to release the following prisoners of war to us. I couldn’t care less about her well-being.”
Rumplestiltskin took the scroll from Jafar’s hands and read a dozen names on them – names that didn’t really ring a bell to him.
“Who are these people?”
“Refugees from Agrabah and the Empire, stuck on the wrong side of the wall.”
Rumplestiltskin tilted an eyebrow at the royal vizier. “They’re probably dead. Regina placed an order to kill everyone from Agrabah and the Empire that was still in the Enchanted Forest. Didn’t she put their heads on spikes in front of her wall? I doubt I’ll be able to return even one of them.”
“Oh they’re alive. I know that much. I just can’t get to them myself, that’s the problem.”
Now the Dark One was truly intrigued, and he frowned as Jafar offered him a feather and some ink.
“You can sign the bottom of this scroll if you wish to know where they are hiding and who is harboring them. You will be promising to return them to me, alive and well, and in its place you will learn of a traitor to the Evil Queen, and that is something that interests you, does it not?”
Rumplestiltskin nodded briefly, then started reading the contract. It mentioned the promise that he would return the twelve refugees once the name of the traitor would be given. But it did not mention anything in regards to the girl.
“Were you only joking when you told me I could get her too?” he wondered out loud, pointing towards the prisoner, who immediately looked up again, a slightly surprised expression in her eyes.
Jafar reached out his hand to take the scroll from Rumplestiltskin. “You have a purpose for her?”
Rumplestiltskin giggled. “I need a caretaker!” he admitted, before he moved his hands a dozen inches apart and added: “For my rather large… estate…”
Jafar raised both his eyebrows and paused a moment before he shook his head and added a few more phrases to the contract.
As Rumplestiltskin turned to the girl, he saw how she looked a little alarmed now, like she wasn’t entirely certain she wanted to go with him after he had made that innuendo. He quite liked the look of confusion on her face. He honestly loved messing with people – but that didn’t mean that he was actually going to harm her in any way. It would be fun to have someone around to tease and play with.
When Jafar handed the scroll back to him, Rumplestiltskin read it once more before he signed it, and the vizier immediately said: “The traitor is known as Granny in the Enchanted Forest.”
Rumplestiltskin sighed. “Plenty of grandmothers are known as that.”
“This one is also known as the widow Lukas,” Jafar continued with a sly smile. “Grandmother to a werewolf, if I’m not mistaken.”
As Rumplestiltskin’s mouth dropped a little bit, Jafar realized that he knew who she was.
“You should find the refugees in a cave near her house. Will you return them to me?”
Rumplestiltskin didn’t even respond. He whisked away right then and there.
Jafar sat back in his chair and looked at Belle, offering her a small smile – perhaps the first smile since they had met.
While Rumplestiltskin couldn’t see, she smiled back.
Chapter 4: Taking Care of the Estate
When Rumplestiltskin returned a few minutes later, he wasn’t alone. Twelve people, most of them from Agrabah but a few also from the Empire, stood incredibly confused in the middle of Jafar’s tower. Some of them looked at the tiger in the cage, others at the flying monkey, others at Belle, and a few looked at Jafar.
“Welcome to the Empire,” Jafar spoke to them. “Please head down the stairs. I’m sure you will find plenty of people in the camps below that will help you reunite with your families.”
Confused, but knowing better than to question the Grand Vizier, they headed down the stairs, and Rumplestiltskin headed to Belle’s cage, smiling widely as he looked at her.
She gulped, looking at his colored teeth and everything that he was, her chest feeling a little tight as he put his hands around the bars of her cage. Everyone called him a monster. Her chest felt tight as she realized that she was being handed from one to another. She hoped they were wrong about him.
“You will be coming home with me now,” he said playfully. “Say goodbye to mister Jafar now.”
She frowned, not sure what to say, and as she looked at Jafar and saw his amused expression, she held her head high before she tore her gaze away from him again and said: “Goodbye, Jafar.”
“Anything else?” Rumplestiltskin asked, but Jafar shook his head.
“I think we’re good for now,” the Vizier said in an icy tone. “Just one word of warning: don’t get it in your head to distract me next time Regina wants to steal a Gem of Life.”
Rumplestiltskin only giggled at those words before he playfully replied: “Warning appreciated.”
He suddenly took a firm hold of Belle’s wrist, the cage still between the two of them as he stared at her and she stared back at him, a little afraid of what was to follow.
Before either could speak, they were whirled away in a cloud of purple smoke.
When Belle appeared in a large, dark room, the first thing she noticed was how she was no longer sitting on her knees, but standing. Aware of the ache in her legs, she almost fell right then and there, but Rumplestiltskin was still by her side and supported her as she stumbled.
“Easy now,” he said as he held her with one arm wrapped around her back. “Come, have a seat.”
She was truly surprised by how gentle his tone was as he led her towards the one fireplace in the room, and it blazed brighter as they neared it. The large sofa in front of it was big enough for the two of them to sit on.
While she sat down, she moved about a little, no longer used to sitting on something as comfortable as a sofa. Rumplestiltskin took off his dark cloak and made it magically disappear before he turned back to her, revealing the dark clothing underneath.
Unable to contain her curiosity, Belle looked around. The room was pink – with many beautiful paintings on the walls, and with all the velvet curtains closed. There was a spinning wheel in the corner of the room, and many other trinkets on pedestals around them. The large table in the center of the room only had one chair, and it was clear that this was his living room – where the Dark One himself spent most of his time.
Belle had expected a dark dungeon, filled with candles, corpses, cobwebs and cauldrons – not… this.
Without a word, he suddenly offered her a glass of water, and she greedily took it, finishing all of it in one go, closing her eyes as she did so.
He wasn’t upset by her crude behavior. She had been starved – tortured, probably – and he wanted to see how soon he could get her on her feet again.
“Let’s fix you up,” the Dark One continued, and as he raised his hand towards her face, he realized how she jerked back for a moment at the sudden gesture.
As he slowed down his movement, however, the startled expression on her face disappeared, and she even leaned in a little bit when his hand glowed purple to heal her.
Soon there was no more blood, and he realized how perfectly symmetrical her beautiful face was now that it wasn’t covered in bruises.
She was breathing softly, her breath caressing the skin of his hand as he healed a small scratch on her chin, and once he was completely done with her face, he looked down the rest of her body.
Her white undergarments didn’t leave that much to the imagination, and the spots of blood betrayed where she had been hurt. He didn’t need to see her bare skin in order to heal the wounds underneath, and as his hand ghosted over her undergarment, Belle’s gaze followed his own, her heart beating rapidly as she realized that this monster had a gentle side.
She wondered how long that gentle side would last.
As he healed the last of her wounds and her undergarments were a spotless white again, he looked into her eyes once more.
“Are you injured anywhere else? Do you have any other aches?” he wondered.
She slowly shook her head and smiled shyly. “Thank you so much for taking care of me. I already feel a lot better.”
He smiled in return as he leaned back in the sofa, looking rather relaxed now. “Can’t expect my caretaker to take care of anything when she’s hurting, can I?”
He knew that he was being gentler with her than he had been with anyone else in centuries, but still it surprised him when she suddenly blushed and cast down her gaze, biting her lip for a small moment.
The way her cheeks were now tinted pink was endearing to him, and when she moved closer to him on the sofa, he did not back away, though he was curious what was going through her mind.
She put her hand on his leg, and this was such a strange gesture for anyone to make, that he wasn’t sure what was going on. Not many people had touched him willingly – and he wasn’t just speaking from his time as the Dark One. He was completely mesmerized by her, and wasn’t immediately aware of her hand as it traveled up his leg.
But then, he became very aware of how her hand teased the bulge in his pants, how she applied a firm pressure to the leather while she sensed him out. His body could not help but respond almost instantaneously, and he grew harder despite how tight those pants were.
Looking at her face, he saw how her cheeks were still pink and she licked her lips as she looked at the bulge in his pants with half-lidded eyes. She wasn’t looking at his face – if she would have, she would have seen how completely shocked he was by what she was doing.
As one of her hands tried to move the hem of his pants up, the other disappeared underneath, seeking out his erection. The moment her skin touched his, he let out the softest moan – which immediately drew her attention.
Looking into each other’s eyes, he could see how eager she looked, and she had not expected how out-of-this-world his expression was. Like he had expected anything but this sensation.
“Perhaps it would be easier if you’d lower your pants a bit?” she suggested carefully, and though he still wasn’t sure what she was doing precisely – or why she was doing it – he could not get enough words over his tongue to stop her. He did not want to stop her.
Nodding like an idiot, he waved his hand and it was enough to lower his pants to his knees.
As Belle moved her hand over his length, her heart only started racing faster. She was glad that it wasn’t twelve inches, but at the same time she hoped she could please him without any difficulty. The last thing she wanted was for him to feel like he was dealing with an amateur – even if she was.
She hoped she could at least please him without making a fool of herself. Reminding herself of everything she had ever read on the subject, she grabbed a firm hold of him before she started jerking him off, slowly at first, but then slightly faster once she realized she wasn’t hurting him with it.
Confused and uncertain about what was going on, Rumplestiltskin had no heart to stop the small beauty by his side. Was this her way of thanking him for getting her out of Jafar’s clutches? It would be rude to interrupt her then. Not to mention that not even his wildest dreams had ever predicted anything like this happening. It felt wonderful, and he licked his lips before he parted them again, his breathing shallow as he forgot his usual composure.
As he looked at her face, he realized that she was very focused on his anatomy down there, and not as much on his expression, and as she lowered her face to his member, his eyes grew large. No one had ever…
He moved his head back as her wet lips wrapped around his length, her tongue teasing him more than anyone ever had before.
Not even Milah…
“Oh Gods…” he whispered, his breathing heavy as she continued to move her mouth over him, taking him in deeper each time.
Looking down to his lap, he saw the messy brown curls of her hair bop up and down, and he could not help but look at her small figure by his side. She was skinny – probably starved from being in the Empire for so long – but other than that she had soft skin, beautiful hair – and those eyes… Even if he could not see them right now, he realized that she was everything he could want in a woman. He could not imagine not wanting her to do this.
The idea that she was his now was enough for him to feel his climax approach.
“Yes,” he whispered. “Almost…”
She moved faster over him, and he moaned a few times, feeling the point of no return and moaning loudly as he eventually spilled his seeds, her mouth still wrapped deeply around his member.
He wasn’t aware of what she was doing straight away, but just as he considered that his cum could not taste very good, she had already gulped it all away, and she was licking his sensitive member clean.
As she got up again and licked her lips, he looked at her with an amazed expression.
She seemed shy, and wondered: “Was that good to you?”
He grinned and nodded, surprised she would ask that of him.
“More than good,” he replied with a smile on his face. “I had not expected this,” he added honestly.
She seemed to appreciate that praise, and beamed proudly.
“Well… I did promise you I would take care of your…” She moved her hands a dozen inches apart. “…estate.”
She had a very playful gaze in her eyes, and he felt his breath hitch as he realized why she had done this.
She had misunderstood.
He had never meant…
His mind was racing now. He had thought he could employ her as a caretaker – as a maid of sorts – but she… she thought he had meant…
It would be awkward to ask her to do his laundry and to prepare him his daily tea after that amazing blowjob. She honestly thought she had struck a deal as some sort of a… sex slave? Was that what she thought she was?
Pulling up his pants again, he straightened his black shirt as well and rubbed his face, hoping he looked at least a little bit composed again.
“What’s your name?” he suddenly wondered, realizing that he had no idea what he could even call her.
“Belle,” she replied with a smile, still looking proud of herself.
“Belle,” he replied, liking the sound of her name on his lips. Words could not express how amazed he was by her. After enduring hell in the Empire, she had managed to make him forget the hell he was living himself. For a moment, he hadn’t felt like a monster.
She was a welcome guest in his house, if only for that reason.
“You must be hungry,” he acknowledged. “And perhaps wanting a bit of a change of taste as well? I can’t imagine my cum was particularly satisfying to your taste buds…”
She chuckled. “To be honest, it was quite alright. I mean… it’s not poisonous because you’re the Dark One or anything, is it?”
There was that dark sense of humor again. He grinned. She was witty, and braver than most. “If it is, I’m certain you’ll realize within the next few hours.”
Another chuckle escaped from her lips, and she followed him as he got up and headed towards the kitchen.
“No worries though,” he assured her. “I’ll make sure to give you an antidote. I think you’ve earned that much in return for your services.”
“Sex is a good way to get information,” Mulan had told her.
It seemed like the warrior hated having this conversation, like the idea alone that she was encouraging Belle to have sex with anyone was something that disgusted her.
“Not to mention that the Dark One isn’t a particularly appealing man. He probably hasn’t had a partner in centuries. If you give him what he hasn’t had in so long, he’s unlikely to send you away.”
“Are you sure?” Belle asked, frowning in doubt.
The warrior nodded. “I’ve been around enough men in my life to know what goes through their head in that regard. They aren’t overly picky. Even the Dark One probably has urges like that.”
“Did you ever meet him?” Belle wondered, but Mulan just shook her head.
“I’ve heard about him from Jafar though. And the Dragon has met him too, but he never talks about it, really. The Dark One has a scaly skin, rotten teeth, and apparently he is smaller and thinner than most men. If he wouldn’t be the Dark One, he’d probably look fragile.”
“Smaller than me?” Belle wondered, but Mulan just chuckled and shook her head.
“No, probably not. Jafar didn’t use the word ‘tiny’, after all.”
Belle smiled gently at that, and Mulan put down a dozen books besides Belle’s bedroll.
“These books have all the information on sex you could possibly want. It’s the best way to prepare you for this without actually giving you real men to practice on.”
Belle looked up in alarm, but Mulan quickly raised her hands.
“No worries, Belle. That’s not something we have considered, and I won’t allow it.”
Belle breathed out a small sigh of relief.
Mulan admitted: “We may be forcing you to do this, but we do not want to destroy your spirit or make you suffer. Just… prepare yourself. I can’t teach you how to handle a weapon now, and it would hardly be of use to you. But sex can be a weapon too – but I can’t really train you for that.”
Belle nodded, understanding that the warrior was too honorable to use those tactics. Mulan was probably still a virgin herself – and the way sex seemed to disgust her made Belle think she had no interest in it at all.
“I understand,” Belle said. “Even if he’s a monster, he must have a weakness. It might be the same as that of many regular men.”
Mulan nodded slowly. “You’re very brave, to even accept this so quickly. I wouldn’t be so calm about trying it out with anyone, leave alone the Dark One. Are you not repulsed by the idea alone?”
Belle shrugged and shook her head.
“Not really,” she admitted. “It’s not like I want to die a virgin. And we all must make sacrifices in war. I’m sure you’ve made some as well, but probably of a different sort.”
Mulan smiled and nodded, glad that Belle understood. She would be great for the task at hand, or at least she hoped so.
“Even if I am a prisoner here right now, I’m on your side in this. The Evil Queen has no right to those gems. I will do what I must to get the information we need from the Dark One. If sex is what will make him trust me, that’s what I’ll give him.”
“Your sacrifices will not be in vain,” Mulan said in a determined tone. “When you succeed, you will become the most useful and trusted ally of all. We will protect you. But you have to make it back to us.”
Belle nodded, and Mulan smiled before she left Belle’s cell again, locking the door behind her as Belle took the first book, a rather explicit image on the cover already.
She could feel how her blush spread, and she couldn’t help but chuckle. Even if the subject she would have to try this on was a monster of sorts, the idea still made her giddy. She had imagined this sort of thing for too long to be disgusted by it – even if her lover would be the Dark One.
She could definitely do this.
Chapter 5: The Dark One's Gifts
He watched her as she ate, not recalling ever seeing anyone enjoy food with such a joyful expression. She savored the flavors of bread, cheese, potatoes, veal, carrots and tomatoes like she had never been fed before. Perhaps it was because of what she had just done to him, but watching her enjoy her food like that was almost orgasmic.
“I can’t tell you what a welcome variation this is to the rice and curry I’ve had over the past year,” she said with her mouth still half-full. “I don’t think I’ve had meat or decent vegetables in months.”
She didn’t wait for him to reply, but immediately took another spoonful of the veal in her mouth, and he smiled as he stood against the kitchen cabinet, just watching her.
He considered giving her something else to wear, but at the same time he quite enjoyed seeing her in those white undergarments. Not to mention that he wasn’t sure what sort of clothes to give her. What would be appropriate to give to a sex-slave without it appearing too offensive? And what kind of message would he be giving her if he gave her something that fit a maid far more than it did one of her profession?
Part of him still didn’t know how to deal with her while she had this function. It had been centuries since he had had sex, and he felt like he could certainly do without. But with her nearby, he knew that his focus would be horribly off until he claimed her as his own. She had presented herself as a gift he had not known he wanted, and he wouldn’t just let her go now. He craved her now almost as much as she craved the food in front of her.
When she finally finished eating, she drank a lot of apple juice, and she licked her lips happily.
“Thank you so much,” she thanked him again. “I’ve never had a better meal in my life.”
He chuckled. “I’m quite certain that the quality was mediocre at best, but that your experience of it has been enhanced by your previous starving. Are you certain you don’t need anything else?”
She shook her head and smiled, still amazed by how gentle and thoughtful the Dark One seemed to be. He had a cruel sense of humor sometimes, but she had yet to experience any actual cruelty by his hand. When would she meet the monster? Part of her was beginning to feel like the monster was just a mask.
“Would you like to take a bath?” he suddenly suggested, moving towards the door and opening it for her. “Wash your hair perhaps? I’m certain I can conjure up a brush and anything you require.”
She got up from her seat and immediately followed him. The offer was kind, as before, and he truly wasn’t anything like she had expected. She felt at ease with him, and she looked around the hallways as he headed to a large staircase.
“How big is this place?” she wondered out loud as she looked around, seeing many doors that were closed as they crossed corridors, and the hallway itself was massive.
“I can show you what it looks like from the outside in the morning,” he suggested. “But let me just say that it’s big. You could get lost here, so do keep up!”
He had a small spring in his step as he led her to one of the higher floors and when he opened the door to a marble room, Belle shivered. It was freezing cold, and the idea of bathing in such a cold room wasn’t particularly alluring.
