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Desperate Times

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Belle sat in her room listening to the approaching sounds of the war that threatened to bring an end to her home, her village, her very life. She felt the tears of frustration threatening to spill, but she fought them back, knowing that they would only add to her fathers misery at his inability to protect her and their people.

Belle had always prided herself on being able to figure a way out of any dire circumstance that she happened to find herself in, and she wracked her brain for some way to stop the monstrous ogres who were even now slamming a battering ram at the final gate denying them entry to the castle.

From somewhere in her mind she recalled the legend of the dark one. It was written that the dark one had existed for millennia and that the power of said dark one would sometimes change form in some mysterious way, but the power remained the same. The last that she had heard was of a dark one who loved to make deals, trade magic for whatever the supplicant held most dear. It was said that he only dealt with desperate souls.

'Well' Belle thought,'maybe it was time to try desperate measures' and throwing open her bedroom door she raced towards the library to hunt for the book which detailed how to summon the dark one.

It took her more than an hour to find it, and when she did, she almost lost her nerve, but the thunderous sound of the battering ram about to tear through the gate put steel in her spine and in an instant she was saying "Rumplestiltskin, Rumplestiltskin, Rumplestiltskin, I summon thee". The silence that followed was somewhat anticlimactic as Belle looked about the library expectantly, her hope fading with every passing second. Wondering if she had missed some vital detail in the instructions, she began re-reading the book, so when Rumplestiltskin suddenly appeared not two feet in front of her she shrieked, and in her fright threw the book at him. He in turn yelped a curse and jumping back deflected the rather large tome with his hand.

They stood staring at one another for a few seconds as Belle tried to slow her heart rate and Rumplestiltskin took in the sight of the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen. At length Belle was able to mutter "you shouldn't startle people like that." Rumplestiltskin, regarding her with an amused glint in his eyes, replied rather dryly, "I believe that you summoned me dearie, so I hardly think you should be surprised when I appear." Belle blushed and admitted "to be honest I didn't really think that it would work." Rumplestiltskin rolled his eyes, "well It did dearie"..., he waited for a moment before adding, "now you must have had a reason for summoning me?" he queried, raising his eyebrows.

At that moment the sound of the battering ram splintering the wood of the castle's main gate answered the imp's question with a resounding crash. Belle's eyes widened in fear, but then Rumplestiltskin raised his hands and made a circular motion with each one, one clockwise, one counterclockwise,and Belle heard a clicking sound as he completed the circles. Suddenly it felt as if all of the air in the room had been sucked out and a distinct chill settled over it.

The first thing Belle noticed was the sudden quite instead of the constant noise of battle to which she had grown accustomed, "what did you do?" she whispered. "I gave you time to answer my question, dearie." He replied as though that should have been obvious. Belle took a deep breath and forced out the question, "how?" Rumplestiltskin hesitated for a moment and then waved his hand and Belle gasped as the very walls became transparent allowing her to see everyone and everything in the castle.

Everyone was frozen. She could see her father in the war room, a look of shock on his face as he looked toward the main doors,and Gaston standing just behind him, his hand on his sword which was half withdrawn from its scabbard. As she looked up she saw her maid, Molly, suspended in mid air just outside of Belle's bed chamber, her eyes wide with fright and her hand clamped over her mouth to smother a scream. Then Belles gaze went to the main gate of the castle and a shudder went through her slender frame at the sight of the hideous ogres storming through the shattered gate, crushing many of the soldiers who had been defending it under their feet.

When she looked back at Rumplestiltskin he waved his hand and the walls, thankfully, became solid again. Belle swallowed, hard, "time..., you stopped time?" Rumplestiltskin smirked, "indeed". Belle was duly impressed and letting her curiosity get the best of her asked "just here or everywhere?" That seemed to take him aback, but he raised his eyebrows, a glint of amusement in his eyes and replied "why everywhere of course..., can't go around stopping time in just one place, that would throw the whole realm into chaos..., eventually."

Belle stared at him, astonished by the enormity of the magic he wielded. She had seen magic before, but always on a small scale, like changing the color of a ball gown, or causing plants to grow faster, but this..., this was beyond anything she had even heard of. Stopping time? Everywhere? As she stood there trying to comprehend what she had just witnessed, Rumplestiltskin took the opportunity to rake his eyes over her. He had been the dark one for a very long time, but under the curse that had so changed his physical form, he was still a man, and this creature standing before him was the most beautiful woman that he had ever encountered. An idea formed in his mind and he knew the price that he would ask for saving her village from the ogres (it was quite obvious that that was why she had summoned him).

"Well dearie, care to share why you summoned me,... as if that weren't obvious", he muttered as an aside. Belle snapped out of her contemplation at the sound of his voice. "Yes" she said "I'm sure that it is rather obvious." She drew a breath before continuing "As you have seen my home is being overrun by ogres and I fear our only hope for survival is magic,... specifically your magic,... can you,... will you help us?"

Rumplestiltskin watched her carefully as she spoke, he was a master at reading people and his instincts told him that this girl was strong, principled and would not even think about going back on a deal. When she stopped speaking he walked towards her, watching for her reaction to him. In a few steps he was so close to her that he could feel the heat from her body, and yet she showed no sign of fear, or even revulsion at his nearness. Finally he spoke "yes, I can save your little village, but the price will be high."

