The spinning wheel creaked as he idly turned it. It needed to be greased before he spun again, but he couldn't find the motivation either to tend to the creak or spin straw into gold. There was little point in it. He had more gold than he could ever spend, not that he had to pay for anything. He was Rumpelstiltskin. If he couldn't obtain it by magic, he could always demand it in tribute. Spinning straw into gold was more a pastime anyhow, something to fill the quiet hours.
This was the way things had been many times before, but he couldn't remember it being ever so lonely. He had been alone most of his life. For what was only a fleeting moment in the face of the centuries he had lived, there had been someone else. But now that was over and things were back to the way they had been and rightly should be.
However, no matter the rightness that he, a monster, should be alone, Rumpelstiltskin could not help but think about her and wonder what she might be doing. It felt as if a piece of himself was missing, one that couldn't be filled by more gold or mischief. He felt more exposed than he had in over a hundred years. He almost felt human.
The spinning wheel creaked as he turned it, breaking the silence that loomed over the castle since she left.
The doors to the main hall flew open, but he kept his place. He knew his visitor and felt no need to greet her. Regina invited herself in wherever she wished to go. She was no threat to him. Once she had been his pupil and, though she was wont to forget it, she knew well enough not to challenge him in his own hall.
"Have you heard the joyful news?" Regina asked.
Rumpelstiltskin ignored her. Sooner rather than later, she would give up and go away. The woman thrived on attention and power. Deprived of either, she would slink away to find someplace where both were to be had.
he wheel creaked whether he turned it backward or forward. The creak was quieter as he turned it quickly. He tested how slowly he could turn the wheel and still make it cry out.
"Are you listening, Rumpelstiltskin? Your maid has married. The pretty one with the curls that you liked so much."
"What should I care?" he asked.
"I understood that you were close with her. I thought I would do you a favor by bringing this news to your desolate little corner of the world since you've gone into hiding."
"I'm not hiding," Rumpelstiltskin hissed.
Regina's boots tapped a steady slow beat as she paced behind him.
"It was the most beautiful ceremony. It is midwinter in her land, but pretty little Belle had a crown of hot-house flowers. Some of the peasants walked all night to bring them from the neighboring kingdom. She was so grateful when they put that crown of flowers on her head. The poor thing was close to tears all day, but she was beautiful nonetheless, just like a bride should be. And that's to say nothing about Belle and her beau. They make a lovely couple. So young and beautiful together. They're going to spend the rest of their lives together--"
"Leave," Rumpelstiltskin told her, turning the wheel slow, half hoping to drown her out.
He had few thoughts but for Belle. Strange to him how he spent more time thinking about her now that she was gone than he ever had when she had lived there with him. When she had dwelled in the castle, seeing her again had never been an uncertain thing. When he wished to see her, he need only find whatever room she had wandered into or where she'd sat in the rose garden. They shared breakfast and lunch and supper every day and when she was lonely, as was often the case, she would seek him out. When Belle had lived in the castle, she had seemed to enjoy his company. Now he wondered if she only sought him out for lack of other companionship.
He cursed Regina, but himself as well. It was no wonder she'd left and not come back. He was a monster.
"Shame, Rumpelstiltskin. I would have thought you would be happy for Belle. She found true love," Regina said. She leaned over his shoulder, putting a hand on the spinning wheel and bringing it to a halt. "Or are you jealous? Did you hope that a pretty woman like her could love a monster like you?"
Rumpelstiltskin knocked her hand away and reached for a handful of straw. He had no intention of spinning, but every intention of ridding himself of Regina's company. He wanted to be alone to enjoy his misery and forget Belle.
"You've had your fun. Best that you leave now."
She pulled her hand away and began to pace again.
"You're no fun."
"Then you can leave."
"I hope you've learned your lesson," Regina grumbled. "No one has ever loved you and no one ever will. At least poor Belle is safe now, far away from you. She's married now and soon she'll forget about you."
With a flick of his hand, he propelled Regina out of the hall door and barred her from entering again. If she wanted attention, she could find it elsewhere. He had a wheel to tend to, straw to spin, and a lovely young woman to forget.
He tossed the handful of straw back into the basket and gathered a rag and vial of oil, because some things were better not done by magic. With great care, he oiled the wood. When Rumpelstiltskin was finished, the wood was silent, there was only the sound of spokes cutting through the air.