She did not need to remark upon it, for the next moment, the hearth was lit, and the fire blazed so hard that Belle could feel its heat upon her skin. She took a step away from it as the warmth endured, and when the fire suddenly returned to a normal size again, the room was several degrees warmer.
She noticed that he used his hands for a lot of his magic, for she saw how he moved his hands towards the tub just before it filled up with water, and with another snap of his fingers he suddenly summoned bath towels which he placed on top of a marble bench, as well as a hair brush and a bottle of shampoo, some lotion and a rosy perfume.
“What kind of clothes would you like?” he asked her, and as he saw her surprised expression, he added with a wicked grin: “Unless you would prefer to walk around in your undergarments.”
“They are quite comfortable,” she replied in a joking tone, and now she was the one doubting what she should wear. She had worn many kinds of dresses in her life, but the puffy ones didn’t seem to be appropriate for her new lifestyle. “Is there anything in particular you’d like to see me wear?”
He tried not to curse. The reason he had asked her, was because he had not wanted to be the judge of what she should wear. He was afraid of what it would reveal about himself. If he gave her a pretty but innocent dress, it would betray his own gentle side, yet if he gave her something that was too revealing and sexy, she would perhaps no longer feel at ease with him, not to mention that it would possibly push her to be rougher with him than he actually liked.
He bit his lip for a moment, before inspiration struck. “I have a better idea. We decide together.”
In his hands, he suddenly summoned a long, white cotton dress, and with another flourish of his hand, it suddenly floated between them. There was nothing fancy about it and it was as ordinary as a dress could be. It would reach until her ankles and would cover her arms and neck, and all that they could do now was decide what to make shorter. As he looked at her, he wondered: “What would you like me to do with the sleeves?”
She was surprised by the liberty he gave her, but wasn’t sure if she would be any good at this game of design.
“It’s not so warm everywhere in your castle,” she muttered. “Will I get new undergarments too?”
He nodded. “Of course.”
“Then perhaps the undergarments should reach until right underneath my elbows? And for the normal dress, just straps that go over it – an inch or two wide.”
He summoned another dress, this time of a thinner fabric, the tiniest bit transparent, and she had just muttered the words, or the sleeves shortened while they disappeared completely from the thicker dress.
“What about the neck area?” he wondered.
“Like… a square cut-out,” she said immediately, knowing that she had many dresses like that at home.
He followed her instructions straight away for both of the dresses, and she was amazed by how perfect the hems were.
“Would you like laces at the front, sides or back?”
“Shouldn’t that be up to you?” she suddenly replied, and he seemed a little alarmed by the way she said it. She was teasing him, and he wasn’t sure how to respond. While she smiled at him, he looked a little shocked, and she continued with a smile: “I mean… Isn’t it up to you to decide how to unwrap your gift?”
His heart was beating a million times a minute now and for a moment he even thought he would faint.
No one had ever flirted so openly with him, so kindly, and she seemed to do it so naturally as well, like it took her no effort at all.
He feared he sounded pathetic as he replied: “But there’s no use in getting you laces in the back if you can’t manage to get in your dress without help then.”
“Just try me,” she said bravely. “I’ll show you how it’s done. If you prefer laces in the back, I’ll manage.”
“Actually…” He looked at the dress again, and the laces this time appeared at the front, with little golden rings around the eyes.
She didn’t mind this choice at all.
“Make the dresses a little shorter,” she added next. “I’d trip over the current length.”
He did as she requested, before he asked: “Color for the main dress?”
“I don’t really have a preference,” she admitted. “Anything that you fancy?”
“Blue,” he suddenly said. “It would go beautifully with your eyes.”
She startled a little at the gentleness in his tone and the fact that he had thought of her eyes first and foremost. As she looked at him, she once more realized that this Dark One was more like a puppy than a monster. How could it be that she had been so wrong about him? That everyone had been so wrong about him? She had never expected him to be so gentle. He even seemed intimidated by her attempts to flirt with him. And here she thought she was the blushing virgin. For some reason she felt like it was the other way around.
He added golden accents to the fabric, like small patterns of roses on the bodice-part, and larger roses on the skirt. Belle was intrigued by his choice of flower for the decorations. Roses were her favorites too.
As he changed the color of the dress to a light blue, Belle realized that it wasn’t particularly like a normal dress. It wasn’t ordinary fashion. Nor was it as sexy as she had expected him to want it at first. But it looked comfortable and she was curious to try it on. He added matching blue shoes as well, and copied the undergarment dress three times so she’d have spares that she could use as nightdresses as well. On the marble bench, small ribbons appeared that she could use to tie her hair with, and as he laid her dresses down with magic, he asked: “Anything else you would need?”
She seemed to have everything. Clothes, hair brush, towels…
Belle hesitated for a brief moment, before she said: “A toothbrush?”
He immediately summoned one on top of the towels, as well as a cup, but she wasn’t done yet.
“Also a razor, perhaps?”
He felt his stomach tense a little at those last words. Of course. He wasn’t sure whether to tell her it wasn’t needed – he wasn’t picky about hair, didn’t feel like he had a right to be with the way he looked… But that would be too much to admit to her, and so giving one to her would end that conversation before it had even begun. Perhaps it was better to just give her one, but he hated the idea of her accidentally cutting herself.
“Actually…” he said slowly. “I could magic it away…”
Hesitantly, he turned towards her again, noticing her apprehensive gaze.
“It won’t hurt,” he assured her.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted gently, trying not to offend him. “It’s a weird proposition. I don’t want to put you off or anything.”
He suddenly chuckled, amused by that statement. “Dearie, an hour ago you willingly put my dick in your mouth. Somehow I don’t think you’re justified to feel ashamed of anything.”
She scrunched her nose for a small moment, then suddenly smiled at his words.
“If this is a way I can repay you, then I will gladly do so,” he continued, trying his hardest to keep the tone as light as possible. “It is no effort at all. In fact, I don’t even need to see any bare skin.” He held out the palm of his hand in her direction, waiting for her approval. “Armpits, legs, that sort of thing?” he wondered, and as she nodded, he already whisked it away.
“Also…” She gulped, not entirely sure how to ask it, or even what to ask for. “Down there?”
He found it endearing how she seemed so insecure about it, and pretended like it was no big deal. “All of it?”
She honestly didn’t know how to ask for anything else, and in order not to make it too awkward, she just nodded, and he obeyed immediately.
“Anything else?” he asked as casually as he could, and as she shook her head, he started for the door, but Belle suddenly took a hold of his hand and stopped him.
Looking at her, he noticed that she wasn’t sure what to say – like she wanted to ask something but was too shy to do so.
When she found her voice again, she was blushing fiercely. “You may stay, if you like?”
He looked at her, surprised by that proposal.
“To watch?” he asked, and she stepped closer to him, until their bodies were almost touching, but not quite yet.
“To anything you want,” she offered in a whisper, and just the way she looked up at him with those sweet, but brave eyes made him grow a little harder.
He stood still for several moments, realizing that if he leaned in now, he could probably kiss her. If he moved his hands towards her, he could lift her dress over her head – or like the Dark One might prefer, he could rip it off her small body. He could do anything imaginable, yet all he did was stand there, thinking, doubting, and feeling unworthy of everything she offered.
“You need to recover first,” he eventually said, and he could see how she seemed a little alarmed at those words.
“I’m not sick,” she assured him, but he shook his head.
“You’re skin over bones. You’ve just been released from captivity, only to find yourselves in another kind of prison. I’m not going to do anything to you until you’re a little stronger.”
Part of her wanted to protest – after all, she felt well enough, even if she was skinnier than usual. At the same time, she wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to challenge him now.
“You need a bath. And sleep,” he decided for her. “And healthier food. When you’re not blushing, you’re incredibly pale and I’d hate for you to faint in the middle of intercourse. That would be horrible for my ego.”
She actually smiled a little at those words, appreciating his sense of humor.
“Alright,” she agreed. “But you’re still welcome to watch.”
“When you’re back to your old self,” he quickly agreed. “Not now.”
He finally stepped away from her again and headed to the door.
“If you return to the great hall when you’re done, I’ll show you your room.”
Her words stopped him before he opened the door, and he raised his eyebrow.
“Thank you,” she said warmly, gesturing to the marble bench and everything that he had left on it. “For all these gifts.”
“No matter,” he waved it off, awkwardly shaking his head, and he repeated: “Just come to the great hall when you’re done, alright?”
She nodded, and when he left, she let out a deep breath. Looking up to the marble ceiling, she realized just how much tension she had hidden in his presence up until that moment. A bath would certainly relax her.
“We need to put her on a stricter diet.”
Belle hated it whenever people talked about her like she wasn’t there, but whenever Jafar was involved, she didn’t dare to correct him. He didn’t like her and she didn’t particularly fancy him either. Yet at the same time, she respected his power. And even if he was evil, then he certainly still had a good part inside of him as well, for he still had his mind set on helping his own people in the middle of this crisis.
As they sat around a large, square table, Mulan shook her head.
“She is already small and slender enough. If you make her lose weight, she might lose strength she will need when she needs to defend herself.”
“Need I remind you that the Dark One has magic?” Jafar asked with a raised eyebrow, sizing up the female warrior by his side. “Whether it would be you or her against him, you’d both be equally defenseless. She needs to lose weight. She looks healthy, and that would not be logical. It would raise suspicion. Our people are starving more than she is. He actually needs to believe that she has suffered.”
“How do we make him believe that?” Belle asked.
As usual, Jafar didn’t respond to her, but instead spoke to Jasmine and Mulan, whom he seemed to actually respect. He did answer her question though. “Easy. She actually has to suffer.”
Belle gulped at those words, and as Jafar looked at her, she hated the self-righteousness in his eyes.
“Besides, she has too much color as well,” the Royal Vizier continued. “You need to stop taking her to the royal gardens for your afternoon walks, princess.”
Jasmine sighed, not liking what this would mean for Belle. “But Mulan is right…” Jasmine said sadly, feeling bad for Belle. “She’ll grow weak. She would get ill sooner than she would now.”
“If she’s truly ill, as long as she’s with us, my magic can always make her better,” Jafar assured the other ladies at the table. “But we need to be able to sell her suffering to the Dark One.”
“Would he actually take pity though?” Belle wondered, a little afraid of what was to follow. She doubted her efforts would have any use at all if the Dark One lacked empathy.
“I don’t think him bargaining about your freedom will be about pity as much as it would be about taking our pleasure away from us,” Jafar answered. “If the roles were reversed and princess Jasmine was his prisoner, someone he could torture at will, then I would get her away from him just to spite him. I wouldn’t even care what she looked like. It’s not about presenting yourself as someone he can fall in love with – it’s about being a believable prisoner.”
Jasmine looked confused. “So if I was taken captive by Rumplestiltskin, you’d sooner rescue me if I looked starved instead of beautiful? My suffering would make me more valuable to you?”
Jasmine looked even more confused, then shrugged and said with a grin: “I understand why you’re single now.”
Mulan chuckled at Jasmine’s remark, and even Jafar looked amused by the princess’s words.
Jafar raised an eyebrow at her, a small smile on his lips. “Would you rather have me express a desire to ravish you?”
Jasmine turned crimson at those words, and did not know what to say or how to respond, and as Jafar realized what he had said precisely, he too turned pinker than anyone had ever seen him before.
Both Mulan and Belle exchanged a quick glance with one another, wondering what the hell Jafar was on about.
Clearing his throat, he quickly asked: “But we agree then? That we need to sell it as though she has suffered?”
Hoping that it would change the topic of conversation again, he was glad to hear everyone agree immediately – perhaps they were just as desperate for a change of topic.
Even Belle nodded now, despite what it meant for the rest of her stay in the Empire.
“It’s imperative that my relationship with the Dark One has a good start,” Belle agreed. “If he does not doubt my honesty in the beginning, he is less likely to do so at a later time. I will start eating less. And I won’t go outside in the daylight anymore.”
Jafar smiled, but Mulan and Jasmine looked regretful, like they weren’t sure that they wanted to continue with this. But Belle still was.
“My suffering might end the suffering of others,” Belle reminded them bravely. “I can’t become a warrior like you, Mulan. And while I’m here, I have no people to lead like you do, Jasmine. If this is the part I must play, I will do so without hesitation.”
Chapter 6: The Destruction of Solitude
He was sitting behind his spinning wheel, spinning faster than he had spun in a long time.
Belle’s presence had given him a lot to think about. All of a sudden, he was reminded of the fact that he was not just the Dark One – he was also a man. He had sexual desires too, yet at the same time the thought of indulging in those was scary. Part of him wanted to convince himself that it would be beneath him. The Dark One certainly didn’t demand it. Not to mention that it would be horrible to the woman he was with, and he would rather not have any faces of disgust imprinted in his mind. His pleasure would last a minute, but the trauma a lifetime.
He could still remember Milah’s expression when he had tried to make love to her after he had returned from the war. She had looked like he was the most disgusting person in the entire Enchanted Forest, and he had never touched her again. Somewhere along the way, he had begun to believe it was the truth. Turning scaly as the Dark One had not helped with his confidence either.
Yet Belle… She had been so beautiful with him. There was no other word for it but beautiful. She had not gagged or looked like she loathed his very being. She had been grateful and kind and so brave as she had brought him to his release.
He hadn’t lasted long, he knew that, yet she had not even made him feel ashamed of that. She had looked so proud – so happy that she had been able to repay him in that way.
It had to be a dream. Had she really done that? Perhaps he was just dreaming – even if he never slept. Perhaps she wasn’t even here.
As he considered sleep, he wondered if she was still in the tub. It was dark outside – the middle of the night – and he had left her so many hours ago. Was she alright? What if she had injured herself somehow?
He immediately stopped his frantic spinning and jumped up from behind his spinning wheel, turning to head to the door when he suddenly realized that he wasn’t alone in the room.
Turning his head towards the fireplace, he saw how she lay curled up on the sofa, and she was already fast asleep.
She wore the blue dress they had created together, and she looked absolutely lovely as she lay there, curled up in such a small ball that he wondered if she was cold. The fire was still on, and she didn’t look uncomfortable as she lay there. She had even put her shoes beside the sofa, and he thought she had the cutest feet he had ever seen.
How long had she even been there? No doubt about it that he had not even heard her enter – he had been too occupied with his spinning – and he chuckled to himself. He had let his guard slip, but he could not blame himself considering the circumstances.
He watched her for a small while, but he did not come to regret the decision he had made in regards to keeping her at a distance for now. She looked so pale – and so thin. He would wait a while longer. Perhaps the time she needed to get back to her usual self would give him the courage that he needed to head into this relationship with her – even if was just a sexual one.
But even then he was wondering if it was just sexual. He felt strongly about her. If Jafar were to return and claim her back in that moment, he would kill Jafar. If Regina would forbid him to keep her in the Dark Castle, he would kill Regina. He was prepared to kill for her, and that was rare. Only Baelfire had ever inspired him in that way. Well – maybe that wasn’t completely true. There were plenty of belongings that he felt very strongly about and that he would protect, even if it meant he’d have to murder someone. Baelfire certainly wouldn’t approve of that.
His heart ached as he thought of his son. The love he felt for Bae was different, of course. But what he felt for Belle wasn’t that different at the same time. It felt unconditional. Yet at the same time, he hardly knew her. What had her life been like before she had been captured by Jafar?
He wanted to put her in a proper bed, and though he easily could have whisked her to a room, he instead gently lifted her from the sofa, holding her firmly in his arms as he headed towards the door.
She stirred a little, moaning softly as she readjusted herself in his arms, her eyes still closed as she muttered: “What…”
He shushed her and pressed a small kiss to her forehead, and she curled up even smaller in his arms as he carried her through the dark corridors, continuing her sleep as well as she could. She was light as a feather, and he carried her all the way to the highest floor – to his own bedroom.
It wasn’t like he ever slept there, since he did not require any sleep at all, but the room was still his – and the furniture was very fine. There were large closets and a bed of sturdy oak wood with red velvet curtains, as well as a few pedestals with treasures and beautiful paintings on the wall. It was a truly magnificent room, and the best he had to offer her.
As he lay her in the bed, she stirred again, and her eyes fluttered open in the near complete darkness around them.
“It’s alright,” he whispered. “Sleep.”
Her eyes closed almost immediately again, and before he could count to ten, she was already off again.
He covered her with silk sheets before he sat down on the other side of the bed, looking at her. A strange sort of melancholy fell over him – a longing to lay by her side and be just as full of bliss as he slept. He couldn’t, like he had forgotten how to sleep, but he did kick off his boots as he put his legs up on the bed. It had been ages since he had laid down like that, and it felt relaxing.
With her by his side, he no longer felt alone. The solitude that he had grown so accustomed to, seemed to be gone – perhaps even forever. He could get used to it.
When she woke up in the morning, she slowly opened her eyes, only to find the Dark One by her side, his gaze resting on her body, his thoughts a hundred miles away. There wasn’t much light in the room, though it was clear that behind the curtains, the sun had risen.
As she stretched, he woke from his reverie and looked in her eyes.
“Good morning,” she said in a sleepy voice as she rubbed her eyes, and he chuckled.
“Good afternoon,” he replied playfully. “Almost evening, in fact.”
Her eyes grew large as she turned to him, unwilling to believe that.
“I think you must have slept at least sixteen hours or so. I didn’t hear you enter the great hall, so I’m not entirely certain how long you slept on the couch.”
“You were spinning, so I thought it would be better not to disturb you,” she explained. “I had not expected to fall asleep so fast though.”
“Seemed like you were exhausted,” he acknowledged. “But no worries. We’ll get you back to your old self in no time. You’ll feel even better after you’ve eaten something.”
As he got up from the bed, Belle looked around as well, and as he opened the curtains, she closed her eyes for a few moments before she dared to open them again, amazed by the beauty and size of the room. Once again there were no cobwebs or potions around – but instead there was art and pink and velvet red colors around – inspiring her with nothing but warmth and kindness.