Belle looked at his large inhuman eyes, and his strangely colored skin and felt a shiver go down her spine, but she did not shy away at his nearness. Raising her chin she said "we have quite a lot of gold and valuable jewels to offer you." Rumplestiltskin shook his head and stepping around her he spread his hands "I, uh, make gold" he sneered at her, "what I want is something far more precious"

Belle turned to follow his movement and stuttered "but,... we have nothing else of value", she hated the sound of desperation in her voice, but the thought that there was a way to save her people and they would not be able to afford it made tears of frustration spring to her eyes. She squared her shoulders. She would not beg for herself, but for her friends and family, she would do anything, even beg. "Please" she whispered and sank to her knees "is there nothing that I can offer that would be acceptable to you dark one?"

Rumplestiltskin watched as the beauty begged him on her knees and for some reason he found no pleasure in seeing her humble herself. "Get up" he snapped, and watched as she hung her head and rose to her feet. When she lifted her head to look at him she asked "then there is nothing that you will consider as payment to save my village?" "Now when did I say that, dearie?" he said as he approached her again. He saw the surprise in her wide blue eyes. "What then?" she asked and at that moment he reached out and took her hand, "you, my dear are far more valuable then you know." He raised her hand and gently kissed it, watching as she realized what he was proposing. He was pleasantly surprised to see that she didn't pull away from him in disgust.

"You,... you want me?" she whispered. He dropped her hand, "yes my dear, I am in need of a caretaker for my rather large estate" he said with a flourish. Belle looked at him, and thought about how he had just kissed her hand. "A caretaker, is that all or will I be expected to provide,... other services?" 'Ah' Rumplestiltskin thought, this one was no fool. "Yes, not right away, but soon I will take you as my consort,... do you know what that means?" Belle nodded,"you will have physical relations with me without the benefit of marriage, yes?" She couldn't believe how calm she sounded, considering the subject matter.

Rumplestiltskin smiled and stepped up behind her placing his arm around her waist. He felt her tremble, but she did not try to pull away from him. "Tell me Belle, are you a maiden?" He felt her stiffen, and she snapped "of course I am, why would you ask such a question?" He pulled her closer to him, molding his body to hers, "I merely wished to ascertain how much practical knowledge you have of, as you put it, physical relations."

Belle felt herself blushing, "It is true that my knowledge of the matter is limited, but I have read about it and also spoken with some of the married women in my village,... I understand the way of it." Belle drew a sharp breath when Rumplestiltskin lightly kissed her exposed shoulder, drawing her even tighter against his body. "And did they tell you of the pleasure to be had during the act, if done properly?" Belle shook her head, "no" she managed to say. When he began kissing along the column of her throat, she felt her knees weaken and she had to lean against him for support. The sensations that he was awakening in her body were like nothing she had ever felt before, and she realized with a start that she wanted more,... more from him.

As suddenly as he had begun kissing her he stopped and released her from his embrace. Belle stumbled slightly and flushed hotly at the effect his attentions had had on her. She could see the smug look of satisfaction on his face, but as she really looked at him, she fancied she saw something else there too, hope?

"Very well then, do we have a deal, dearie?" As the words left his lips, with a flourish of his hand and some purple smoke, a contract appeared. Smiling he proffered it to her. Belle took it and walking over to a table she sat and began reading. After a moment she could feel him standing next to her. "You're going to read the whole thing?" he asked sounding surprised. She looked up at him in confusion "of course I am" she said, "this is a binding contract that will alter the course of my life forever,... what idiot would sign such a thing without reading it?" she snorted and went back to her reading. Rumplestiltskin couldn't help but think of the dim witted princess Cinderella, and he smiled. This Belle was nothing like her, she would be a challenge, he could see, and he loved nothing more than a good challenge.

Chapter Text

Belle was still reading twenty minutes later. The whole deal had almost been derailed when she had read, with rising panic, that she would be expected to skin the children that he hunted for their pelts. Rising from her seat so quickly that she knocked her teacup and it's contents to the floor, she had exclaimed "No!,... no, I can't do this!"
He was at her side in an instant, "what?" he snapped, then grinned wickedly when she pointed, with a shaking hand to the offending passage. "Oh that,... that one was a quip, not serious" he explained, waving his hand to strike it from the contract, and then under his breath "no ones ever read it before".

Belle looked at him quizzically, wondering at his rather twisted sense of humor, before returning her attention to the contract. When she had finished she glanced up to see that Rumplestiltskin had retired to a comfortable overstuffed chair, (where had that come from?), in front of the fireplace, stretching out his long leather clad legs and even dozing for a little while, while waiting for Belle to finish.

 

Belle looked at him laying there like a contented cat soaking in the warmth of the fire, and wondered what her life would be like as the consort and caretaker of the dark one. She was fairly confident that she would be able to handle the caretaker portion of their deal, after all she had run her father 's household since she had turned eighteen, and due to the war she had pitched in doing whatever needed doing, cooking, cleaning and even working in the infirmary tending to the wounded.

The consort part though was something that she had only limited knowledge of and no actual experience. If she were honest with herself she had to admit that it frightened her, but there was also curiosity. She thought about the way he had made her feel earlier when he had pulled her tight against his body and kissed her shoulder and neck. It had felt so good! The few times that she had been kissed in the past had been nothing like that and no one had ever evoked the sweet sensations in her that Rumplestiltskin had. She knew it was rather wicked, but she suspected that she might actually enjoy the consort part of their deal, after all Rumplestiltskin had implied as much.

 

"Well dearie, is everything to your satisfaction?" His voice startled her out of her contemplation, and she jumped slightly at the sudden sound in the quite room. When he rose and their eyes met, she could feel herself blushing, remembering what she had just been thinking about.