There was a tiny wooden table in front of the window, with one brocade chair at it, and with a wave of his hand, he summoned a golden platter with food for her. Sliding the chair back, he waited for her to take a seat, and she smiled as she got up and headed towards him on her bare feet.
Standing by his side, she looked up at him and smiled, and he loved how small she was. Perhaps that also explained why he felt so defensive over her. She looked so fragile.
As she sat down, he slid the chair underneath her, and as he lifted the golden lid off the platter, she hummed approvingly. There were eggs and bacon, as well as sausages, mushrooms and beans, and a perfectly golden slice of toast with some jam looked particularly appealing. She almost immediately began to salivate.
“Oh, this is so perfect,” she said in awe, turning to look at him with gratitude in her eyes. He looked so kindly at her that it was hard to see him as a monster. He couldn’t be. All she had ever heard about him had been wrong, it had to be.
He remained close by her side as she ate, and filled her glass with orange juice whenever she emptied it, and when she was done, she felt like she couldn’t get up.
“I don’t think I’ll eat anything else today…”
He chuckled at her words. “We’ll wait for a few hours, but I’m sure you’ll be peckish again later on.”
As she got up as well, the platter disappeared with a wave of his hand, and he suggested: “There is a small bathroom through that door. Would you like to freshen up a bit?”
She nodded before she headed inside, and when she emerged again several minutes later, he was looking out of the window. As she walked to his side and looked outside, she saw that his castle was in the middle of a massive forest, with mountains in the distance, and large gardens beneath them. It appeared like the sun was a few hours away from setting, and Rumplestiltskin suggested: “Perhaps a walk would do you good?”
Looking at her bare feet, he remembered she had left her shoes in the great hall, and he summoned them with a wave of his hand before he offered them to her.
She was not going to say no to his suggestion to go outside and quickly put on her shoes. As he offered her his arm, she took it with a smile, and the next moment they were standing outside the massive gate, looking at the castle in front of them now.
Belle’s mouth dropped a little. She had realized the castle was big – but she had never imagined precisely how big it was.
“Woah,” she said as he began walking towards the gardens, looking at the hundreds of windows in the distance. “It’s massive.”
“Aye,” he replied briefly.
“You live there all by yourself?” she wondered, some surprise in her tone now.
“Aye,” he said once more.
She was quiet for a few moments, before she remarked: “Must feel lonely.”
As he turned his head towards her, he noticed how compassionate her gaze was, and he could not help but smile at her. “It’s quite alright, actually.”
She assumed that he was not the type to get lonely then – though she did feel like he appreciated her company a great deal. He had hardly left her alone since she had arrived.
“Well…” She smiled to herself, looking at the large castle. “At least you have me now.”
He was surprised by those words and frowned a little. She seemed happy about it. It was a strange concept.
“You’re not saying that in the hopes of getting half the castle, are you?” he asked in good humor, and as she giggled, he chuckled as well.
“Would you give me half the castle if I asked you for it?” she wondered playfully, and he moved a little closer to her as she replied.
“Maybe. But just a reminder that you’ll need to clean your half yourself.”
Belle shrieked. “Yikes, please, no… Keep it.”
They both laughed, and grew quiet as they continued walking through the gardens, enjoying the last light of day.
Belle felt a little nervous, even if she tried not to show it. He was so unlike anything she had prepared for. He made it easy on her. She had wanted to pretend to feel affection for him, but now she realized that she was feeling true affection instead. Part of her wondered how it was possible that people called him evil. He had yet to prove that side to her, and she feared that her heart would be broken the moment she saw that side of him.
Rumplestiltskin realized that she was nothing but a distraction to pass the waiting time. But what if all this time he spent waiting could be spent with her? And what if – when he reunited with Baelfire – she would be there as well? She could be the mother Milah had never been. Yet as he looked at her, he realized that she was quite young still. Maybe a dozen years older than Bae. Still, she seemed like the loving type. The way she was able to smile at him, only made him imagine that the smile she would give his child would be a hundred times brighter.
Would she be willing to follow him to the next world? Would she remain by his side? And could it ever be more than just part of the deal they had now struck?
They were quiet during the rest of their walk, but that did not mean that they weren’t comfortable. Quite the opposite, actually.
Once they headed back into the castle, Rumplestiltskin led her into the great hall, where a nice fire was burning already. While she went to it to warm herself, he went to his spinning wheel, sitting down before he began to spin.
He spun slower than the night before, but stopped after a few moments. He could feel her eyes on him and turned to look at her. She was sitting on the sofa, one arm over the edge as she looked at him, a gentle smile on her face.
“Is that how you spend most of your time?” she wondered. “Spinning?”
He nodded briefly, wanting to continue before he realized he had not really left her with an occupation.
“What is it you like to do?” he wondered.
Her reply came without hesitation: “I like to read.”
He was a little surprised by her answer. Not many people in the Enchanted Forest knew how to read. And women weren’t as likely to read as men were.
He got up from his seat and headed to the door. “Follow me. I have something to show you.”
She followed him through the corridors and they headed up a few staircases before he finally opened the doors to a massive library. “I assume you might want to pick a few books from this place. Will you be able to find your way back to the Great Hall?”
Her mouth had dropped as she looked around, and she nodded breathlessly.
He left her without casting another gaze at her, but if he had, he would have seen how incredulously she stared at the books all around her. She put her hands in front of her mouth, feeling like she would scream if she didn’t. She had never seen as many books in her life, and he had just offered her to read as many of these as she liked.
Somehow nothing of her stay in this castle was as she had originally envisioned it. While she had thought she would suffer abuse, she actually felt like she was making the friend she had craved during all her lonely nights in the castle of Navarre or in her cell in the Emperor’s palace. She had hid in books to ease her feelings of solitude, but now it felt like they weren’t actually needed anymore. She was strong enough to live without them – and eager to spend more time with Rumplestiltskin. Yet another part of her could not say no to exploring a library as massive as this one.
With a wide grin on her face, she began looking through the racks. She could not wait to see what intriguing treasures she would find among these stories.
Chapter 7: Insecure Masters and Talented Caretakers
When she returned to the Great Hall, she carried half a dozen books with her, and when she dropped them on the table, Rumplestiltskin turned around to look at her. She had a small blush on her face, happy with her loot, and he was quite surprised to see the size of the tomes she had picked.
“Did you read all the books up there?” she wondered, and he almost immediately shook his head.
“Can’t say I have. I don’t usually read anything but magic books, to be honest. What did you pick?”
“Tales of adventure,” she admitted with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Of course,” she replied as though that was logical. “I hardly ever read anything else. Though I wouldn’t say no to reading a magic book. Never read one before in my life.”
As she took one of the books, she went to the sofa, kicking off her shoes before she curled up with the heavy book in her lap, and he smiled as he watched her. Her company was soothing.
He was starting to realize how boring the past centuries had been. Sure, he went out whenever people summoned him to make deals, but since the Queen had started her little war, he had gained the reputation of being an ally to her, and people hadn’t summoned him as much as in the past.
He hated to admit it, but being a ‘friend’ to Regina wasn’t a way to win a social life. So far Belle had not appeared to mind, but he couldn’t imagine her to feel warmly about the Queen, and so he would not mention Regina unless Belle mentioned her first.
When Belle admitted to being a little hungry again, he summoned more food for her, and when she was done eating some sausages and mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables, she wondered: “Don’t you ever eat?”
“Sometimes,” he admitted honestly. “Not much. But I do like tea.”
“We should have some together,” Belle decided, but as she saw how it was already dark outside, she added: “But maybe tomorrow. At four in the afternoon. With biscuits.”
He nodded, agreeing with her. “I will join you.”
Belle only read a little while after that, and as midnight approached, she put the book back on the table and headed to Rumplestiltskin.
“You really do spin a lot,” she said softly, and he didn’t look up from the spinning wheel.
“You read a lot,” he replied as though there was no difference.
“But why do you spin straw into gold?” she wondered. “Do you need the gold?”
“Not really. Do you need to read the books?”
She shrugged. “They inspire me. Take me places I’ve never been. Teach me things I’ve never done.”
He was still spinning, but slowed down a little when he felt how she had put her hands on his shoulders. Her touch was light, but it was distracting, and as she began to gently massage his neck muscles, he smiled.
She was good.
His eyes were soon closed as she continued the delightful massage, and though he was aware that she was moving behind him, he didn’t fully realize how close she was until he felt how she moved his hair to the side a bit and then placed a gentle but wet kiss in his neck.
He shuddered slightly, surprised by her willingness to touch his skin with her lips, and as her hands moved to his lower back, he moved his head to the side even further, welcoming her warm kisses in his neck.
“Do you like that?” she whispered, and he nodded, his body relaxing under her gentle touch.
With her lips against the back of his neck, one hand slid into his pants and wrapped around him, and he found he did not have the will to resist. She soon met his erection again, but struggled a little to grab it while his pants were so tight. Luckily, her other hand found the button at the back of his pants, and she loosened it so she could move around his member more freely.
As she slowly moved her hand over him, she whispered: “Do you like this?”
He nodded, turning his head a little so he could look at her. She had a wicked gleam in her eyes, like once again it was her honor to do this to him, and it put his mind at ease. She was not uncomfortable, and that mattered more to him than he would admit to her.
“Yes,” he whispered, and he gasped as she placed another kiss in his neck – a little closer to his ear this time, and he could not resist a smile as it tickled him in the best way possible. When she began to suck on his earlobe, he bit his lip, enjoying the moment while it lasted.
She continued to lazily rub her hand over his hard length, and though he loved the feeling, he knew it would never bring him to his release at this pace. She realized as much.
“Show me how you like it most,” she continued sweetly, and he felt like a willing slave when he put his hand on top of hers and increased the grip on his shaft. At the same time, he applied a little pressure to her thumb so she was rubbing one of his sensitive spots in exactly the right way.
Soon he no longer needed to hold her hand for this, and he moaned softly as he approved very much of what she was doing.
“Want me to go a little faster?” she suggested, and all he could do was nod eagerly.
As she began to rub him a little harder, he closed his eyes, welcoming his release. When she kissed his neck again, it only took a few moments before he came, and he grunted deeply as his last load spilled on the floor.
She was still placing kisses in his neck, and as he turned to look at her and saw her happy smile, he gladly returned it.
She was still holding him and wasn’t sure where to move her hand now that it was covered in cum. Realizing that, Rumplestiltskin cleaned it all up with a snap of his fingers.
She tucked him away again, and he didn’t really know what to do or say as he considered that she had once again taken care of his needs. Yet at the same time, perhaps this was alright. It wasn’t sex. It was just a hand-job. He had no reason to feel guilty about that, did he?
At the same time, he was a little worried about his Belle though. The lack of disgust she displayed frankly alarmed him, and as he turned around on the small stool of his spinning wheel, he suddenly realized that she had put a little pillow beneath her knees, and he chuckled at her cleverness.
“I figured I was going to be on my knees for a while,” she said in a slightly dorky tone as she moved the pillow back a bit and sat on her knees in front of him again.
He pulled up his pants a little higher and closed the back button again as he looked at her, a slightly worried expression on his face.
“Belle,” he said slowly, avoiding her gaze for a small moment. “You do know that you do not have to do this every day, right?”
She looked at him with wide eyes, not sure why he was saying this. For a moment she feared she hadn’t really pleased him.
“I… I thought you wanted this?” she replied, her smile of before dropping as a line of worry appeared on her forehead.
Her expression broke his heart, but he figured that it was better to be honest. “You do not have to fake wanting me, Belle.”
She frowned even deeper now, and her gaze even appeared to be a little angry.
“I’m not faking it!” she insisted, her voice stricter than he had ever heard it. “What I have done so far, is what I have genuinely wanted to do!”
He moved back a little bit, impressed by how fierce she could be. As before, she didn’t appear to be telling any lies, and he was surprised to see how insulted she was by the idea that he believed she didn’t want this.
“I thought…” he said weakly, but he realized that his thoughts hadn’t been very coherent, and perhaps it had just been his own insecurity that had forced those worries into his mind. “I mean… The last thing I want is for you to feel like you must do things that you do not want to do.”
“Why would I not want to do this?” she replied immediately, her eyes looking deeply into this, trying to figure out what was going on in his mind.
“I thought… maybe Jafar…” He didn’t know how to put it and looked a little lost as he shot her a kind gaze, and her fierce gaze fell away in an instant.
Her mouth was a little open as she looked at him, surprised by the amount of empathy the Dark One was able to feel for her, and she suddenly put her hand on his, her voice gentler now.
“Jafar never hurt me in that way,” she assured him gently. “This is… this is just me. No one else. No trauma.”
He was honestly relieved to hear that, and put his other hand on top of hers, smiling gently.
She warmly returned that smile. “Truthfully, I’m happy to experience this with you.”
He nodded. “As am I.”
He felt like an idiot though. She was so good at what she did – and he had to look like an amateur to her, turning to mush in her hands.
“You’re very good,” he admitted, and as he saw how her cheeks turned pink and she smiled at that compliment, he hoped that it was enough to leave the conversation at that. “Sleep now?” he asked, hoping she wouldn’t resist, and as she nodded, he got up, pulling her up as well.
“I’ll show you how to walk to the bedroom. You’re going to need to know your way around this castle and last time you were fast asleep when I carried you.”
As Belle sat on her bedroll in her cell, there were tears in her eyes, and she had her arms wrapped around her knees as she sobbed. She didn’t even realize that she had company until princess Jasmine cleared her throat, and as she saw her stand in front of the bars of her cell door, she wiped her tears away.
“Belle,” Jasmine said compassionately. “I… I came to say goodbye.”
Belle nodded as she got up, already much thinner than she had been a month ago.
“Don’t cry,” the princess said sweetly, her heart breaking for Belle. “You will do great.”
“I don’t know,” Belle sighed sadly. “How can I ever live up to the expectations of the Dark One? In any way?”
“Because you’re Belle!” Jasmine encouraged her warmly. “You don’t give up. When you’re not at your best, then you strive to get better. If you encounter something you don’t know, you teach yourself how to deal with it. Your intelligence and your warm heart will help you through anything. Don’t give up before you’ve even begun. I know it must all seem terribly scary, but if anyone can do this, it’s you. Before you know it, we’ll know how to turn this war around and peace can return to our lands.”
Belle nodded, not immune to Jasmine’s pep-talk, and they took a hold of each other’s hands through the bars.
“Tomorrow, when you become Jafar’s prisoner, just remind yourself that it isn’t real,” Jasmine continued. “It’s a play – and there are people that love you and root for you. Remind yourself of the same when you’re with the Dark One. And don’t worry too much about him. He might not be as bad as rumors would like you to believe.”
Belle lifted an eyebrow. “You honestly believe that?”
“You should hear the stories people tell of Jafar. They’re no less brutal than those we tell of Rumplestiltskin. And he is rather meek once you get to know him. Just a bit of a drama queen, really.”
Belle chuckled, amused by that comparison, and Jasmine reached out for Belle’s face to wipe a tear way. “You have so much talent… The Dark One will be glad he met you.”
Chapter 8: Profession Confessions
Several more days passed in the same way. Their time together would be spent spinning, reading and taking walks in the gardens. He showed her around his castle, pointing out doors to his workrooms, telling her she should steer clear of those because of the dangerous ingredients in the cupboards, and showing her the dungeons just because he liked to spook her a little, and she loved to be thrilled.
She was growing stronger again, thanks to the regular meals. They enjoyed their tea together and he allowed her time for baths, and in the evenings she would look him up as he sat behind the spinning wheel. A few more times she surprised him in the same way, massaging him before she’d move her hand down his pants and bring him to a sweet release.
Another time, she took his hands and moved them away from the spinning wheel and forced him to turn away from it. He looked at her with curiosity as she knelt down between his legs and began to place kisses against the leather of his pants, not looking away from his eyes as she did so. With her gaze locked on his, he could see her lust for him, and there was nothing better in the world.
When her lips finally locked around his member, he didn’t last long. He was so glad that he didn’t have to apologize for anything to her, and was amazed as she gulped it all down again, curious how she even did it.
“Where did you learn to do that?” he wondered as he buttoned up again. “I thought most women would just spit it out or gag at the taste.”
She shrugged. “Apologies if my explanation takes the magic away a bit. But the trick is to not let it go past your taste-buds.”
He frowned, not sure if he understood.
“Just make sure it goes straight down your throat,” she explained with a smile, and he laughed at the way she said it so innocently. Part of him was starting to believe she had much more experience with these things than he did.
“Were you… before you came here… before you were captured…” He hesitated a moment. “Like… some… some sort of a prostitute?”
As he saw her shocked expression, he quickly corrected himself: “Or like a wench? Or a concubine or something?” He suddenly stopped himself, realizing that he had to be quite offensive. Perhaps she had just had a good husband. “Or are you a widow?” He panicked now. “Are you still married?”
Her shocked expression had changed to disgusted and insulted, but now she looked amused and endeared by his babbling.
“Stop worrying, silly,” she shut him up, putting one finger to his lips for a brief moment. “I was not in that business, if that is what you wonder. I just read up about it. A lot.”
He raised an eyebrow. “But you must have practiced a bit,” he insisted.
She chuckled. “Only on you, Rumplestiltskin.”
He was quiet for a moment as he looked at her, finding that hard to believe, but he knew that she wasn’t lying. She wasn’t the lying kind. “So… you learned this from books?”
As she nodded, he was even more amazed. “What… then what did you do before this? What kind of life did you lead?”
He sounded amazed as he asked her that, but immediately noticed how her shoulders tensed and how she looked down, as though she was uncomfortable, and he didn’t want her to be uncomfortable around him – ever.
“You don’t have to tell me,” he said straight-away, and at this she looked up in surprise. He shot her a reassuring smile. “You don’t ever have to be uncomfortable in my presence, understood?”
Though she smiled, he noticed how tears came to her eyes at the same time, and he was a little alarmed as they streamed down her cheeks. He had wanted her to feel alright – not to cry.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, seeing in his eyes how he disliked her crying, and she tried to wipe her tears away. “I’m… I’m actually happy as your caretaker. I don’t think I ever would have considered the possibility of being something like this, but for the first time in a long while I feel like I’m useful – like I’m good at something – and like I’m actually wanted.”