Belle took a breath, "yes, the contract is very through" she said. Rumplestiltskin abandoned his fireside chair and strode over to her. Placing his hands gently on her shoulders he asked "Do we have a deal then?" Belle nodded, and dipping a quill in an ink well she signed the contract. There was a finality to it that both frightened and excited her, and she looked up at Rumplestiltskin, wondering what would come next.

"Time for me to fulfill my part of the deal" he said, and catching her by surprise he bent down and kissed her soundly. Not a quick peck on the lips but a slow lingering kiss that had her snaking her arms around his neck and forcing a moan from her when he pulled her to her feet and pressed her against him.

When he released her he smiled to see her sway slightly and with that he vanished along with the contract. Belle heard his voice in her head "I will come for you in two days, be ready." She stood there for a moment trying to recover herself and wondering if it had really happened. It was then that she heard the sounds of life, normal to the castle, resume signifying that time had started again. 'Oh dear' she thought and hiking up her skirt she ran towards the war room.

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To say that Belle's father was less then pleased at the bargain she had negotiated would be a severe understatement, (and she hadn't even mentioned the consort part). As a matter of fact he was busy trying to figure out how to nullify the contract even though Rumplestiltskin had fulfilled his part of the arrangement and more so, even restoring the lands to workable fields, and healing the wounded.

Belle however had no intention of breaking her word and spent the next two days saying goodbye to family and friends. She was being hailed as a hero, and everyone thanked her for her quick thinking and sacrifice. Most were being kept in the dark about the specifics of her deal and the identity of their deliverer, but those who were closest to her knew that it was The Dark One, Rumplestiltskin, who had sent the ogres back to where they had come from, or killed them, no one knew for sure.

On the morning of the third day Belle awoke to the sound of yelling. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she tried to focus on the voice and realized that it was her father. She couldn't imagine who he would be yelling at, after all he rarely raised his voice to anyone. Suddenly she remembered that Rumplestiltskin was coming for her today, and throwing off her covers and snatching up a robe, she ran towards the sound, praying that she got there before her father got himself hurt or worse.

When she burst through the doors to the dining hall she was just tying the sash of her robe around her waist and with some dismay realized that she was barefoot, but upon taking in the scene which she had interrupted she was glad that she hadn't wasted time putting on slippers.

Rumplestiltskin was standing in front of her father, his posture stiff, his magic sparking the very air around him. Even though she didn't know him well, she could feel that he was furious! Her father stood before him, his face a sickly ashen color, but his eyes were locked with the sorcerer's and Belle sensed that his life was in imminent danger. "Rumplestiltskin,... master!" she called, hoping to placate him with her use of the title. She saw his shoulders stiffen, but he did not look away from her father, who briefly flicked his eyes towards her.

Belle could feel the the tension in the room, and slowed her steps as she approached. "I",... "I am all ready to go" she dared to breath.

Rumplestiltskin snorted "really" he sneered "not according to your father, my dear. He seems to think that he can break the deal that you agreed to." He had not moved, and the magic rolling off of him was getting even stronger.

Belle was right behind him now and reaching out she touched his shoulder, causing him to turn towards her, and away from her father. Gathering her courage she spoke firmly "my father is simply concerned for his only child, but he does not speak for me." Looking past Rumplestiltskin to catch and hold Sir Maurice's eyes she continued "I alone decide my fate." The pain that she saw in her fathers eyes brought tears to her own, and she whispered "this is for the best father, please don't make this harder than it already is."

Sir Maurice reached out his arms to her and she went to him gladly, wrapping her arms around his neck as he choked out "Oh Belle, my sweet child, how can I let you do this,... how can I let you go with this monster?" Belle heard a growl from behind her and pulled away from her father with reluctance. "Please father do not anger him further, after all he has already kept his side of the bargain. He even did more than we had agreed to by repairing the lands and healing so many of the wounded." She paused and looked Rumplestiltskin in the eyes before continuing "we owe him a great deal, and my servitude is a small price to pay."

Rumplestiltskin reached out his hand to her, and stepping away from her father, she took it. With a flourish of his other hand and an abundance of purple smoke, Belle was dressed in a simple, but finely made gown of heavyweight, sapphire blue velvet trimmed in gold. Her feet were shod with a pair of leather ankle boots and a fine wool cloak in black, and lined with blue satin was around her shoulders. She even sported a fashionable blue velvet hat.

Looking at Rumplestiltskin in surprise she smiled "thank you,... it's lovely,... really all of it is lovely."

He returned her smile, then wrapping his arm around her waist pulled her close against his body saying loudly "well, never let it be said that the consort of Rumplestiltskin is shoddily dressed." Belle had only a moment to register the shock on her fathers face before the world seemed to tip on its axis and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Belle moaned as her head spun, and her stomach churned. She didn't even have the strength to open her eyes to see where she was, and it took her a moment to realize that she wasn't even on her feet. She could feel herself being carried and forcing her eyes open she looked up at Rumplestiltskin who, upon seeing her awake, smiled tightly. "Well, hello princess, how are you feeling?"

"Rumplestiltskin" she croaked, her voice sounding weak and rough. "Shhh" he he murmured, "you had an unfortunate reaction to being transported magically" he explained and then he kissed her forehead, lingering a moment to breathe in her scent. Belle let her head fall to his shoulder and closed her eyes as he continued striding down a long hallway.

When she felt him gently laying her down, she roused herself to take in her surroundings. She was in a large bed chamber, more elegant than any she had ever seen, with floor to ceiling windows to the left of the bed and a large fireplace in the wall at the foot. That was about all that she could take in before another wave of nausea hit her and she had to close her eyes again to stop the spinning.

Suddenly she felt a warm cloth tenderly wiping her face and it was blissfully soothing. "You reacted quite negatively to being transported via magic" she heard Rumplestiltskin saying as he continued ministering to her. "I'm sorry that I caused you discomfort,... it was not my intention."

Belle looked at him but he avoided her eyes, focusing instead on a point somewhere above her head. "It's alright" she whispered "I'm sure it will pass."

He waved his hand and was holding a glass containing an amber colored liquid. Gently he raised her head so that she could drink, the warm, slightly sweet liquid. "This will help" he murmured, letting her head back down to the pillow.

Belle opened her eyes to look at him, and smiled as the drink seeped into her veins making her feel as though she had indulged in one too many glasses of mead. "Oh" she sighed "I feel much better,... thank you."

She was charmed to see him smile shyly at her. Dropping his eyes he said "you should rest now,... I will come for you at dinner time", and with that he turned and left rather quickly. Belle stretched and felt sleep overtaking her. Her last coherent thought was wondering how her father was.

"Belle?" she heard her name as she tried to rouse herself. Her sleep had been deep and she felt as though she were struggling to break through some invisible barrier in her effort to wake. "Belle" she heard again. Whose voice was that? It was male and familiar but definitely not her father, or Gaston. Finally she managed to open her eyes, and realized where she was. The Dark Castle. Rumplestiltskin,... Oh my.

"You, my dear are very susceptible to magic,... in any form, it appears" she heard Rumplestiltskin say as she rubbed at her eyes and tried to focus. "I shall have to keep that in mind" he continued as her eyes finally settled on him sitting on the edge of her bed, looking rather put out.

"How,..." she had to pause and swallow to try and moisten her unusually dry throat, and tried again, "how long have I been asleep?" she managed.

Rumplestiltskin replied, somewhat petulantly, "going on sixteen hours, dearie." Belle's eyes opened wide in surprise "what did you give me!?" she blurted out before reason could stop her tongue, followed immediately by "I'm so sorry, please forgive me" when his eyes snapped to hers at the tone of accusation in her voice.

"I gave you a very mild sleeping potion which should have worn off in no more then five or six hours, but you it seems are what is termed a light weight", and then as an aside, he muttered "a very light weight".

"I'm sorry" Belle said quietly, avoiding his eyes.

She heard his sigh and then in a much milder tone he said "I have prepared breakfast if you would like to eat." Belle sat up slowly, still feeling sluggish from the sleeping potion that he had given her, and shook her head to try and clear it. This, it seems, was a mistake as a rather vicious headache assailed her and she groaned as pain and pressure built behind her eyes.

Rumplestiltskin, still sitting at the side of the bed, seemed to understand and reached out a hand, but before touching her asked quietly "may I"? Belle looked at him warily, not convinced that more magic would help.

As if reading her mind Rumplestiltskin's mouth quirked with a slight smile, "no worries princess, this will help, I promise."

The pounding in her head was increasing, so Belle tried to smile, and whispered "alright, go ahead." She closed her eyes as his hand settled on her forehead. In a moment she felt a cooling sensation spreading out across her skin and the pounding behind her eyes began to lessen. Soon the headache was only a memory and she sighed with relief.

Rumplestiltskin withdrew his hand and Belle opened her eyes. " Thank you" she murmured, raising her eyes to meet his and offering a small smile. Rumplestiltskin seemed suddenly flustered and arose from the bed, his hands flitting about nervously. Not meeting her eyes he simply muttered "no matter." Belle watched him curiously, wondering at the dichotomy between the self assured imp who had bargained for her and the nervous, seemingly shy man standing before her.

Rumplestiltskin seemed to recover himself and said "this will be your chamber from now on" he paused and then pointed towards an arched doorway to the right of the fireplace "there is a bathing room through there" he continued "and the wardrobe has a wide variety of women's apparel in your size."

Finally he looked back, meeting her gaze and in a softer tone said "If you would like to refresh yourself, the tub will fill with water when you touch the side of it, and there are the necessary oils and such available for your use." He started to turn towards the door, but stopped and with a bow and a flourish of his hand declared "I shall await you in the dining hall my dear." Belle laughed at his theatrics, watching as he started towards the door once more. Before he reached it though he stopped again and looking back at her, with a sheepish grin, added "uh,.. just go to the right until you reach the grand staircase. The dining hall is to your left at the foot of the stairs."

After the door closed behind him Belle scooted to the edge of the massive bed and lightly jumped down, her bare feet sinking into the softest, most luxurious, carpet she had ever seen. Now fully awake she looked around the chamber that Rumplestiltskin had declared to be hers, and was stunned at the opulence of it. The floor to ceiling windows reveled a view of the surrounding snow covered mountain range, and were hung with heavy brocade drapes in an intricate royal blue and cream pattern. She noticed also, that there was, under the drapes, tucked to the side, another heavy drape in the same royal blue color that could be drawn to cover the windows, keeping the cold out and the warmth in.

The bed was twice the size of her's at home and so tall that she would need to use the wooden step stool that she had spotted against the wall just to get in it.

What really made Belle smile though was the curved, royal blue canopy that arched over the bed, and the bed curtains, done in the same royal blue and cream as the window curtains, that could be pulled to enclose the entire thing. It was absolutely gorgeous!!

When her stomach growled Belle realized that she she hadn't eaten anything in hours and remembered that Rumplestiltskin had said something about breakfast. Deciding to leave further exploration of her new rooms until later, she hurried over to the large armoire, and upon opening the doors, froze, a gasp escaping her at the site of more women's clothing then she had seen in her entire life.