He empathized with that and gently moved a few stray hairs from her face, caressing the soft skin of her cheek.
“I love being here,” she continued honestly. “But when I think of my old life – of what was expected of me then – then this couldn’t be further from the me I was back then.” She gulped miserably. “I can be good at this, but if I allow myself to think of my life before, then it feels like it doesn’t add up – like I can’t be those two things at the same time – and so I focus on the present, on my job here – and I’m actually able to have fun with it. But when I’m the other thing… If I force myself to be that thing – in my mind… Then this feels… almost shameful.”
There wasn’t a single lie in her admission, and though Rumplestiltskin hardly understood what she was referring to, he understood how seriously she meant it and how much it pained her heart to tell him all of this.
“Belle… You will never need to feel shame in my presence,” he assured her. “No matter what you were before – I’ll treat you the same – I promise.”
Somehow, she doubted that, and as she suddenly reached out for his cheek, she was surprised that he did not even pull away. He moved his skin against the palm of her hand, not taking his eyes off her.
“You can tell me anything,” he continued. “I’m the Dark One. I’ve lived many lives – I doubt much would surprise me anymore. Except for – maybe – your skills as my caretaker.”
He was joking again, and she appreciated it, chuckling in response. “Did you never have anyone better than me? Or maybe not you, but the Dark One, I mean?”
“The memory of the Dark One isn’t very specific on that behalf, to be honest,” he admitted. “It remembers Dark One things first and foremost. Magic and murder and such. It does not remember good things in life like amazing blowjobs and love. Not much of it, anyways.”
“And Rumplestiltskin?” she suddenly wondered, and as she noticed how now he was the one to pull away from her hand and to look down, she quickly added: “I’m sorry – you obviously don’t need to reply. Like you with me, I don’t want you to feel awkward or ashamed about anything you tell me.”
He was surprised to hear his own words mirrored back to him, and as he looked at her, he admitted: “Rumplestiltskin has never met anyone with your skill.” Part of him wanted to say more, like how she was the only one to ever inspire him in this way – or how he would have married her a thousand times over if he could have – if he had been human.
Belle didn’t need him to say it. She could see it in his eyes. The affection in his eyes was hard to hide, even if his eyes looked so strange. It almost made her feel guilty that she was hiding so much of her own past from him, and she suddenly whispered: “I should confess to you…”
The choice of words alarmed him, and he frowned. “Why?”
“Because… I know we haven’t talked about this… I hoped it wouldn’t matter either, and I honestly hope it doesn’t change things, but… My past might be a little messy. I’m actually an enemy of sorts… to your ally – the Queen.”
Rumplestiltskin kept very still at those words. He could hardly imagine Belle to be a threat to Regina – and at the same time he honestly didn’t care about Regina’s enemies. After all – Granny had not been punished either. He couldn’t care less about Regina’s misery.
“In my life before capture, I was the princess of Navarre,” she said simply, not looking away from him so she could gauge his reaction.
He frowned for a moment, recollecting everything he had ever heard about the nation. As he considered it, he should have known it. He had heard of princess Belle of Navarre – of the sole heir to the throne, of the daughter of King Maurice – of Regina’s tries to annex that kingdom into her own – and when she had succeeded in doing that a year ago, he had just assumed that king Maurice and princess Belle had both died in the process. He had never cared enough to look into the details of what had happened.
But now it looked like Princess Belle was alive and well – and as he realized just what she had done for him in the week she had spent in his presence, he gulped.
A beautiful princess had touched him in ways that Milah, who had been nothing more but a peasant, had been unable to. Not to mention that a princess had gulped away his cum like it was the God’s nectar itself. It was an incredible boost to his ego, to say the least, but he tried not to think of that.
“Queen Regina now owns Navarre,” he told her, and she nodded.
“I know. And I can’t take it back. I’m not even sure I want it back, considering the state of the Enchanted Forest. It seems like a certain way to death right now.”
He nodded, agreeing that any battle she tried to rage right now would just end in Regina killing her.
“The Queen has seen me. Years ago. If she were to see me here…”
Rumplestiltskin was glad that Regina had not popped by yet.
“She doesn’t drop by often,” he assured Belle. “She hasn’t dropped by in years. But you have nothing to fear while you’re here. I won’t let her hurt you.”
Belle was honestly surprised to hear those words come from his mouth. She had always assumed that his loyalty to Regina was unquestionable.
Noticing her expression, he smirked.
“I don’t answer to her,” he assured her. “I just sometimes like her to believe that I do.”
She frowned a little bit.
“How do you mean?”
“I help her sometimes. But only when it’s in my own interest as well. Remember Granny?”
The princess nodded quickly, her eyes wide as she looked at him.
“Well… I didn’t kill her or anything. In fact, I just took the refugees and then handed them to Jafar.”
Her heart jumped at that confession. Not only had he spared that grandmother’s life then, but…
“You… you gained nothing from that agreement with Jafar but… my release?”
He nodded honestly, and he could see how she was a little moved by those words.
“I thought you didn’t really care about me. That you were only in it for learning who the traitor was.”
“I didn’t care that much about either the traitor or about you,” he admitted. “I mean, you were a complete stranger. But I suppose that I also gained a bit of Jafar’s good will again. We used to be some sort of friends… Well, more like good acquaintances. Or just normal acquaintances…” He shrugged. “I don’t know exactly what we were. But I kind of ruined that when I distracted him so Regina could steal the gem of life.”
“Why are you even helping her with that?” Belle asked, frowning as she focused on whatever he told her now, and he shook his head.
“That’s a bit too complicated to explain,” he said, trying to steer the conversation in another direction. “What matters, is that you’re safe here… And since we’re being honest with each other… I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell you…”
He looked a little upset as he sighed, and Belle frowned, instantly worried about him.
“When I asked you to be my caretaker…” He scratched the back of his head for a moment and averted his gaze from hers. “I eh… I didn’t actually mean… I meant a housekeeper.”
Belle’s eyes widened as she looked at him, and he smiled apologetically.
To his relief, she started laughing.
“What?!” She had a massive grin on her face. “Then why did you do…” She moved her hands a dozen inches apart, like he had done when they had first met.
He gulped. “I was just trying to be tough in Jafar’s presence. I wanted him to think that what I had planned for you was worse than what he had done to you! I didn’t mean to hurt you. Then, when you came here, things happened so fast. After the first time… I was afraid to tell you the truth. But now… I suppose I should offer you the opportunity to be a princess again.”
Belle frowned, a little upset by his reasoning. “See, that’s why I didn’t want to tell you! I don’t want that!”
After everything they had discussed that evening, that was one of the most surprising things he had heard.
“You don’t want to go back to being a Princess instead?”
She shook her head stubbornly. “No! I want to be your caretaker! And not of your castle…” She crossed her arms stubbornly. “Your castle is too big.”
He chuckled, amused by that statement. “Well, you don’t have to take care of my castle, Belle. Say the word, and I will let you go.”
Her mouth dropped. “What? No!” She was offended again. “I am staying right here – as the caretaker of your estate.”
She looked down at his leather pants, and he was amused by her.
“If you could have any job in the entire world right now…” he began to offer her, but she replied before he could continue.
“Then I would remain here. Doing what I’ve done the past week.” She hesitated for a brief moment, before she asked: “Unless you really don’t enjoy it?”
He hesitated. “I do enjoy it, but you don’t owe me this.”
“Yes I do. You saved me, after all.”
Shaking his head, he licked his lips for a moment. “It was hardly much effort. And it was truly a pleasure. But are you sure about this?”
She nodded, her mind made up. “I have no regrets and would like to stay here. I can’t go back to being a princess, nor would I want to. All I want, is to take care of you… Is that bad of me?”
He considered it, shrugging in a teasing way. “A little bad, I suppose. Might be that I’m rubbing off on you.”
She grinned at his choice of words. “Or perhaps the other way around…” She moved her hand to his bulge. “Perhaps I’m rubbing off on you…” As she gently squeezed him, he grinned, amazed by her.
His voice was low and his eyes were lidded as he looked at her. “Perhaps we should turn the tables?”
Confused, she raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
Before she knew what was happening, he had lifted her up in his arms, and she quickly wrapped her arms around his shoulders, looking down at him in surprise.
“What I mean…” he said quietly. “Is that you are a princess… With all your knowledge from books, if I recall correctly.”
She nodded slowly, not entirely sure what he was getting at.
“You have pleased me about seven times since you came here,” he continued. “And perhaps I never really told you explicitly… But I am also your caretaker.”
She wondered if he meant what she thought he meant, and when he suddenly whisked the two of them to her bedroom, he wasted no time in laying her down on the sheets.
Uncertain what to do or not, she soon realized there was nothing she needed to do. As he spread her legs and lifted the skirt of her dress, she soon saw him disappear underneath, kissing the inside of her thighs until he eventually reached the place where no man – or Dark One – had ventured before.
She gasped as his wet tongue teased her folds, and when he started circling her most sensitive nub, she moaned in lust.
This was certainly the last thing she had expected when she had signed up for the job.
“Where are you from?”
“From Kingstown in the Enchanted Forest,” she replied, having practiced the line so many times that it almost felt like the truth.
“You are a horrible liar.”
Jafar had his arms crossed as he stood in front of her while she sat in the cage that hung from his ceiling.
She gulped, realizing that something about what she had said had put him off.
“Describe the main street of Kingstown to me,” Jafar demanded, and Belle turned red in the face. “See?” he continued, not even waiting for her reply. “You can’t. Not on command. Because you don’t know it. Because it’s a lie. And you won’t be able to fool Rumplestiltskin either.”
She sighed, realizing that he was right.
“Time is running out,” Jafar said dramatically, pacing in front of his desk.
She had been in her cage for a week now, but she just didn’t strike Jafar as a believable prisoner. She didn’t feel like one either, despite the beatings and horrible food she had received. Her mind wasn’t broken, and both Jasmine and Mulan had told Jafar that he shouldn’t even try to break it. Strangely enough, the sorcerer had listened.
After thinking for a short while, Jafar stopped his pacing and said: “If you can’t lie, then you must always tell the truth and keep those parts hidden that he mustn’t find out, do you understand?”
Belle nodded, but still felt bad about the fact that she was such an open book. She wished she was better at telling lies.
“I’m sorry, Jafar, I truly am,” she apologized. “I wish I was better at this.”
He had his eyes narrowed, but nodded approvingly. “At least what you tell me is the truth now. Start from your emotion. Now, imagine I’m Rumplestiltskin again. Tell me where you come from.”
“From before I was taken prisoner?”
Jafar walked closer to her cage and stood still, his gaze impatient as he looked up at her, his eyes dissecting her very soul, or so it seemed.
She looked awkward, and she sounded the same as she admitted: “I’d rather not say…”
He nodded, approving of that response, seeing how honest she was.
“Because the thought hurts me.”
“Because I can’t ever go home. My kingdom has fallen and home as I know it is gone. I have no one to go to now.”
He grinned, for once pleased with her.
“Perfect.” He stepped away again from her and sat down behind his desk, taking some scrolls so he could finally start writing an invitation to Rumplestiltskin. He did give her some last advice: “Don’t lie. Be mysterious. You’re good at that. And the intrigue should hold the Dark One’s attention as well.”
Belle nodded, agreeing that if she could avoid lies, she would. Anything to stop this war…
Chapter 9: Mirror of Snakes
She could hardly walk the following morning.
He had made her come seven times. Seven times, in a little over an hour. He had licked her, fingered her, and used various combinations to bring her to her release. She had moaned, screamed and begged him for release, and the best part was: she wasn’t even ashamed of how it had all gone.
He had been by her side when she had woken up and had greeted her with a playful: “Morning, princess…”
Almost instantly, she had moved her hand to his pants, but he had grabbed both her hands before she could please him and had pinned them to the side of her head. Furthermore, he had leant his weight against her, and her cheeks had flushed instantly as she had felt his erection through the leather of his pants.
“I want to remind you that we’re even now,” he had whispered against her mouth, and part of her had wanted to kiss him. Never mind his teeth. She wanted to feel those lips against her own, but he had moved his head back before she could reach him. “I do not wish for you to please me unless you are ready to receive your pleasure as well.”
His husky voice made her melt, and she was honestly intimidated by the dark figure that hovered over her, the length in his pants pushing against her in what was one of the most exciting moments of her lifetime so far.
With her arms unable to move, she suddenly wrapped her legs around his, pinning his front to hers in doing so.
“I’m already ready,” she whispered in reply, her gaze matching his in lust, and she saw how his fake macho-bravado fell away for a brief second as he tried to come up with a way to respond to her.
When he suddenly grinned, she knew that he had thought of something, and as he began to kiss her neck, she began to understand how it had been able to turn him on so much several nights before. It felt absolutely amazing, and as he squeezed her sides, she knew that she was growing wetter for him with every second.
“I want you,” she muttered. “I want you so badly…”
He grunted as he rubbed himself against her, though both of them were still clothed. He in his usually leather pants with a silk shirt, and she in the undergarments she wore each night.
Suddenly he froze, and Belle wondered what was wrong.
When he rolled off her, he grunted in frustration, and Belle was terribly confused.
“What’s wrong?” she asked in a worried tone.
“Regina. She’s summoning me.”
He seemed incredibly agitated, and to be honest, so was Belle. She still wanted him.
“No time for a quickie?” she wondered, and as he turned to look at her, he suddenly grinned.
“You’re worth more than a quickie, princess. But I’m afraid I need to go, before Regina barges into this bedroom.”
“Can she do that?” Belle asked, slightly terrified at the prospect.
He chuckled. “Remind me to put a magic protection on this bedroom so she can’t.”
She smiled. “I will. When will you be back?”
“Depends. Usually it takes an hour or four. But I’ll try to hurry back.”
She shook her head. “Don’t.”
He frowned, confused by that statement.
“I don’t want her to suspect you have someone waiting for you here,” Belle explained. “If anything, staying late would make it seem like you have nothing better to do, right?”
He grinned, amazed by how clever his princess was.
“I’ll be back before you know it though,” he assured her, and before he left, he whisked a plate of breakfast on the table. “Bon appetite, princess.”
She smiled, but as he whisked away, she gulped.
She hated what she needed to do now. Not just because she had been looking forward to exploring her sexuality with Rumplestiltskin, but because it meant betraying him more than she had since she had arrived, and she wasn’t even sure if that was what she wanted anymore.
Heavy feet dragged her across the castle, in the direction of his working chambers. She had never even seen the content of that room, but according to Jafar, this was where he kept the other part of the two-way mirror that made it possible to communicate with him.
Rumplestiltskin had pointed out his working chambers to her when they had gone for a stroll through the large castle, on a day that they had avoided the gardens because of the rain. Part of her didn’t want to do this. A part of her didn’t even think she had anything to say, but she did not know when she’d next get this chance.
Reminding herself of how important it was that the people of the Empire would not lose their Gem of Life, she gathered the courage to open the door, and as she looked inside, she realized that this was the first chamber that looked a little bit like it belonged to a dark wizard.
Though there still weren’t any cobwebs, there were little groups of candles on the tables and desks – unlit – and racks of potions and foul ingredients could be found on the walls. There were five cauldrons in the room, but all were empty, and it appeared that the room was quite clean.
As she saw long drapes covering a large door-shaped thing, she knew that that had to be where Jafar’s mirror was.
She carefully slid the drapes off the mirror and put them over a nearby chair. She sighed as she saw the snake-shaped ornaments on all sides of the mirror. This was Jafar’s mirror alright. She hoped Rumplestiltskin could forgive her as she looked at her reflection. Taking a deep breath, she spoke the word that would open the connection between the two mirrors.
Her reflection disappeared to make way for a gaze inside of Jafar’s chambers. She saw the cage with the flying monkey in the background, and the one with the tiger even further back, but the floor at the front of the mirror was a mess, like someone had just thrown the contents of a desk on the floor, and as she suddenly heard moaning, she realized that she wasn’t wrong about that.
Moving a little to the side, the mirror revealed a part of the room that she had not seen before, and what she saw was probably the last thing she would had expected.
She hardly recognized the people because of their lack of clothes, but it appeared like Jafar and princess Jasmine were engaged in some very passionate lovemaking on top of one of the desks.
It wasn’t just sex. They were kissing and clinging to one another like it was their last day on this planet. Jasmine’s hands were in his hair and his covered her back like she was the most fragile being alive and needed to be protected. But at the same time their hips weren’t as gentle, bucking against one another at speeds that made it no wonder that they were both moaning so loudly, and Belle felt a blush spread to her cheeks as she witnessed something private that she never should have seen.
She couldn’t unsee it now though, and she had no idea if it was wise to draw any attention to herself. What would they think?
Then again, she wasn’t the one that was fucking the royal vizier – or the princess of Agrabah – in the middle of the day - while their people were starving – and while Regina and Rumplestiltskin were probably making plans to steal the last Gem of Life – in the presence of a mirror that they knew she would use to get in contact with them. Frowning, she crossed her arms a little stubbornly, wondering how much longer they would be getting at it. They were both kind of loud, and so she doubted they would even hear it if she spoke up now.
Part of her felt bitter about it. She wanted that sort of thing with Rumplestiltskin, but here she was, betraying him, watching something that almost looked like love between Jafar and the princess, and she felt jealous because she was still forced to betray Rumplestiltskin. Unable and unwilling to wait a moment longer, she suddenly spoke up: “Having fun?”
Jasmine shrieked, immediately letting go of the royal vizier as she covered her breasts with her hands, and Jafar pulled out of Jasmine so fast that he shivered for a second before he managed to compose himself again and he quickly grabbed his robes from the floor and pulled them on.
Belle took no immediate pleasure from watching Jasmine duck to the floor as well, looking for clothing that Jafar had apparently tossed so far out of reach from her that she couldn’t even locate it.
Her gaze lingered on Jafar’s body a moment longer than she would have liked, but she could see why Jasmine thought him to be a match for her. He wasn’t ugly by any measure. Not to mention that his estate seemed to be of a good size as well.