There were at least twenty dresses in various rich fabrics, and a veritable rainbow of colors, ranging from sky blue to deep burgundy. Accompanying these were jackets, coats, hats, and on the bottom shelf shoes and boots for any occasion, from formal, to casual, to sturdy enough for harsh weather. Excited, Belle opened the three drawers under the main compartment, and found numerous accessories including, gloves, scarves, ribbons and stockings. There were also nightgowns and women's under garments. Belle wondered if Rumplestiltskin had a female servant who choose those or if he himself had done so. That thought brought a flush to her cheeks and a nervous fluttering feeling to her stomach, which in turn reminded her that breakfast and Rumplestiltskin awaited her.

Quickly she went to the bathing room that he had pointed out to her, and once again she was stunned into stillness as she took in the lavish furnishings. The tub that he had spoken of was made of marble and was actually sunken down into the floor, with steps and a handrail leading into the body of it. There was even a carved bench on which to sit while soaking. Belle had never seen anything like it,... actually, she had never even heard of anything like it.

Looking around the rest of the room she noticed a door going into a rather small chamber. Curiosity being one of Belle's defining characteristics she hurried over and pulled the door open only to find a chamber pot inside. There was a window at the top of the small room and an air vent. Next to the chamber pot itself there was a small table with a few candles on it, as well as cleansing cloths and a marble bowl. Remembering what he had said about the tub, Belle reached out and touched the side of the bowl,only to gasp as it began to fill with warm water. She also noticed that the table had a couple of drawers. In one she found some soaps, and oils, and in the other some heavy cloth pads with many layers sewn together that she recognized as being for her bleeding time. Now she felt her whole face heat with embarrassment, but at the same time smiled at the thoughtfulness.

Deciding that just a quick wash up and a change of clothes would be sufficient Belle dipped a cloth in the warm water and began to scrub her face.

She emerged into the hallway some ten minutes later dressed in the sky blue satin gown, chosen mainly for convenience as it laced up the front, and a matching pair of stylish shoes with a small heel.

She hurried down the hall as Rumplestiltskin had instructed only stopping once or twice to stare into another bedroom whose door was standing open. From what she saw all of the rooms in this wing were bedrooms, each as lavishly decorated as her own and in different colors.

When she reached the 'grand' staircase, with its wide semi-circular steps and a gentle curve to the left, she understood why Rumplestiltskin called it that.

As she neared the bottom she heard voices coming from the dining hall, one of which she recognized as her new master's, but the other, male also, she was not familiar with. She stopped outside of the doors wondering if she should go on in, or maybe knock, or something to signal her presence, but the decision was taken out of her hands, when Rumplestiltskin called to her "Belle, dear, do come in I would like to introduce you to an acquaintance of mine."

Belle took a breath, put a smile on her face and entered the room. Rumplestiltskin was seated at the head of a long wooden dining table, and to his left sat his visitor, a very handsome young man, almost as well dressed as Rumplestiltskin himself. They both rose as she approached them and her master gestured to the young man saying, "Belle meet Jefferson, a business associate of mine... Jefferson this is my new caretaker Belle, formally of Avonlee, but now lady of the Dark Castle."

Belle smiled and curtsied as Jefferson came around the table, and taking her right hand, lifted it to his lips, then smiled and said "I am enchanted to meet you, Belle, lady of the Dark Castle"
Belle couldn't help seeing the scowl on Rumplestiltskin's face as Jefferson offered her his arm to escort her to her chair, and she thought she felt a slight breeze go through the room lending a chill to the air, even with all of the windows and doors closed. 'Oh dear' she thought as they all sat down to breakfast.

Chapter Text

It was Belle's first day at the Dark Castle and she found herself wandering around aimlessly while her new master attended to business with Jefferson, the young man who had breakfasted with them.

That had certainly been a lively affair, what with Jefferson telling one wild story after another, and Rumplestiltskin mostly making snide comments as to the veracity of the tall tales he was spinning. Finally Rumplestiltskin told one of his own tales which had had Belle sitting on the edge of her sit, about how he had assisted a creature called a hobbit, from the realm of Middle Earth, to defeat a centuries old dragon named Smaug. Rumplestiltskin was a masterful story teller, what with his theatrical nature and flair for the dramatic. He would sometimes act out a part, changing his voice, and even conjuring a hologram of the fearsome dragon, "only a forth the size of the actual beast", he was quick to note. Belle was entranced. It was as if one of her beloved books had come to life right before her eyes.

After breakfast Rumplestiltskin had waved a hand disposing of the dishes, and telling her to acquaint herself with her new home, taken Jefferson up to the north turret to discuss business.

After roaming around for a couple of hours Belle found herself in the largest, most well appointed kitchen she had ever seen. There was a enormous cast iron stove, (an actual stove!!!), complete with five burners and two ovens. When she got closer to inspect how it worked she noticed that each burner had its own chamber under it for a fuel source, and judging from the residue in the chamber, she concluded that Rumplestiltskin must use coal to fire the burners. There were also three slots above the fire chamber, each of which had a metal plate with a handle slid into it.

"They are used to regulate the heat from the firing chamber" a familiar voice said from behind, startling her so that she gasped and whirled around, only to find her master smiling at her innocently. The look in his eyes changed as he allowed his gaze to rake over her from head to foot, and Belle blushed, her heart skipping a beat at the heated appreciation she saw in them.

She watched as he approached her with slow measured steps, his eyes never leaving hers. Just when she thought that he was going to reach for her his attention shifted to the stove. "It is my own design you know" he said in a quite voice, for a moment flicking his eyes to hers, and she could see the uncertainty in them, before he looked away, returning his focus to the stove.
He smiled shyly before continuing. "That is I made several modifications to the original."