Belle still had her arms crossed as she stood in front of the mirror, and as Jafar wiped the sweat of his face, it was clear that he was very embarrassed, and somehow that gave Belle great pleasure.
Good, she thought to herself. Serves that asshole right.
As he closed his robes around him, he walked closer to the mirror, straightening his back, even though he hardly looked impressive on his bare feet and with his hair in such a mess.
“I wasn’t aware that mornings were off limits,” Belle remarked dryly. “But I’m happy to see you guys haven’t been still while I’ve been away.”
Jafar raised an eyebrow. “How long were you watching?”
Belle shrugged. “Long enough to wonder how long this has been going on.” Motioning to the mess on the floor, she added: “I could see you were in quite the rush, so I assume it’s quite rare for the two of you to get some private time.”
In the background, Jasmine was still getting dressed, her back turned to the mirror, and Jafar crossed his arms in front of his chest as well, still looking embarrassed.
To Belle, it just wasn’t the same now that she could see his chest hair underneath the robe. He had been so much scarier before, but now he was just a man, she assumed. With human urges like any guy.
“You look well,” Jafar suddenly said, observing her. “May I assume that the Dark One has been treating you well?”
“Better than you did,” Belle replied bitterly. “Not that I was hoping for the Jasmine-treatment from you.”
“Like you would have gotten that treatment from me,” Jafar replied cruelly, narrowing his eyes at her, and Belle didn’t think she’d ever get along with him.
“You have news?” he asked when he realized Belle didn’t immediately know what to say, hoping he would be able to change the topic now.
Jasmine walked closer to the mirror as well, not really daring to look at Belle as she tried to fix her hair, but it looked like quite a mess. Belle didn’t remark on it. She would take no pleasure from grilling the princess about what she had just witnessed.
“Rumplestiltskin is off to Queen Regina as we speak. He does not know why. You might want to prepare. I’m not sure if they will try anything, and neither was Rumplestiltskin, but it’s a possibility.”
As Jafar looked at Jasmine, she suddenly nodded and spoke up. “I’ll go and tell the Dragon.”
While Jasmine hurried off, Belle regretted not being able to talk to Jasmine, but she continued with her report: “Rumplestiltskin is not a slave to Regina, as we assumed before. He does as he pleases, but he does not answer to her. He did not even tell her about Granny’s betrayal.”
Jafar nodded slowly, surprised to hear that the Dark One had let the opportunity pass to hurt someone.
“Any idea why Regina wants the gems of life?”
“I will try to ask him today,” Belle replied honestly. “I have not had the right opportunity to ask him about it yet.”
“Does he talk to you?” Jafar wondered, and Belle nodded immediately.
“I have his trust.” She felt a little upset as she admitted it. She didn’t deserve his trust, that was what she was proving by talking to Jafar right now. But she reminded herself that people would suffer if Regina got her way.
“He has been feeding you well,” Jafar remarked as he was studying her appearance. “Did he give you that dress? And did he heal your injuries?”
Belle felt sick to her stomach as she replied: “Yes.” She didn’t want to have this conversation. She didn’t want Jafar to think of Rumplestiltskin as weak or as sweet. He was weak and sweet sometimes, but only to her – and she didn’t want Jafar to look down upon him or treat him differently because of it.
“I need to go now. But I’ll be back once I know more,” she decided.
Jafar was looking at her with narrowed eyes, like he could feel something was off, and before she could step away from the mirror, he added: “Don’t grow too close to him. He is the enemy, after all.”
Upset by those words, Belle stepped away, and the mirror once more showed her reflection instead of Jafar’s suspicious gaze.
She felt like crying. Rumplestiltskin deserved so much better than this. She wasn’t even sure who the enemy was anymore.
Chapter 10: Heartbreaking Secrets
When Rumplestiltskin returned several hours later, he noticed something off about Belle. She looked upset, perhaps even sad – and when she smiled as he quipped about seeing to all her appetites, the light didn’t quite reach her eyes.
The mood of that morning was gone. It was also hard for him to feel that way after being in Regina’s presence for so many hours, and he wondered if Belle was now disturbed by the fact that he had spent time with the Queen. Then again, would his princess really be jealous of that sort of thing?
“How did the meeting with Regina go?” Belle wondered as she was skimming through pages in a children’s book full of beautiful pictures, but he noticed how she wasn’t really looking at the images. She was more focused on his reply.
“It was quite dull, to be honest,” he replied honestly, not seeing a reason to hide this from her. “She says that she’s close to stealing the last Gem of Life, but won’t divulge how exactly she plans to do that.”
“Do you believe her?”
He nodded. “Yes. She might exaggerate every now and then, but she is headstrong and she won’t bluff her way through these things. If she says she is close to stealing it, then she is.”
“Why does she even want the Gems of Life? The Enchanted Forest doesn’t need them,” Belle muttered, clearly a little bit upset that the Queen could be so selfish.
Rumplestiltskin felt a little offended by the way she did not see its potential. He moved to sit next to Belle on the bench and took the book from her hands, surprising her a little and she looked up at him in mild alarm. He smiled warmly though, hoping to put her mind at ease.
“Well… You as well as anyone knows that the gems of life make lands fertile – and that they slightly prolong the lifespan of those who live in its vicinity.”
Belle frowned. “So she wants to be immortal?”
Rumplestiltskin chuckled. “One would think that’s it, but most people are clever enough to know that there is little fun in outliving everyone you love and seeing people around you die. Not to mention that there are other ways to prolong life that would not require you to rage war with almost the entire world.”
Intrigued by his words, she leaned in a little as he sat by her side, wondering what she could learn.
“The power of the Gems of Life lies in combining them all. Though these are only theories, it is highly likely that combining all Gems of Life into the same area, would allow for the resurrection of things that have withered and died.”
Belle had goosebumps as he said that, and she lowered her voice as she asked: “Is she going to revive someone?”
Rumplestiltskin leaned in as well, as though he was telling her great secrets, and he probably was.
“She once fell in love, but the man was killed by her own mother. No doubt that she wants to revive him. Problem is, I don’t think the Gems of Life will truly be able to restore his life.”
“Because his heart got crushed. And though the Gems of Life are rumored to breathe life into things that have withered, the man’s heart has turned to dust, and the dust is gone. I think she is going to try to get him back though, and for that she will need the Gems of Life – and a lot of patience.”
Belle shook her head. “I can’t believe she would let so many people suffer just so she could experiment on a dead person.”
Rumplestiltskin chuckled. “Well, there might be a little bit more to it than just that. Apparently she poisoned herself in order to never have children. So she kind of ruined her own chances of ever providing offspring. I think she wants to heal herself as well. Magic ruined her chances of getting children, but it could also heal her again.”
Belle shook her head and said bitterly: “If she truly wants a child, she might as well adopt. I bet there will be plenty of orphans around Agrabah and the Empire once she’s done.”
It was clear to Rumplestiltskin how much Belle disliked injustice, and he wasn’t upset by her empathy for those from the Empire and Agrabah.
“She is a bit selfish, I suppose,” Rumplestiltskin added with a chuckle.
Belle didn’t smile back though, and she wondered: “But why are you helping her? Do you really want the people from the Empire and Agrabah to suffer so she can do some experiments?”
“Dearie, I find it terribly amusing that you think I’m just helping her.”
Belle frowned, not understanding what he was getting at.
“Who do you think put it in her mind that she could steal those gems?” Rumplestiltskin’s eyes had a wicked gleam as he asked her this, and Belle’s stomach turned as she realized what he was implying.
“Me, of course!” he explained proudly. “I want those gems too, though for completely different reasons and probably not for as long as Regina wants them. The difference between her and me is that I’m patient, and that I let other people do my work for me whenever I can. Regina might think she’s in control of the situation, but I’m just waiting for her to complete the task that I trained her for since birth – well, maybe a little older than birth, I suppose.” He giggled wickedly, and missed Belle’s look of disgust on her face. She was literally feeling a little sick just listening to him. The more she heard, the more she became convinced that she had been wrong about him.
“And the best part is,” he continued. “Is that I’ll get what I want, and the Empire and Agrabah will just blame Regina and hunt her down – if they survive long enough, and by then I’ll be long gone.”
“What can justify this war though?” Belle asked, trying to hide the tears in her eyes. “What can justify the deaths of the good people that fought in this war – or the pain that I have suffered at the hands of Jafar – or the starvation of the people from the Empire and Agrabah once Regina gets away with stealing that Gem?”
As Rumplestiltskin looked at her and noticed her stress and passion, he gulped. He realized that he had gone a little too far – and that she was too honorable to understand the sacrifices he made – especially because those sacrifices were not his own.
She noticed how startled he was now to see her fierce response, and even if she got kicked out of the castle, she figured that perhaps it would be for the best. She could get the word to her allies in the Empire, even if she had no idea how to defend the gem still.
“Belle,” he said in a gentler tone, taking her hand. “Let me explain. Let me show you why.”
She took a deep breath, annoyed with the world. Not only did she dislike the way that he didn’t seem to care about anyone but himself and her in this moment, she also disliked the fact that she loved him so much that the thought that he was truly evil felt like it could break her.
Unable to be hard to him, she eventually gave him a short nod, and as they both stood up, he took a hold of her hands. The next moment, he had whisked her to the middle of his working chambers, and he immediately headed to one of the cupboards in the corner.
As Belle looked around, she suddenly froze. As her eyes fell on the drapes, she realized that they weren’t covering the mirror. They were just laying over a nearby chair – where she had left them – and she hadn’t even remembered to put them back or cover her tracks.
As she cast a gaze at his back, she felt more nervous than ever. If he saw the drapes where they were now, he would figure out what she had been up to, and she figured that if she went to the mirror now and pretended to have pulled the drapes off in that moment, she could get away with it.
But it were seven steps to the mirror, and as she was looking at it, he already turned around, and she immediately tore her gaze away from it.
Approaching her with a small box in his hand, he stood in front of her with a solemn expression on his face, gently smiling at her.
Opening the box, she frowned as she saw seven dried out beans, black and fragile and very, very dead.
“Beans?” she asked, confused, and hoping her question would keep him from looking at the mirror.
“Yes,” he replied. “Magic beans. They have withered and died, but I hope to restore them so I can use them – or at least one of them – to travel away from this world.”
At those words, Belle looked into his eyes, not understanding why he would want to leave this place. He could see the question in her eyes, and explained: “I lost someone very dear to me to another world, and I have been trying to get back to him for centuries now. A prophecy foretold that with the aid of Regina, I would finally succeed in reuniting with him, though the details were a bit unclear. That’s why I help her now… With these beans restored, I can finally find my son.”
The moment he said the word ‘son’, Belle’s eyes widened. A million questions came to her mind at the same time, and she wasn’t sure what to ask first.
“I know that the situation isn’t ideal – that people have suffered and will suffer,” Rumplestiltskin continued in a gentler tone. “But what matters above all else to me is my child. It’s my fault he is stuck in another world – I must try and make amends with him and the only way to reach him, is by using the Gems of Life to bring these beans back to life as well. They both come from the Giants – and I know of no other way to heal them. My dark magic can’t.”
Belle’s expression wasn’t as hard as before, but by no means was her expression soft now. And she was still very quiet as she thought it over. It was a lot to take in.
“I understand that you’re upset,” Rumplestiltskin continued, gently touching her cheek, and he was relieved to see that she didn’t pull back. “My choices will hurt people, but I’d like to believe I’m acting on behalf of the greatest good I know – my son. Maybe one day you will understand.”
There were tears in her eyes as she realized she was also acting on behalf of the greatest good she knew – the lives of the innocent. But was she allowed the right to judge a man who desperately wanted to reunite with a son who was stuck in an alien world? Was the child not an innocent as well? Was no love greater than that of a father for his children?
Feeling a great amount of empathy for him, she suddenly stepped closer to him and embraced him tightly, and he put his arms around her back as well.
“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “I understand you a little bit better now, but I’m not sure if I can approve of you leaving the people of Agrabah and the Empire to die.”
As he listened to her, he did feel a little guilty, and as she let go of him again, she looked at him again. “I have an idea… While you’re waiting for Regina to get all the gems together… Can’t you find a way to help the people of the Empire and Agrabah? With all your powers, you should be able to help them with their food supply. Can’t you magically summon food for them or help them with their harvests or anything that would keep them alive – even if the gem gets stolen?”
For a moment he frowned, but as he saw her hopeful gaze, he suddenly smiled. She was giving him another chance and trying to make him a better person. He wasn’t offended. Baelfire would be like her – and he should try to be a man that would make them proud. “I can try. I suppose I’m not doing much with my time besides spinning… and spending time with you, I guess.”
Hardly able to believe what she was hearing, her heart jumped for joy. He was seriously considering helping the people of Agrabah and the Empire, and it was more than she could have hoped for.
“Really?” she asked in a hopeful, high tone.
He chuckled as he nodded. “Really. But know that I’m doing it for you, first and foremost.”
Belle frowned, not sure how to take that.
Seeing her confusion, he explained: “Most of my conscience is gone. I don’t even know if the Dark One has much of a conscience anymore. But somehow, with you, I feel like a man again. And I know that my son would like me to be a better man too. So if you can live with the things I do, then so can he. And if you want to make me better, then I should hold some value to that and listen to you, because my son would approve of that, and that’s who I want to be.”
Her mood was instantly lifted at those words. He was the Dark One – but he wasn’t all evil. In fact, there was plenty of good in him to work with. She promised herself to work with it.
As he moved back to the cupboard to put the beans away again, she looked at the mirror again, but he was moving too fast, and she would never make it in time, and so she needed another distraction.
Remembering how she had seen Jafar and Jasmine entwined on top of a desk earlier that day, inspiration struck.
When Rumplestiltskin turned around and looked at her, he suddenly witnessed how Belle wiped the contents of his desk to the floor in one fluent movement.
As ink vials, scrolls, potions and books fell to the floor, Rumplestiltskin’s mouth dropped in horror.
Belle turned around rather happily once the desk was empty, biting her lip as she looked at him with a seductive gaze, stroking the wood with one finger, but it had no effect on the Dark One, who was still looking at the mess she had made in mild horror.
“Belle!” he cried out. “Why on earth did you do that?”
She gulped as she realized he had not really understood her intention, and she hesitated for a moment before she leaned back against the desk, lifting her head seductively as she winked at him. “So you can satiate my appetite.”
He shook his head wildly as he stepped closer to her and gently pushed her out of the way, and with a wave of his hand all the contents of his desk disappeared from the floor and were repositioned on top of his desk.
Belle looked a little confused and disappointed, but Rumplestiltskin just strictly explained: “What are we, animals? I can hold it in until we get to the bedroom.”
Putting her hand on his cheek, she looked at him with as seductive a gaze as she could muster, and she forbade herself to look at the mirror in order not to draw his attention to it. “Then whisk me there right now… Let’s not hold it in any longer.”
Though he was a bit confused by her sudden change in tone, he still nodded. If she was feeling lust for him right now, then who was he to deny her?
“Of course,” he said gently, taking her hand, and the next moment they were in the bedroom again.
She was relieved they were out of his working chambers. With any luck, she could get there before him and cover the mirror again. But for now, she had signed up to something else. Perhaps she wasn’t truthful about her lust. In fact, she had so much on her mind besides making love… But in order to make it believable, she’d have to focus now. As she realized what they were about to do, she gulped. She could do this.
I will do what I must to end this war. And let’s be honest: you want him more than your conscience is willing to admit.
Chapter 11: First Love
He began kissing her neck before she could even do anything else. Apparently he had not seen the dazed gaze in her eyes or the distracted way she had rubbed her stomach. He now had his arms around her, clinging to her like his life depended on it. She would not stop him. Perhaps she could convince herself she really wanted this too, right now. She had wanted it that morning, so she should be able to want it again.
She just had to remind herself why she loved him. He did care for her – and he cared greatly about his son as well. And though he did not care for the people from the Empire or Agrabah as much as she did, he was willing to help them, just because she had been appalled by his lack of empathy. Wasn’t that a good thing?
Slowly, she wrapped her arms around him as well, reminding herself that she cared for his well-being like he had cared for hers. Perhaps the only reason why he did not care about those people was because he lived in isolation – because he had allowed himself this physical distance from the rest of humanity. But perhaps she could remind him of that humanity – and perhaps sleeping with him would help with bringing out the goodness inside of him. He had nurtured her back to health and he had been so sweet with her. She could return that sweetness to him.
As she began unbuttoning his silk shirt, he did seem to protest a little, for he took her hands and stopped them. Confused, she looked at him, only to see such an insecurity in his eyes that her heart broke again for a moment. He wasn’t all evil. Part of him was just broken, and that was the part she was seeing right now.
“Please, Belle,” he whispered lowly. “You don’t need to undress me. There is not much for you to see, and I can assure you that my silk blouse will be far softer to your hands than my skin could ever be.”
It was clear to her that he hated his own body, and she wasn’t sure how to deal with that.
“I wouldn’t mind,” she assured him.
“I would,” he insisted, and she nodded in an understanding way.
“Tell me what you want me to do then,” she whispered, and as he remained rather quiet, insecure even, she continued carefully: “Do you want me to undress for you?”
His breath hitched for a moment, and though he did not speak, his head did move up and down, so slowly that Belle hardly realized that he was saying yes.
She calmly undid the laces at the front of her bodice, not taking her eyes off his, and she thought he looked rather shy as she stepped out of her dress. With nothing but her undergarments on, she turned around and moved her hair to the side. “Will you take it off for me?”
As he began to lift her skirt, Belle lifted her arms, and it didn’t take much effort for either of them to take the undergarments off. As she stood completely naked in the room – illuminated by nothing but candles and glowing embers from the fireplace – she took a deep, but slow breath. She hoped that she did not disappoint.
She was about to turn back around to face him when she suddenly felt the front of his body lean into her back, and while his lips sought out her neck, his hands moved over her breasts, gently squeezing them while she closed her eyes.
It felt good to have him so near and so affectionate with her body, and they both enjoyed it for a little while longer. The kisses he placed in her neck were especially tantalizing, and she could not stop smiling.
When one hand of his found its way between her legs, Belle’s mouth dropped with a low moan, and all his earlier practice had not been in vain. She was soon wetter than ever for him, and aching for release.
She felt how he was gently nudging her to walk towards the bed, and while they both shuffled closer, she heard him say in a hoarse tone: “On your knees…”
She had an inkling of what he wanted to do, and she obeyed him as the excitement within only built up further. She had read about this – and though this was not what she had wanted to try first, she was eager to learn that it was what he wanted.
As she waited for him on her hands and knees, she felt how he moved behind her, using his fingers to feel her up and tease her even more. She could feel how he was trying to stretch her a bit, and to her surprise it wasn’t painful at all. It felt good, and the pleasant ache she felt only seemed to demand for him to fill her up.
When he finally did, he was very slow, and Belle gasped, her eyes closed as she tried to remain steady. Her body wanted to reposition itself – to adjust to the strange sensation, and Rumplestiltskin’s hands seemed to direct her hips in a slightly different angle, and before she knew it the ache was gone and all she felt was bliss as he slowly moved inside her.
“Good?” he asked her, his voice a little tense as he was concentrating very hard on keeping a slow but steady pace, and Belle nodded, her face flushed as she could hardly keep the strength in her arms to stay the way she was.
“Amazing,” she muttered, trying to look back at him, but she wasn’t in a very good position to do so – and so she soon gave up on her efforts while he continued his slow bucking into her. When his hand moved around her to tease her further, it didn’t take long for her to come undone. She could not keep from gasping and moaning in ecstasy as his hands worked miracles on her, and she was surprised to hear him say: “Louder. Moan as though you want the entire Enchanted Forest to hear.”
For some reason, those words thrilled her more than anything, and she obeyed him, noticing how he was moving faster as well now, more aggressively with each thrust, and she cried out in a strange mix of pleasure and pain as his speed increased and the gentleness disappeared a bit.
He wasn’t even touching her anymore by the time she came undone for a second time, and as she cried out, she was surprised to suddenly hear him echo her, moaning just as loudly as he pushed in rather hard a few times, just before he grew completely still, and Belle’s legs and arms were shaking now as she felt exhausted.
As he pulled out of her and crawled off the bed, she dropped into the comfortable blankets and pillows instead, still moaning gently as she felt as though he was still inside her – even if he had moved out moments ago.
“Woah…” she said in amazement, trying to catch her breath. “That was amazing…”
As she opened her eyes, she tried to look behind her, only to find him tucking himself away again and closing his pants, his back turned to her while he also closed the few buttons of his shirt that had been undone. Confused that he would back away so fast again, she suddenly asked: “Rumple?”
He seemed a little startled, but immediately looked at her.
It was the first time she had called him like that, and as he saw his beauty lay on the bed like that, part of him was angry with himself. Sure, she had been pleased, but did she not deserve better than this? Better than him?
Part of him was upset with himself for his selfishness, even though another part wanted to do it again, right now, and not stop until she could no longer walk.
“Won’t you come and cuddle?” she asked him, her eyes very pleading, almost afraid that he would reject her, but he had no intention of letting her down.
As he moved onto the bed, he went to lay against her back, embracing her waist closer to his while he pressed a few kisses to the side of her head.
She wiggled in his arms though, turning around to look at him, and at this he felt rather self-conscious again.
“Why won’t you let me watch you?” she whispered kindly, putting one hand against his cheek, and as she saw the sadness in his eyes, she worried even more.
“You deserve so much better than me,” he whispered in return. “So much prettier and younger and nicer. You should not have to look at a monster while making love.”
Belle’s heart broke at those words, and she frowned. “Don’t say that,” she whispered. “You have no idea how handsome you are to me. You’re not a monster! Let me prove it to you!”
As she leaned into him, he pulled back when he realized what she wanted to do.
“You don’t need to kiss me,” he said quickly, his voice nervous.
“But I want to,” she insisted.
“You deserve a better mouth than mine to kiss. Better lips. Better teeth. Something that doesn’t feel as rough as sandpaper.”
Belle frowned at that. “A sweet kiss won’t hurt either of us.”
His lips trembled as he looked at hers, but he shook his head. “I can’t, Belle. I won’t. Don’t… Don’t ask me to.”
“Fine, I won’t ask you to,” she muttered stubbornly, right before she tried to kiss him again, but this time he grabbed both her wrists before he pinned her down on the bed, leaning his weight over her again.
“Don’t mock me!” he growled at her, but she only looked at him stubbornly.
“I’m not mocking you, I’m trying to kiss you because I think you’re stupid for not wanting to kiss me, or not wanting me to look at you while we make love.”
Those last few words made his gaze a little gentler, though also confused, and as she noticed this, she smiled. It was the word ‘love’ that had broken his hard gaze, and she was only now beginning to learn of its power.
“I love you,” Belle said hopefully. “Please believe me.”
He looked at her for a very long time, his gaze going from confused to harsh to emotional to angry in a matter of seconds.
Her words did move him, in more ways than one, for she suddenly realized how hard he had grown again in those few moments that he had kept her pinned against the bed.
“It’s alright,” she said with a smile. “You can make love to me, if you want to…”
His eyes grew large again, not knowing what to make of her taunting, and she continued bravely: “Or if you’re not ready for that just yet, you can fuck me. But I’m not looking away from you this time.”
As she rubbed herself against his leather pants, she noticed how his harsh gaze grew a little distracted, and he slowly started to nod in agreement, feeling too lustful to argue with her. He wanted to feel himself inside her more than he wanted to argue about it, and he didn’t even protest when she suddenly started to unbutton his shirt.
Soon her hands were on his stomach, and it was pretty amazing to feel her soft hands against him, and even better to feel her undo him from the confinements of his pants.
She didn’t undress him completely, and for that he was grateful, and she caressed his cheek and looked him in the eye when he entered her again.
This time, they were both gentler, and Rumplestiltskin had a slightly incredulous expression on his face as he realized how warmly she looked at him while they were making love. There was no disgust or hate, only lust and love, and he actually took great pleasure from watching her come undone while he was still inside her.
When it was his turn to come, he didn’t know if he could while she looked at him, but she whispered: “Yes, my love, don’t hold back. Just come for me.”
Though part of him didn’t want her to look at him, another part was too close to coming to back away now, and when he emptied himself inside of her, he moaned deeply, almost regretfully, like he would take it back if he could.
Belle only pressed sweet kisses to his face and moved her fingers through his hair, and as he slowly dropped his weight on top of her, she held him tightly, her legs still wrapped around him.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I want you to know that I love you – no matter what.”
He didn’t know why she was saying this now, of all times, but he nodded, rolling off of her a few minutes later, and as she shuddered, he realized that she disliked how sticky she felt in that moment. He cleaned her up with a wave of his hand, and she snuggled closer to him.
“Will you sleep with me?” she asked softly. “Not just lay with me, or watch over me, but really sleep with me?”
Unable to resist her anything, he nodded, and as they both lay down underneath the sheets – she naked and he still half-dressed – he realized that Belle fell asleep rather quickly. For once, he allowed himself the same, and as he closed his eyes, he was soon off into a rare, blissful sleep.
Chapter 12: A Heartfelt Betrayal
Rumplestiltskin hadn’t slept in years, and so when he woke up, he was a little disoriented.
Seeing how he found himself in his own room, he could still smell Belle on the pillow by his side, but the princess herself seemed to be missing.
Figuring that she had gone to the toilet, he still smiled to himself as he recalled the amazing love they had made. There were so many things that he would do different next time, so many things they had not tried yet, and he hoped she would still look forward to trying those things with him next time they gave into their lust.
As minutes passed, Rumplestiltskin sat up a little, and using magic, he tried to find a trace of her.
He had expected to find a trace of her in one of the nearby bathrooms, or perhaps in the Great Hall, where she had left her books, but instead he found her trace outside his working chambers, and at this his heart started pounding like crazy.
In a second, he had whisked himself into the same corridor, and he hid behind a pillar as he witnessed in confusion how his Belle was wearing just her undergarments while she moved through the darkness, letting nothing but the light of the moon illuminate her in the dark halls until she opened the door to his working chambers.
Rumplestiltskin felt betrayed, though he did not know in which way, and so he made no sound as he followed behind her, wondering if she was going to steal the beans, or just destroy them even further. He would of course stop her before she’d even touch the beans – but if she dared to do such a thing, then he had truly never known her at all.
As she walked in, she headed straight to the drapes that hung over one of the chairs, and while he creeped behind her, he suddenly realized that those drapes should have been covering Jafar’s mirror – and he wondered how he had not noticed that before.
Quickly, she put the drapes back over the mirror, and as she turned around to head back to her room, she gasped when she saw Rumplestiltskin stand right behind her in the doorframe, his gaze both hurt and angry at the same time, but he was also too confused to speak, and so Belle beat him to it.
“I can explain!” she said quickly, but part of her wondered if she even could. She didn’t know where to begin, and he didn’t look like he wanted to hear her speak at all.
Approaching her slowly, he forced his hand around Belle’s wrist as he lifted her hand, making it impossible for her to get loose.
“Please, do,” he said in a tone that was anything but polite or forgiving, and Belle gulped.
“I’m so sorry,” she immediately started, tears in her eyes.
“For being caught?” he replied in a cold tone, his eyes cutting through hers like daggers.
She shook her head immediately. “For going behind your back. But please believe me when I say that I do love you – before you question everything I’ve ever said, you must know that this is true.”
His gaze didn’t soften, and as he cast a glance at the now-covered mirror, he hissed: “You spoke to someone on the other side of that mirror? To Jafar?”
Belle nodded immediately, figuring that if she didn’t tell the truth, she would die – and if she did, then it was still likely she would die, but at least she could leave the world with a clean conscience.
“Please, let me tell you the whole story,” she urged him gently, and he narrowed his eyes even more.
“If you even try to hide one thing from me…”
“I won’t!” she quickly tried to assure him, but it didn’t seem like her word had much value anymore. He didn’t seem to take her word for anything now.
Taking a quick breath, she blurted out: “I was sent by the leaders of Agrabah and the Empire to gather useful information on how to defeat queen Regina and regain control of their Gem of Life.”
It was a short reply, and she realized that there was far more to it, and so she continued: “I was in the Empire the day that Agrabah’s gem was stolen, and I was locked up because I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong color of skin. But I still had friends among the nobles, and so instead of wanting me dead, they wanted me to spy – to go undercover and relay information back to them. They set you up…” She admitted that last thing rather sadly, but it won her no compassion from him. “Though Jafar did hurt me, he only did it to make my story credible, and I actually accepted it because I too want this war to end, and I don’t want the people of Agrabah and the Empire to die. Even if they haven’t always treated me well, they don’t deserve to starve to death either…”
Rumplestiltskin’s gaze was still harsh as he looked at her, and not knowing how to regain his sympathy, she added: “They are still holding my father prisoner to this day. I haven’t seen him in a year, but I know that he’s still there…” She gulped when she realized that no sympathy could be won from Rumplestiltskin with that argument either, and so she could only continue babbling, hoping that something would change his mind – that something would reach his heart. “I didn’t know what to expect when I came here, but you were so kind to me… I was so pleasantly surprised by everything that you are…”
“I wish I could say the same,” he interrupted her bitterly. “But you only played me because you needed information. And now – be honest – what did you tell Jafar?”
Belle shook her head. “Not much, actually. Just that I was safe. I told him earlier this morning that you weren’t as faithful to Regina as we had always believed – that you still had your own will in what you did, when you distracted Jafar – but other than that I really didn’t know more that I could tell him.”
As he remained quiet, she insisted: “I felt horrible after speaking to Jafar. I didn’t want to betray you – I care too much for you – but I just didn’t want anyone to die because of the Queen’s desire for those gems either… You have to believe me when I say that I still love you – and that I grew to love you despite all our differences.”
She didn’t know what was going on in his mind, but his eyes seemed to cry “murder” and “torture” at her, and she was terrified of his verdict.
“Rumple, when I came here, I could have used the mirror to tell Jafar everything that we discussed this afternoon. I didn’t. Because I don’t want to betray you – not anymore. Please – just let me love you!”
It was a desperate plea, but one he didn’t want to hear. He turned his face away from hers, though he did not let go of her wrist, and never had a conversation felt more final to her.
When he started pulling her away with him, she had trouble keeping up, but as she followed him, minutes passed, and she did realize that he was taking her back to the ground floor, and she wondered if he was going to kick her out of the Dark Castle. They didn’t head in the direction of the great hall though – and even went further down, until they reached the area where one entered his dungeons, and Belle figured that this was what she deserved.
She didn’t know what she regretted more: the fact that he was the love of her life, and she had gotten herself in this situation, or the fact that the Empire still wasn’t any closer to defeating the Evil Queen, while she had so many answers now.
He tossed her in a cell, and while he closed the door behind her and left, she cried out for him: “Rumplestiltskin, please! Don’t do this! You don’t need to do this! I’m no threat to you and I still love you… Please believe me!”
But he was gone in a matter of seconds, and she feared that her efforts to call out to him were in vain.
Still wearing nothing more than her undergarments, Belle sobbed as she sat down in a corner of the cell, wrapping her arms around her legs as she cried.
This was what she had feared all along – that she wouldn’t be able to keep up her cover for long enough to matter – that she would not be able to get away with any of it, and she had been proven right. She had no one but herself to blame, she supposed.
Now she was freezing and crying and feeling more miserable than she had felt in a lifetime. She had tried to do well – by spying for the Empire and by loving Rumplestiltskin – but both things had backfired horribly. Now she wouldn’t be able to do either of those things.
Belle shook her head fiercely.
“But Mulan, what if he has good reasons for helping Regina? What if we just don’t know the complete story yet, and we might be doing something horrible by stealing the gem back?”
They had been having the same discussion for days. Ever since they had asked her to spy, Belle didn’t feel like they were asking her to do the right thing. She was still willing to do a lot in order to gain the information they needed, but the judgement they had over the Dark One seemed to be too cold and too hard – too inhuman, even for a monster – and that made it sound unreal. There had to be more to him than she heard them tell her.
Mulan was looking very annoyed now as she stood in front of Belle’s cell.
“You are not supposed to question everything we ask you to do. The task is simple: get information on how to get the gems back and how to defeat Regina and Rumplestiltskin. That is useful information to us. The rest doesn’t matter.”
“But what if Regina and Rumplestiltskin have a really good reason for wanting the gems? Should we not look for a compromise?”
Mulan was rather upset at those words. “Belle, I have friends who have died in this war! I have been on the battlefield outside the borders of the Enchanted Forest. Stop thinking like a princess and start thinking like a spy! You’re a princess of a fallen kingdom! Do you think they looked for a compromise when they stole the gem from Agrabah?” She didn’t wait for Belle’s reply. “I don’t think so! They’re evil. That’s all we need to know – and you need to be careful! Your attitude to befriend everything that walks is a little frustrating, to be honest. The Evil Queen and the Dark One are more like Jafar than like me. They won’t give a rat’s ass about you.”
Belle pouted, frowning. It was true that Jafar had made it very clear to her that he would never like her, but that didn’t mean that the same would be true for Rumplestiltskin. She wanted to believe that not all dark wizards were exactly like the Royal Vizier – and even he had one redeeming trait: loyalty to Agrabah.
“Well I know for a fact that Regina won’t care about me. She and I met in the past, and she is too self-absorbed to really care,” she admitted. “But still… Why can’t I make up my own mind about Rumplestiltskin? Is that not the honorable thing to do?”
“Belle, it is not your job to do the honorable thing. That is my job, as a warrior. You are a spy – that’s completely different. You need to lie and cheat to get valuable information. What you do isn’t honorable, quite the opposite, but it is crucial that it is done. Now stop questioning these things and don’t focus on what’s right and wrong as much as you need to focus on what is needed.”
Belle sighed as she leaned against the wall of her cell, not looking at Mulan.
“I have honor too,” she muttered.
“Not in the eyes of the Empire,” Mulan said with her head raised high. “You are not noble in this land – and only those of noble blood can become warriors like me. So that’s not you, Belle. And after what Regina did, I doubt any of your color will be thought off as honorable for a very long time to come.”
Belle hated it whenever they reminded her that because of her color, she was less than them. She was upset with Regina for putting that idea in the minds of these people that had once been allies. “I’ll prove them wrong. I’ll prove that I’m honorable.”
“By spying on the Dark One? I doubt it.” Mulan snorted, not fully realizing how much she was hurting Belle with her tone. “A spy needs to abandon honor, not embrace it. But good luck with that. You’ll need it.”
As Mulan left, Belle kicked some of the books away that lay at the end of her bedroll, though she soon realized she wasn’t upset with the books, and she lovingly gathered them again, checking if she had not damaged them in her frustration.
She was being asked to give up on her honor – on her conscience – on her heart – in order to win this war. How could she ever reconcile what she would need to do with her honest soul? Though Mulan wanted her to forget who she really was, she hoped she never would.
Chapter 13: An Unwanted Prisoner
There was no light in Belle’s cell. It wasn’t pitch black, but it was hard to make out much more than the little bars in the tiny window of her cell.
He had left her in the dark, without food, warmth, or even proper clothing for that matter.
She hadn’t slept, but she had no way to tell how much time had passed. She was too sad to feel hungry, but she was thirsty, if only because she had cried so much. It felt like she was all cried out because she simply could not produce the tears anymore, and her throat ached.
She had seen the good in Rumplestiltskin. Was this now where she would finally see the evil in him? Or had it been there all along, and had she been blind to it?
Even now, she didn’t consider the man she had seen that night to be evil. He had been hurt, and upset, but she honestly understood it. She understood how he had not been able to see her as anything but a liar. Like Mulan had always told her, a spy had no honor – at least not in the eyes of anyone who knew they were a spy. But she still stubbornly told herself that she too had noble blood – that there was more honor in her than there had ever been in any spy – and she was still willing to make things right.
As she suddenly heard footsteps in the hallway, she tried to get up, slowly but steadily while she held onto the wall, feeling a little dizzy.
He opened the door rather violently, smacking the door open so hard that if she had been behind it, she probably would have hurt herself.