Belle, feeling that he expected her to, turned to look at the stove in question and shaking herself out of the trance that she had been in as she watched him approach her, found her voice. "I have never seen one at all" she began. "What modifications did you make?"

Rumplestiltskin seemed pleased by her interest and began showing her how the stove worked and more importantly how he had improved it. "Well", he began, "first of all the original stove had only one fuel chamber here underneath the main oven which of course makes it difficult to regulate the heat to the individual burner. So I took the top off and added fuel chambers for each burner, and then the three slots with the metal inserts." He pulled out one of the metal plates, demonstrating how it worked. "The more inserts you use the lower the heat you see."

Belle smiled at his enthusiasm, it was obvious that he was quite proud of his improvements to the stove, and rightly so she thought. She suddenly realized that he had gone silent and was watching her, waiting for a response. "It's marvelous" she said as she picked up one of the cast iron burner tops with the lifter and looked in to see the fuel chamber. "I've never even heard of anything like it." She looked over at him and caught his small smile before he covered it. Who would have thought that the dark one had a shy side she thought, with a smile of her own.

When Belle opened the main oven he pointed out that he had also changed the fuel chamber under it, making it smaller and installing the same removable metal plates that helped regulate the heat for the burners, only on a larger scale. There was also a side oven for bread baking with the same setup.

When Belle stood up and turned to him, he was regarding her intently, bringing a blush to her cheeks. Not knowing what to say she gestured towards the stove "I'm very impressed" she said, then added "I... I can't wait to try it, although I'm afraid that my cooking skills are rather limited." Thinking that that may be one of her chief duties as caretaker she added quickly "I can handle the basics of course, and whatever else you desire I'm sure I can learn."

Rumplestitlskin's smile widened and there was a glint of amusement shining in them. He took two steps forward closing the distance between them in a heartbeat, and still smiling looked down at her. "Whatever I desire, dearie?" he whispered and Belle felt his breath stir her hair. It seemed suddenly very hot in the kitchen, even though no fire burned, and Belle swallowed, hard, before raising her eyes to his. Gathering her courage she replied "Whatever you desire Rumplestiltskin... that was our deal, was it not?"

Some of the mirth faded from his eyes and he answered rather stiffly "yes.. our deal" he nearly snarled, and suddenly he wrapped one arm around her waist pulling her to him, and his smile broadened again at her gasp of surprise. When she looked up his eyes were burning into her and she felt a twinge of fear for the first time in his presence. "I'm... I'm sorry, I meant no offense master" using the title in hopes of placating him.

His smile disappeared entirely and he leaned in so close that his mouth was mere inches from hers "do not refer to me by that title again, dearie" his voice a whisper. Belle found that her own voice failed her so she simply nodded, but Rumplestiltskin still held her fast. He was breathing as though he had run up a flight of stairs, and when he closed his eyes and leaned down to breath in the scent of her hair Belle felt her pulse quicken and her knees seemed to be ready to buckle.

"Well, well" came a voice from the doorway, causing Rumplestiltskin to release her abruptly enough that she had to steady herself on the stove. Jefferson stood smiling broadly at them. "A little kitchen interlude, hey Rumple?" The fireball that flew towards Jeffersons head appeared so quickly Belle barely had time to register it before Jefferson expertly dodged it and it slammed into the far wall leaving an impressive burn mark.

Belle looked at Rumplestiltskin, eyes wide with shock, when Jefferson appeared once again at the door, smile still firmly in place, seeming not in the least disturbed by the attack. His eyes landed on Belle noticing the look of shock still on her face as she stared at Rumplestiltskin. Walking into the kitchen, slowly though and keeping an eye on his host, he approached Belle.
"Not to worry my dear," he said "this is just a rather dangerous game that we play, and I wouldn't consider my visit complete if he didn't try to kill me at least once." Rumplestiltskin snorted and it seemed that all of the tension drained out of him.

Jefferson, still smiling, took Belle's hand and bending low kissed it, ignoring Rumplestiltskins low growl of disapproval. When he stood up he smiled a genuine smile full of warmth and said "It would seem that I have worn out my welcome." "Again" Rumplesitltskin said icily, though with no real malice. "Yes, yes" Jefferson continued, "Belle it was a pleasure meeting you."

Belle smiled, she liked this young man she decided, and she suspected Rumplestiltskin did also (she rather doubted that his fireballs missed there target unless he wanted them to). Belle curtsied, replying, "It was a pleasure to meet you also Jefferson, I do hope you will visit again soon." Rumplestiltskin murmured "not too soon though hatter."

With that Jefferson turned to Rumplestiltskin saying "I will see you in approximately two weeks if all goes as planned." "Very well" he replied, "you can let yourself out." Jefferson seemed to not be offended and with a wave headed out.

With his departure tension again settled over the kitchen, both Belle and Rumplestiltskin standing awkwardly, neither seeming to know what to say. Finally Rumplestiltskin said "I believe that it is near tea time, my dear.., if you like I will show you how to use the stove now." Belle smiled with relief "yes ma... Rumplestiltskin, I would like that."

Chapter Text

Rumplestiltskin didn't even register the straw he fed into the the giant wheel, nor the rhythmic movement of his foot as it pumped, the smoothness of the wood under his hand, and least of all the gold thread that slipped through his fingers, falling into the basket. Oh no, his mind was completely absorbed with thoughts of his new care taker, and soon to be....consort. That was the part that currently had him in an almost trancelike state.

The very thought of having Belle share his bed put him in a cold sweat, even though he desired her more than he had thought possible. When he allowed his mind to wander in that direction, which was more often then he would even admit to himself, he hit a roadblock. The problem was that each time he fantasized of stripping the clothes from her body,...oh so slowly, he would see her hands returning the favor, undoing his vest, his shirt and then would come the revulsion in her eyes as he was finally reveled to her.

'How did he get into this mess'!!... he berated himself, his rising emotion causing his foot to pump faster and his hand to increase the movement of the wheel. Belle, who was across the room currently dusting a collection of extremely delicate glass bottles, took notice of his change in mood, going from contemplative to agitated in less time then it took to draw a breath. She wondered what he had been thinking that would disturb him so, after all he was the Dark One for pities sake, what could possibly threaten him. He was immortal, he wielded magic on a scale unmatched by any, and his reputation was such that only the insane would dare to cross him.

That thought made Belle think about Jefferson, which brought a smile to her face. She liked him, and had a feeling that he was the closest thing that Rumple had to a friend. (Yes she called him Rumple now, after telling him that it was unreasonable of him to expect her to use his full name all the time, after all her name was only one syllable, and his was four. That had left him speechless and he had simply nodded his acceptance, eyes wide with surprise.)

Suddenly the wheel stopped turning and Belle watched as Rumplestiltskin stood and stalked over to one of the floor to ceiling windows that lined the east wall of the room. With the wave of his hand the heavy drapes parted reveling a stunning view of the surrounding snow capped mountain range. He stood, posture stiff and tense, and stared out while he steadied his breathing. Belle debated the wisdom of approaching him in his current state, but her heart went out to him, as it was obvious that something was troubling him.

So, gathering her courage, she walked slowly towards the window. As she drew near she saw him set his jaw, clenching his teeth in his agitation. 'Maybe this wasn't such a good idea' she thought to herself, but she refused to be frightened of him when he had thus far given her no reason to be.

Finding her voice she hesitantly asked "Rumple... are you alright?" She watched as he drew a deep breath but he did not answer her. Not to be deterred, she stepped closer, until she was beside him. He kept staring at the frozen landscape, but she was shrewd enough to realize that he was not seeing the mountains. His mind was focused on something else, something causing him pain, and Belle was surprised to find that his unhappiness cut at her in a way that she had not expected.

At any rate she was determined to try to help him if it were in her power, so she tentatively reached out and placed a hand on his silk clad arm. She gasped in surprise when he jerked away from her touch as though burned and spun on her, causing her to fall back a step in surprise.

"I'm..., I'm sorry Rumplestiltskin... I simply wasn't sure that you had heard me" she explained, her heart pounding in her chest. He had given her quite a fright!

Rumplestiltskin took in the look of fear, brief though it was, on Belle's face and immediately regretted his hasty action. Fear of him was not what he was aiming for here.
Dropping his head for a moment, he took a breath, and then raised his eyes to meet hers. With a small smile playing about his lips he said "I'm very sorry that I frightened you my dear, it was not my intention", he paused for a heartbeat before continuing "it's just that my mind was a million miles away, please forgive me" and with a small flourish of his hand he held out a beautiful red rose to her. His smile turned shy as he said "if you'll have it"?

Belle looked from his face to the rose. With a faint blush coloring her cheeks, she took it from his out stretched hand, and with a smile lighting up her eyes she said "why thank you" and curtsied. She was charmed to see him bend low in a courtly bow, accompanied by a grand sweeping gesture of his hand.

As she walked away she held the flower up and inhaled it's sweet scent deeply, feeling as though this was the most romantic moment of her life. At least so far.

Chapter Text

Belle awoke to the sound of her window shutters banging against the stone walls of her bedchamber where they had been blown open by a howling wind. She had no idea how late it was but the only light afforded to her was coming from the smoldering embers of the fire that had been blazing when she had retired.

She lay still, burrowed deep into the bedclothes, not wanting to move even to close the shutters, but knowing full well that she would have to or risk catching pneumonia from the icy wind that she could already feel ghosting over her skin.

After a few minutes of resolutely ignoring the still banging shutters she gritted her teeth and threw back the bedclothes, jumping up and racing to the shutters. Taking hold of one of them she quickly tried to force it closed. Just as she was about to pull down the catch, which held the shutter closed, a blast of freezing air slammed it back again with Belle holding onto it.

She felt the air whoosh out of her lungs when she was slammed into the stone wall, the force of the blow causing her to lose her grip on the swinging shutter. As she tried to regain her breath she straightened just in time to see the shutter slamming back again. Her hands went up reflexively but it was too little, too late, and Belle found the breath to cry out as the shutter connected with her head, and her vision went black.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rumplestiltskin sat at his spinning wheel in the great hall, quietly filling the large basket at his feet with gold thread. His expression was soft, and the feeling of tenseness in his body, that was present most of the time, had relaxed and he was at peace, at least for the moment.

He was listening to the howling winds when he heard Belle's cry, so faint that he questioned if he had heard it at all, or if it was just in his mind. But when he heard the banging of the shutters he jumped up and with only the thought of making sure that she was alright he teleported to just outside the door of her bedchamber.

"Belle" he called as he knocked loudly on the door. He waited a moment, hearing the shutters banging against the stone, but when he repeated his call, and still received no answer, he turned the doorknob calling loudly "Belle, it's me, Rumple, I'm coming in". When he entered he quickly scanned the room, taking in the empty bed, and the barley smoldering embers of the fire, before landing on the small form laying crumpled on the floor under the window while the shutters continued to swing wildly.

He went cold when he saw the large gash on her forehead and the blood pooled on the floor under her. He barley registered moving, but less than a second latter he was kneeling at her side, fingers feeling for a pulse in her neck, while holding the other hand just above her nose and mouth to check for breathing. The relief he felt when he detected both left him trembling and he took a deep breath, just realizing that he had been holding it.