As he stood in the doorway, he was wearing his ghastliest outfit, and Belle had never seen him look so monstrous. There was light in the corridor behind him, and the small amount of light that shone in, revealed her to be trembling, with messy hair as she stood there, rubbing her own arms.
She had a slightly scared gaze in her eyes as she awaited his judgement, and as he stepped to the side, leaving the exit open for her, he said in a voice as cold as steel: “Out.”
Belle stood there for a few moments, feeling like she could not leave him.
“Do I have to?” she asked him, and those were apparently the last words he had expected, for he genuinely seemed surprised for a moment.
“Yes!” he replied impatiently. “I don’t want traitors within my walls!”
Belle gulped, doing some quick thinking before she replied: “But I can’t betray you if you don’t let me go. If I stay here, I can’t tell anyone what I know. If I don’t get back to Jafar, they won’t come to look for me or anything. I’m not that valuable. I was more of a nuisance to them anyways.”
“You’re a nuisance to me too!” he insisted stubbornly, pointing to the door. “Leave!”
“What if I refuse?” she said just as stubbornly, sitting down again, and at this Rumplestiltskin’s mouth dropped and he seemed to be at a loss for words for a few moments.
Noticing this, Belle smirked.
“There’s literally nothing you can threaten me with that will impress me.”
Rumplestiltskin breathed in a large gust of air. “Fine!” he cried out angrily. “Then stay here! Stay here and starve!”
As he left the cell again, he slammed the door closed, and as Belle heard him walk away again, she sighed. She had a feeling he would be back. But for now, she had won round one, she assumed.
When he returned, many hours had passed. Belle was very hungry now, and still freezing cold. She was feeling a little sick, possibly from the cold, or maybe just from the myriad of emotions she had been feeling the past day. She had lost her virginity, the love of her life and her freedom, and it was all her own fault.
When the door suddenly opened again, she was surprised because she had not heard his footsteps. As he stepped in, he dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor in front of her. He also put down a small lantern on the floor, and the door remained open as he stepped outside.
“I still want you to leave. I expect you to be gone in the morning.”
While he headed out as quickly as he could, Belle was left looking at the things he had dropped. Her dress was there, as was her cloak and decent walking boots. She also found a pouch with gold and a bag with provisions. There was bread, cheese, and a large water pouch, and though she was hungry, and even thirstier than that, she didn’t take any of it.
As though all of it was contaminated, she quickly let go of it again, frowning as she sat back stubbornly against the wall. She would not accept this bribe. Getting back to the Empire wasn’t her top priority. It wouldn’t make her happy at all to betray him – and she knew that her one shot at happiness was still here with him – one way or another, he was a part of her future now, and she did not want to give up on that yet. She needed to show him that she cared about remaining in his presence more than anything.
Still freezing and still cold, she lay down on the floor and tried to catch a little sleep. She was convinced that she had also won round two now.
When he returned in the morning, she was sleeping, and trembling. Bending down over her, he realized that she didn’t look healthy. She had red spots in her face, and as he felt her forehead, he could feel a fever.
Sighing angrily, he whisked everything back to his room, both Belle and the things he had left her with.
As he checked the water pouch and the food, he realized that she hadn’t eaten a single bit of it, and this angered him. Was she suicidal? Was life in the Empire so horrible that she would prefer to remain with him – the Dark One? For him to use as he pleased? He tried to tell himself that she was insane. It made it a little easier on him to do what he needed to do.
She didn’t wake up – she was too sick, probably – and he got some medicine from his working chambers before he returned to her, lifting her head as he forced her to drink a bit of the green liquid.
She still managed to gulp away the medicine and afterwards some water without much effort, and he was glad for it. She was going to be fine.
But this game had to end though. She had proven her resolve to him, but that did nothing to change the fact that she had betrayed him, and that he had felt hurt because of it. He was still hurt.
At the same time, though he would never admit it to anyone, her willingness to remain in the castle warmed his heart. He still loved her, he knew he did, and he wanted nothing more but to trust her. But a voice inside told him that he couldn’t. Not now, not ever. Even if another voice wanted to hold onto every last bit of her, to never let go.
As her fever dropped, she remained asleep, and without her consent, he magically changed her into her normal dress – and he even fixed her hair so she looked presentable again.
She was decent again – and healthy – but she was not his to keep. He could not allow himself to be so weak.
As he held her in his arms, his lip trembled as he looked at her, and tears fell from his eyes. He couldn’t remember hurting this much in his long lifetime. He wanted to keep her – but he knew that he shouldn’t, and that it wasn’t his right to hold her captive in the first place.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead and then drew in a painful gasp of air. He didn’t want to say goodbye to her – but he had to.
And so, before she could wake up, he whisked her away – far away – outside of Jafar’s tower.
He didn’t even care about what she would do next. He wasn’t even worried if she was to tell Jafar or the Emperor his secrets. If she did, then he would only be proven right – it would be proven then that she could not be trusted – and he hoped that that knowledge would make it easier on him to get over her – even if he still felt like she was the love of his life.
He had won the last and decisive round three – even if he truly hated the game they were playing.
Chapter 14: Breakdown and Buildup
When Belle woke, it truly felt like a dream. Not only because her father was there, but also because she found herself in one of the most beautiful rooms there was in the Emperor’s Palace. Inside, the walls were painted the lightest blue, with white furniture all around her. Outside, in the large garden before her large windows, pink blossom trees and a marble fountain were illuminated by sunshine, and everything seemed so peaceful to her in that moment that she didn’t even notice Jasmine’s presence as she sat on the corner of Belle’s bed.
Soon, Belle realized that she wasn’t dreaming, and that Rumplestiltskin had somehow whisked her back to the Emperor himself, and as Jasmine began to question her about her well-being and what had happened, Belle realized that she did not want to divulge Rumplestiltskin’s secrets to anyone – or what had happened to her. What he had told her had been private, and it had been a sign of trust and perhaps even love, and she wanted to hold on to that as long as possible.
She told Jasmine she did not want to talk about it for now, and Jasmine granted her this silence while her father held her tightly and thanked the heavens for her safe return.
A full day was spent without putting too much pressure on Belle, but on the second day Mulan was there, to ask her how she was, but mostly to remind her of her loyalties. It did not work. Belle remained silent.
On the third day Jafar popped up, and he was far less gentle. He threatened to throw her father in jail again if she refused to speak, and perhaps it was that last thing that finally made her talk about what she had learned, though she kept several things to herself still.
She explained Regina’s motives for wanting the gem, but kept quiet about Rumplestiltskin’s. The knowledge she shared in the presence of the Emperor, Jafar, Jasmine, Mulan, her father and the Dragon was appreciated, and security around the Gem was reinforced once more, and Belle was thanked for her services, even though she felt like she hadn’t done anything at all.
The war was still raging, Rumplestiltskin was on his own again, and so was she, and she felt like everything with the world was wrong. She had never felt so helpless in her entire life, and so the rest of the week, she sat in her room, mostly just crying as she looked at the blossoms as they fell, unable to stop thinking about how she had betrayed Rumplestiltskin.
Part of her wanted to travel back to him, but she had no idea how to even begin with such a journey. There was still a war raging on the border between the Enchanted Forest and the Empire, and so trying to reach him would most likely kill her. No one in the Empire would just let her pass – and even those in the Enchanted Forest would be wary of her.
Her options were limited, and where Mulan, Jasmine and Jafar had tried to give her advice on how to prepare for her job at hand before, they weren’t around now that she had returned with a broken heart and no way to mend it. Her job had been done, and she had gotten the promise of a “good life” for herself and her father – or as good as a life in the Empire could be under the constant threat of starvation – and she wasn’t happy – even if her father was pleased with the release from his cell.
“You should be happy you succeeded in bringing back important information to the Emperor,” Maurice reminded her warmly. “You did what no one else managed to do.”
“Yet it has not helped anyone one bit,” Belle said stubbornly. “We’re still at war. Regina won’t give up until she has the gem – and we’re still at risk of starving to death. What I did was meaningless.”
“I assure you that it wasn’t,” Maurice said kindly. “If it was meaningless, would I be released from my cell, you think?”
Belle didn’t reply. She assumed her father would still be locked up then – but she kept on feeling like it hadn’t meant as much as she would have liked. How could her information have been useful? Even she didn’t know what to do with it.
After several weeks in this life-less state, even Jasmine began to feel sorry for Belle, and one day she decided to bestow the greatest trust and honor upon Belle, in the presence of Mulan.
They took Belle to the place where the last Gem of Life was kept – a large basement underneath the palace. The term ‘basement’ didn’t do it justice though.
Even if there was no natural light, the room was brighter and larger than many on the ground floor. Mirrors and candles lit up the entire place, and the circular room had a beautiful golden pedestal in the middle of it, with the gem placed on top of it. Dozens of meters above it, there was a golden ceiling that nearly blinded her.
To get to the gem though, one had to pass through magical walls that had been put up around it. There were at least seven of them, and each wall was visible to the naked eye, because it was like a warm colorful glow, like a rainbow that was close enough to touch. Only those without bad intentions could cross these circular barriers. As the three women walked to the center of the room, through several of those walls, they were all very quiet. Jafar and the Dragon were also there, each on one side of the furthest wall, always on guard.
It was the first of the Gems of Life that Belle had ever seen with her own eyes, and she was in awe of its magic and beauty. This one was red, and it was beautifully polished and refined, much like a tear-shaped emerald, but much brighter. She could feel a light within herself as she looked at it, and though she was still incredibly sad, she was grateful for this opportunity. It was silly to think that a gem the size of her fist had the power to keep an entire nation well-fed, or to speak to her soul like it did, assuring her that life was alright.
Mulan and Jasmine escorted her to her room again afterwards, and as Belle gazed out the window that evening, she wondered if Rumplestiltskin would be around to steal the gem soon. Perhaps he could then once more steal her away as well. Or perhaps she could steal the gem for him, to prove her loyalty to him once and for all.
She shook her head. Part of her hated that idea, though another part of her wanted nothing more at the same time. There had to be another way.
She lay herself to rest in her bed that night, trying not to think about it. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that it would be the only way in which she could regain his trust. But at the same time, it would also betray the entire Empire and all the people from Agrabah. Where she had felt at peace a few hours earlier, she was back in turmoil now. This wasn’t her, was it?
When Jasmine visited her the following morning, Belle admitted something that had weighed heavy on her heart ever since she had returned.
“I love Rumplestiltskin.”
Jasmine had been sipping from her tea and nearly choked, before she put her cup down and tilted her head curiously.
“Part of me doesn’t want to,” she admitted sadly. “Things would be so much easier if I didn’t. And I know he’s a dark wizard – but he’s not all evil. And I’ve hurt him so much by betraying him. He didn’t deserve that. And now he never wants to see me again…”
Jasmine frowned at that confession, though she didn’t blame Belle for the sentiment in her tone.
“Well…” the princess of Agrabah said slowly. “I know that it can be… complex… to love a dark wizard.”
As Belle realized that she was talking of Jafar, she blinked a few times.
“You love him?” Belle asked, a little surprised, and Jasmine almost seemed insulted.
“Yeah! What did you think after you saw us together?! Of course I do!”
Belle frowned and licked her lips, before she leaned in a bit and asked: “Have you been together for a long time?”
Jasmine smiled shyly and shook her head.
“It kind of all happened after the gem got stolen, to be honest. It was a rather impulsive moment, after he came back from reinforcing the Empire’s Gem of Life along with the Dragon. He was so ashamed and upset that he had let his guard slip, that he had failed Agrabah, and I thought he was going to hurt himself… He was angry with himself… So I tried to calm him, and things got kind of physical, really fast… Before I knew it, I felt butterflies in my stomach and I’ve been unable to get them out ever since. I love him.”
Belle kept quiet as she listened, a small frown on her face. She wasn’t sure if Jafar could ever feel the same way about Jasmine.
“I know, it’s complicated, being a princess and all,” Jasmine admitted. “But Jafar is technically allowed to marry me, being the Grand Vizier. He’s a high enough title to qualify… But we’ll wait until Agrabah is back to its old self. If we ever manage to restore peace…”
“Are you sure he doesn’t have bad intentions?” Belle asked slowly, and at this Jasmine’s gaze seemed to grow a little angrier.
“Oh, like Rumplestiltskin only had good intentions with you? If he really cared so much, why did he drop you back off here? Don’t question the love between me and Jafar while Rumplestiltskin doesn’t even want to see you anymore.”
Belle felt whipped, but she figured that she had asked for it.
“To be honest, I feel like I’ve been losing my mind,” Belle continued. “I know I have no right to judge you. I’m the one who actually considers stealing the gem just to give it to Rumplestiltskin, hoping he’ll take me back…”
As tears came to Belle’s eyes, she looked at Jasmine, only to see her shocked expression.
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Belle said as she tried to smile, but failed miserably. “But I’ve been thinking of it, more than I would like to admit. I feel so unlike my old self. I don’t know who I am anymore, but part of me would do anything to get back to him, yet hurting all of you would hurt me as well.”
As Jasmine recognized how seriously Belle’s heart had been broken, and how much she still was in love, she moved next to Belle, embracing her tightly.
“Sweetie… You’re still you… You will still do the right thing, even if bad things cross your mind every now and then. You still have a conscience,” Jasmine said softly. “That’s why you feel so bad right now.”
Belle sobbed quietly against Jasmine’s shoulder, still feeling horrible, yet also a little better that she could share it with someone who understood.
“I feel like I have no purpose here,” Belle continued. “As a spy, at least I felt like I was helping you guys… and when I fell in love with Rumplestiltskin, I felt like I had so much to give him – and I feel like I still have so much to give him right now. It hurts not being able to do either of those things. How will I ever be of any use to you again? This is not my land… If I can’t be a spy or a lover…”
Jasmine frowned, trying to think of the right thing to say.
“Then just be a princess…” she offered slowly.
“Without a kingdom?” Belle asked, sounding depressed.
“Even if we both no longer have a kingdom, we still have big hearts… We are still compassionate,” Jasmine replied warmly. “We are still diplomats and able to speak on behalf of our people. We find compromises and help those in need. Isn’t that enough to do?”
As Jasmine remained quiet, so did Belle, thinking over those words. Suddenly her eyes widened.
“I think…” Belle didn’t finish the end of her sentence, but suddenly got out of their embrace and got up from her seat. Without looking at Jasmine, she headed to the door and opened it.
“Where are you going?” Jasmine wondered, laughing at this sudden change in behavior.
“To the Emperor,” Belle shouted from the corridor, smiling suddenly, and Jasmine quickly followed her. “We need to summon Rumplestiltskin and Regina to the palace. I think I may have found a compromise!”
Chapter 15: A Careful Compromise
As Jasmine and Belle entered the great throne room, they immediately realized something was horribly wrong. Soldiers were gearing up while others were heading off again, in the direction of the basement, just a few corridors away.
They hurried to the Emperor while he was talking to some advisors, and the moment he spotted the princesses, he immediately told them: “The Evil Queen and the Dark One. They’re here.”
Belle’s heart jumped at the mention of Rumplestiltskin, and she was rooted to the spot. Luckily, Jasmine wasn’t, and she dragged Belle away again, in the direction of the basement.
They ran as fast as their legs could carry them, speeding past the warriors that were slower because of their heavy armors.
Though Jasmine was leading at first, she came to an abrupt halt when a warrior suddenly grabbed her wrist.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?!” they heard Mulan say underneath her massive helmet, but Mulan had only grabbed Jasmine’s hand, not Belle’s, and the latter ran off as fast as she could, to the sounds of explosions and men crying out.
There was no time to be afraid, though she did feel nervous as she headed into the large room that held the gem. It appeared that of the seven magical walls, five were still up, and soldiers were being sent flying by none other than the Evil Queen while Rumplestiltskin seemed to be caught in a battle of elements with Jafar.
When one sent a ball of fire flying, the other responded by putting it out with a gush of water. When one made the ground tremble, the other flew into the air. But as Rumplestiltskin summoned a thunderbolt and threw it at Jafar, he was too slow to respond, and he was struck down and fell to the floor, seemingly unconscious.
Rumplestiltskin turned towards the magical wall again while Regina laughed as she sent more and more soldiers flying, apparently having a good time.
Belle gulped as she saw from a distance how Rumplestiltskin seemed to be taking the wall down – very slowly, but surely. Its colors faded as he put his hands to it, focusing as well as he could, and from the sight of it, it wasn’t painless to the Dark One, but he was succeeding.
At the innermost level, in front of the pedestal that held the gem, the Dragon sat, muttering ancient words as he tried to reinforce their defenses. But apparently he was no match for Rumplestiltskin, who suddenly broke through that wall, and as he passed through it, it disappeared. He only had four walls left to go and healed up before tackling the next one, his hands glowing purple for a moment as the blood disappeared from it.
Belle realized that there was no time to lose. As she ran past Jafar’s unconscious body, she tried not to head directly to Regina, knowing that it was likely to get her killed the moment the Queen spotted her. Instead, she kept to the outer walls as she took the long way around, to the back of the circular room, where she walked towards the Dragon through the magical walls, where she was safe.
She didn’t remain by the side of the old wizard though. She kept on walking, back to the outer layer of protection. As she headed straight towards Rumplestiltskin, protected by the colored barriers, he suddenly spotted her, and completely mesmerized, he let down his guard for a moment, stopping his magical attack.
She was still wearing the dress he had made her, and she had a sad gaze in her eyes as she came to stop in front of him, a purple haze from the wall between them as they looked at one another.
“Rumplestiltskin,” she said softly, her voice pleading gently. “You don’t have to do this.”
He shook his head. His voice sounded rough, but at the same time oddly emotional. “You know I have to, Belle. There is no other way.”
As he raised his hands to attack the wall again, Belle suddenly reached through the wall and took a hold of both of his hands before she gently nudged him back and emerged from the one place that would protect her from the magic around her. At least she knew in her heart that Rumplestiltskin wouldn’t hurt her.
“There is,” she continued with a brave smile, stepping so close to him that his breath hitched and he got distracted by her closeness. “We can all get what we want, even Regina. Tell her to hold off her attack. I want to make a proposal.”