Quickly he passed his hand over the ugly wound and a silvery light went from his palm into the gash. He closed his eyes as he concentrated, checking for more serious injuries which would be invisible to the naked eye. He discovered another injury to the back of her head, presumably when the force of the shutter hitting her had slammed her head against the stone wall, before she had lost consciousness.

He could feel that she was fading, and quickly he poured power into his outstretched hand to begin the healing process, starting with stemming the blood loss. Once that was accomplished he began work on her badly bruised brain. The shutters were still banging against the wall and Rumplestiltskin impatiently flicked a hand at them and they shut, permanently. He continued channeling power into the healing making sure he restored each area to normalcy before moving on. He went over everything, taking his time as his power continued to flow, and after almost an hour he pulled his hand away and opened his eyes, only to be startled at the wide blue ones that were looking up at him.

He watched as she processed what was happening, raising a hand to feel the place where the shutter had hit her, only to find perfectly intact skin. He saw in her eyes when she realized that he had healed her. "Rumple" she croaked before clearing her throat and trying again, "Rumple, you healed me." It was a statement, not a question, and he simply nodded. When she smiled and looked at him as though he were the moon and stars combined, he couldn't help but smile back at her. "Thank you" she whispered, not taking her eyes from his.

He could feel her trying to communicate her feelings for him and became flustered. Pulling away slightly he muttered "no matter", and then immediately regretted his poor choice of words. Of course it mattered,... she mattered, more than anyone had since Bay. "I...I'm sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded", he back peddled quickly. How was it that a simple smile and a heartfelt thank you from this slip of a girl had the ability to turn his brain to mush. "I mean that of course it matters...., I just meant that healing you was no bother,... uh, you know" he finished lamely, and hung his head in true embarrassment, like he hadn't felt for centuries.

He felt her hand brush his hair aside as she sought to catch his eye again, and when he finally met her gaze, she was smiling even wider than before. "I know what you meant Rumple, and I'm very glad that I matter to you." His eyes went wide and now Belle was the one to be embarrassed at her boldness, but she would not take it back, not for anything.

They sat staring at each other, neither knowing what to say next, until Rumplestiltskin broke the silence, "lets get you off of the floor, before you catch your death", and without a further word he slipped one hand under her knees and the other behind her back, at which point she wrapped her arms around his neck. He lifted her with ease and Belle sighed with pleasure at the feeling of being held by him.

He gently deposited her on the bed, but found himself trapped in her embrace as she refused to let go of his neck. Instead she gently tugged him towards her and after a moments hesitation, he allowed it. As she stared into his eyes, he took in her slightly parted lips, her flushed face and the fact that her breathing was coming in short pants. Rumplestiltskin was no expert on female arousal but he wasn't exactly a novice either, and in his experience Belle was exhibiting all the signs of a woman aroused,... by him.

"Belle" he whispered "are you sure this is what you want?" He was mere inches from her and could feel her breath on his cheek as she tugged again "please Rumple" she breathed. The last of his restraint disappeared as the words left her mouth and he bent to capture her lips with his, closing his eyes as desire burned through him.

He forced himself to be gentle but soon he deepened the kiss and running his hands up her face into her hair, he pulled, gently, feeling her stretch her neck and open her mouth for him. "That's right sweet" he whispered against her lips "let me taste you" and with that he pushed into her mouth, his cock growing harder by the second.

Belle felt as though she was in a dream, a lovely dream of pleasurable sensations. Rumplestiltskin had begun kissing her face, placing sweet, soft kisses on her forhead, her closed eyes, each cheek in turn and then back to her mouth, whereupon Belle felt her whole body light on fire, and moaning she pulled desperately on his neck, seeking to have him as close as possible.

"Belle?" a voice called from somewhere above her, but it was so faint that she easily ignored it in favor of concentrating on kissing Rumplestiltskin. She heard him moan softly as her hands began exploring down his back, and she pulled at his brocade vest to indicate her desire to have it removed.

"Belle!!" The voice was back and much more insistent this time. Belle made a sound of distress as the feel of Rumplestiltskin kissing her began to fade, and instead she felt a hand cupping her cheek and a cold wet cloth was placed on her forehead. "Belle, sweetheart, can you hear me?" She knew that voice. It was Rumplestiltskin. She furrowed her forehead in confusion and squinted her eyes against a bright light.

Suddenly the light grew dimmer and she managed to open her eyes slowly. Rumplestiltskins worried face swam into view and Belle made to speak but her throat was so dry that the only sound she made was a raspy croak.

Rumplestiltskin placed a hand under her head and lifted slightly to allow her to drink. As her head returned to the pillow Belle realized her wonderful dream had been just that,..a dream and she felt tears spring to her eyes. It had been so wonderful, and the thought of going back to having to restrain herself from touching him was almost unbearable.

"What's wrong?" Rumplestiltskin asked as he noted her effort to hold back tears. "Are you in pain?" Just tell me where it hurts and I can help" he pleaded, and reaching out he combed his fingers through her hair. For some reason her distress was painful to him, and he would do almost anything to relieve it.

Belle looked up at him, seeing the concern in his eyes and she managed to smile for him. "I'm not in pain Rumple" she whispered. It was his turn to look confused and he asked "then what's the matter,.. is there something you need."

Belle thought to herself 'do the brave thing and bravery will follow', a phrase that her mother had taught her the meaning of, and without giving herself time to think about it, and perhaps lose her resolve, she looked him in the eye and asked "kiss me Rumplestiltskin."