Rumplestiltskin looked at her like she had gone insane. He could hardly believe her, but in that moment of doubt, Regina caught sight of the princess that was distracting Rumplestiltskin from his task, and without any warning, she sent Belle flying.
To Belle it felt like she was yanked from where she stood by the back of her neck, and it all happened so fast that she was hardly aware of what was happening. Rumplestiltskin tried to hold on to her, but the Queen’s magic was too strong, and she had no control over where she went now. She just felt like this was it – that this would be the end of her. In a flash, she was travelling towards one of the harsh marble walls at a speed that would make her neck snap upon impact, and in that single heartbeat she had no time to think of anything else but her imminent death.
But to her surprise, that second suddenly seemed to take two – and she held her breath – and then by the third second, she realized she was no longer flying, but hovering in the air, even regaining some sense of balance.
Looking around, she saw Rumplestiltskin had his hand outstretched towards her, keeping her steady with his magic, and as he looked at her with his mouth open, he was too dazed to do anything else.
But as he put her down with his magic, his gaze grew more determined and angry, and Belle feared that maybe now she would at last see the monster within.
But he did not direct his anger at her. Instead, he turned to Regina, and with a flick of his wrist, he suddenly stunned her, and she stood completely still, looking betrayed and confused as she looked at her mentor.
“Rumplestiltskin!” she cried out. “What on earth are you doing?!”
“Listening to Princess Belle,” he replied coldly. “So should you.”
He raised his other hand towards the warriors that still had the courage to approach them.
“Stand down for a moment. We wish to hear the princess speak…” he said, his tone more honest than they were used to.
The warriors seemed confused by this, but as Mulan took down her helmet and nodded at the others, they all took a few steps back, watching how Princess Belle walked closer to Rumplestiltskin, still shaking a bit from the earlier attack.
She did not look at him though. She just looked at the many bodies in the room, and she felt a bit of relief as she saw that Jasmine was by Jafar’s side, helping him up as he rubbed his head and leaned on her. The gaze in his eyes as he looked at Jasmine was grateful, and Belle was surprised to see such a gaze in those eyes that she had only ever seen angry and hateful with her.
As Jafar turned to look at her in return, he too seemed surprised by the sudden cease-fire.
“You had an idea?” Rumplestiltskin asked, almost sounding in awe of Belle, even though he had not heard her idea yet, and feeling encouraged by his kind tone, she smiled.
“Yes. A compromise. A way for all of us to get what we want.”
The Evil Queen snorted, but Belle shot her a strict gaze, and even she was impressed for a small moment.
“Regina, will you at least hear me out?”
Though the queen rolled her eyes, she nodded.
“Release her then…” Belle said softly as she turned to Rumplestiltskin. “A compromise loses its power when those involved have no choice but to listen. I hope you all listen on your own accord.”
Rumplestiltskin obeyed her, and while Regina raised herself to her full height and crossed her arms, Belle also turned to Jafar and the Dragon.
“The two of you should approach as well. This compromise cannot be made without your approval too.”
Suspiciously, Jafar let go of Jasmine and approached Belle as well, and the Dragon walked through several of the layers of protection, though he remained still behind the fourth one. Belle did not mind.
As they all stood still, Regina shot Rumplestiltskin a vile gaze, but the Dark One didn’t seem to mind. Belle took a deep breath before she said bravely: “What I wish to propose is something very simple, but something which I think will work in the advantage of all parties… There has been so much bloodshed over this Gem of Life, and taking it from this place would leave nearly half of this world to die. This Gem of Life cannot leave this place, and so we won’t be able to just give it to you, Regina.”
The Evil Queen narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“But you could bring your other Gems of Life here to conduct the experiments you’ve been meaning to conduct. I’m certain that this location is just as suitable as the Enchanted Forest is. And the Enchanted Forest is fertile enough to provide food to its citizens without anyone needing to starve. Not to mention that, if you were to bring the gems of life here, this land’s prosperity would increase, and through trade with the Enchanted Forest, there would be no reason for anyone to starve and many people could even return to Agrabah.”
As Belle stopped talking for a moment, she looked at Rumplestiltskin, noticing that he seemed pleasantly surprised by all she had said. Turning to look at Jafar and the Dragon, even they seemed mildly impressed by the suggestion.
But Regina just huffed and laughed.
“Princess Belle, you are delusional to think that I would give up my four Gems of Life out of the goodness of my heart, even if you were to let me experiment here. I want to work from my own home, and I’m winning this war. I don’t see a reason to listen to you further.”
“I still suggest that you do,” Belle replied harshly, without an ounce of sympathy for the Evil Queen. “You can struggle on your own to bring the love of your life back to this world once you have the last Gem of Life. But you would struggle. Why make it so hard when you can work here in the company of the Dragon and Jafar? Two of the most powerful wizards alive. Perhaps even Rumplestiltskin would be willing to advice you. Four heads know more than one, after all.”
“She’s right,” Rumplestiltskin added, and at those words, Regina looked even more betrayed, crossing her arms stubbornly.
“What would the love of your life say if you were to bring him back from the dead, only to find that you had killed half the world in the process?” Jafar said in a sly tone, smirking.
“It’s not a very romantic gesture,” Rumplestiltskin agreed with him, pulling up his nose.
As Belle stepped closer to Regina, she let her harsh gaze of before grow a little softer. “Strange as it might seem to you, not all the world is out to kill you, Regina. It doesn’t mean that anyone here will be able to forget what you did – but people might understand your reasoning for it if you’re willing to accept this offer for help. There might not ever be another.”
Regina was still frowning, but she was no longer looking at Belle now, instead, she was looking at the floor, lost in thought.
“Who is to say that the Dragon and Jafar won’t try to kill me when I’m working on the spell?” Regina suddenly asked. “Why should I trust them?”
“You shouldn’t,” Belle replied, suddenly turning to Rumplestiltskin. “I was hoping that the Dark One could make up an unbreakable contract?”
At the mention of the word ‘contract’, Rumplestiltskin’s eyes lit up.
“I can certainly do that!” Rumplestiltskin agreed. “One powerful enough to punish anyone who would break this contract with a fate worse than dead!”
“Yikes,” Jafar muttered, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t take it too far.”
As the Dark One giggled, Belle smiled, and she turned to Regina now.
“I am willing to read this contract, once it’s done,” Regina said after a long pause, trying not to look happy with this development, though part of her didn’t feel unhappy either. “But I wish for it to be included that no one is to harm the body of Daniel. I don’t just want amnesty for myself while I’m conducting my research in this land, but also for him. And also afterwards. I don’t want to revive him only for him to be killed half an hour later.”
Belle nodded with an honest expression in her eyes. “Of course. If we make a contract for peace, then it shall be peace for all – including Daniel and yourself.”
Regina nodded, then looked at Jafar with narrowed eyes before her gaze shifted to Jasmine and then back to him.
“Fine,” Regina said. “Write that contract and summon me when it’s done.”
With those words, she lifted her hand and disappeared in a puff of red smoke.
The Dragon returned to the pedestal, to make sure that the gem would remain protected while the contract was unsigned by all parties.
Meanwhile, Jafar walked closer to Rumplestiltskin. “Make sure to mention amnesty for princess Jasmine in that contract as well. I don’t like the way Regina looked at her.”
Rumplestiltskin looked surprised at those words, but Jafar had already turned around and was headed to princess Jasmine, who hugged him tightly as he stopped in front of her, and he whirled her around happily.
Surprised by that sight, Rumplestiltskin scratched the back of his head, and as Belle walked to his side, she whispered secretively: “They’re fucking. I saw it in your mirror.”
With wide eyes, Rumplestiltskin looked at Belle, who had a bit of a traumatized expression in her eyes.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that sight.” As she pulled up her nose, Rumplestiltskin chuckled.
Standing beside each other, they saw how the warriors were leaving the room again as well, and as Mulan smiled at Belle, Belle grinned back widely.
“So eh…” Rumplestiltskin wasn’t sure what to say. “I suppose you have left your spying days behind you?”
Belle nodded, beaming happily at him. “Yep.”
“Are you a-ehm… a diplomat now?” Rumplestiltskin asked carefully, feeling a little nervous around Belle. He loved her, and he hoped that she felt the same. She still looked at him with the same sweet gaze as before, but he was never able to take anything for granted, and this was no different.
“Sort of,” Belle replied slowly. “Though I was hoping to change my career again soon…”
She licked her lips before she replied in a low tone: “Was hoping to become a caretaker again? Of some estate or castle or something…”
He smiled, his heart nearly bursting at that confession.
“I eh… I don’t know if I can hire you for such a thing anymore…” he admitted, gulping.
Belle was confused now, and it showed in her expression.
“Once the beans are healed back, I’m leaving the Dark Castle… I don’t know for how long… So… I won’t have an estate for anyone to look after.”
Belle raised her eyebrows as she looked down at his pants, and he suddenly chuckled.
“I won’t have a castle, is what I mean. A literal castle.”
“Then I don’t see a problem,” Belle said hopefully, and at this, Rumplestiltskin gulped.
“Maybe I should change the job description?” he suggested sheepishly.
“To what?” she wondered.
Belle grinned widely at that.
“Oh, I’d love to apply for a job like that.”
“Maybe…” Rumplestiltskin was rubbing his fingers a little nervously. “Maybe, when there would be no adventuring left to do, you could apply for another job too.”
Belle tilted her head as she looked at him, not guessing what he was getting at.
He cleared his throat briefly before he blurted out: “Wife?”
Belle froze for a moment as she looked at his hopeful expression. He wasn’t joking, and soon she realized what he was asking her. Tears of joy streamed down her face as she jumped up into his arms, hugging him tightly while she placed kisses in his neck.
He embraced her as tightly as he could, closing his eyes, not minding that Jafar and Jasmine were watching them from a distance, or that the Dragon was probably wondering what was going on.
Grinning widely, he playfully asked: “Is that a yes?”
The contract took over a week to finish. Rumplestiltskin ran it by all involved at least three times before everyone finally agreed to the terms. A ceasefire was ordered between all the wizards involved and their nations and people. Peace was something they all had to keep to, and each saw the benefit in keeping it now.
During that week, Rumplestiltskin didn’t see many opportunities to spend time with Belle, but each time he had to discuss things with the Emperor, Jafar or the Dragon, he made sure to pop in to see how she was doing, and she gladly stole what little time with him that she could. She introduced him to her father and at first, the two men were a little reluctant to shake hands, but eventually they both did so happily when they realized how proud it made their Belle of them.
Other times, Belle would take Rumplestiltskin to the garden, where she would hold his hand as they walked underneath the blossom trees, and Rumplestiltskin told her all about his son, and how he expected to find him in a world without magic – a world so different from their own that he also admitted to being scared of being without magic.
Each moment they spent together, he revealed a little bit more about himself. He told her of his old life as a spinner – of his failed marriage – of how he had crippled himself to stay with his son. She didn’t run away, no matter what he told her, and he was starting to learn that perhaps he could be loved despite all of his flaws.
Soon, even if he looked like the Dark One, Belle was truly able to see the man underneath, and she loved him just as much – perhaps even more – than before.
Belle was always understanding, no matter what horrors he told her. She knew he had done bad things in his past, but she was willing to forgive him, and on the day that all gems were being moved into the palace, he wasn’t even present for the occasion. Even the power of the five gems combined wasn’t as alluring as the promise of Belle’s company.
Without regrets, he sat by Belle’s side on the low marble wall around the fountain, and as they held hands, they were grateful for that moment of peace and quiet.
“So… when will you go and heal the beans?” Belle asked quietly. “Couldn’t you go and do it right now?”
“I should do it soon… But it might be better to wait a while, until Regina, Jafar and the Dragon have settled in a bit.”
“You seem regretful?” Belle asked.
“My son is waiting for me in a strange and potentially dangerous land, yet here I am sitting with you, stalling. I’m a horrible person.”
As he lowered his head, Belle put her hand underneath his chin.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” she whispered warmly. “You’re not.”
“I am,” he sighed miserably. “I’m still a monster.”
“You’re not,” she smiled warmly. “You never were. You’re just a man who has made some bad choices in life. Now stop fretting. I’ll come with you when you heal the beans. And then, we can leave. We’ll find Baelfire – and we’ll find home. Isn’t that what you want too?”
He smiled as he looked at Belle. She always knew what to say to cheer him up.
“Did you pack what we discussed?” she continued in a stricter tone.
“The food and gold?” He nodded quickly. “I did. Hopefully it will help us in the new world we’re going to. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to summon anything without my magic. I just hope Baelfire is safe and we’ll be able to find him without losing too much time.”
“Then let’s get ready,” Belle said with a warm smile, standing up from the fountain and pulling him up with her. “I can’t wait to be a proper adventurer.” She added shyly: “And to be a wife, once our adventuring days are over.”
His dark heart was warmed by each of her smiles and confessions of love, and this time was no different. After everyone he had told her – she still wanted to be his wife. He couldn’t be happier about that. Though he had always kept himself from doing so, he now leaned in and sweetly kissed her on the lips, and she leaned in hopefully, her hands resting against his chest.
When he suddenly pulled away, she noticed how he was wrinkling his nose and had his eyes pinched closed, and her eyes widened as she realized that his face looked human – and that even his hair seemed smoother for a moment before he changed back into his scaly appearance and opened his eyes again, and for a moment they were warm and dark brown, before they turned reptilian again.
Not knowing what had just happened after that sweet kiss, Belle just stared at him with a slightly open mouth.
“Is that why you never wanted me to kiss you?” she wondered, and as he looked at his hands and saw the normal skin make room for that of the Dark One, he laughed, almost like he couldn’t believe what had just happened.
Seeing Belle’s confused look, he explained: “To be honest… I actually never knew that True Love’s Kiss was able to break the Dark One’s Curse.”
Belle was still staring at him, completely baffled now. She had always thought to herself that he was her True Love, but to know that he not only felt the same, but that the universe itself had basically always meant for them to be True Loves, was amazing.
He smiled widely at her, his lips pressed together rather happily as he treasured this small memory of them kissing by the beautiful fountain. The affirmation that she was his True Love made him happier than ever.
“I’ll get what we need,” he decided in a tone that was final, but still very soft. “Meet you here in an hour? For an adventure?”
Belle nodded happily and kissed him on the cheek before she headed off to say her goodbyes to her father and to Jasmine and Mulan.
Rumplestiltskin had told her that they would most likely return, because this was where they all belonged, Baelfire included. Still, there was the uncertainty that made all her goodbyes bittersweet. She wasn’t scared, but both she and Rumplestiltskin realized that they were headed into an unknown and dangerous land. They would be foolish if they weren’t wary of what was to come.
By the time she got back to the fountain, Rumplestiltskin was already waiting for her, two large bags in his hands, and he offered one to Belle as well. The clothes he wore were rather neutral – for his doing. Black leather pants, with a white silk blouse on top and a gray vest. He had even traded his dragonskin shoes for normal leather boots.
He hesitated before he suddenly summoned a staff in his other hand, and Belle knew he would need it if he turned fully mortal again – for he had told her all about his old injury and limp.
“My bag’s rather heavy,” Belle remarked, though she wasn’t really complaining. She just wondered what was in it.
“I packed up some more clothes for you. We don’t know if it will be cold where we end up or not… Better safe than sorry, right?”
She nodded. “Did it work with the beans?”
Rumplestiltskin smiled as he took the tiny box from the inside of his vest. He opened it to reveal seven healthy beans inside, and Belle smiled widely.
“They didn’t even realize I had brought beans along,” Rumplestiltskin admitted with a cheeky grin. “They were bickering so much around the body of that poor dead guy. I think it will take a while for them to make some decent progress if they don’t manage to get their egos out of the way.”
Belle chuckled at those words. “I’m sure they’ll be fine. And when we’re back, we can hear how they did and enjoy raising Baelfire in a world of peace.”
“Thanks to you. You saved the world. And you saved me too,” Rumplestiltskin said warmly, kissing the top of her head before he took one bean from the box and put the others back in his vest. Swinging the bag over his shoulder, Belle followed his example, and she saw how he was frowning and hesitating as he held the bean in his hand.
“You can do it,” she said warmly, and at those words, he looked at her in surprise. “Don’t doubt yourself so much,” she continued. “You once failed to jump through a portal at a moment that you needed to. But you’ll be able to do it now – because one person who loves you is already waiting on the other side, and one person who loves you is by your side, to give you a push in the back when you need one. I’m not jumping without you.”
She reached out for his hand and entwined his fingers with hers, shooting him another encouraging smile.
“Didn’t you promise me adventure?” she teased him finally, and he suddenly grinned. Taking a deep breath, he raised himself to his full height before he tossed the bean on the grass, and a large purple portal appeared in front of them.
As they looked at each other, they grinned, and with brave smiles, they jumped.
What followed, was indeed an adventure. And due to several unforeseen circumstances, it took them nearly an entire year before they finally returned, safely, with Baelfire by their side.
They were still very much in love – perhaps even more than before.
While they were gone, the gems had served their purpose and by the time they were back, they had been returned to their rightful nations once more. The Empire was back to its old self. Regina was on her way to redemption with Daniel by her side. And Jasmine and Jafar were ruling over Agrabah now – with a little one on the way.
The time had now finally come for Rumplestiltskin and Belle to settle into their happily ever after.
They returned to the Dark Castle – they broke the Dark One’s curse – they wed – they had children of their own and raised them alongside Baelfire – and all was finally well.
And that's a wrap!!!
I enjoyed writing this story so much... (Thanks for the prompt, little-inkstone!)
In fact, it has inspired me to write a bit of a sequel/prequel/inbetwequel in the same universe, but about another princess... and about another dark wizard.
I'm working on it right now, and in case you wish to be kept up-to-date when it is finished and gets uploaded, just leave me a comment and I'll reply once that story will be uploaded. (Title? The Fourth Gem. I'm so original. But no worries, I won't write the First, Second and Third Gem, there aren't enough princesses and dark wizards in the world...)
Do let me know what you thought about the story! I love reading your comments! <3