Sir Rumplestiltskin had thought nothing of rescuing the Princess from a dunk under the water. At least, he hadn’t until she’d come up for air and thanked him. Belle had been grateful enough to declare to her father that if she were going to have a Knight to protect her, it would be Rumplestiltskin or no one at all.
It’d made him feel good.
And so it was decreed that the Princess had chosen a protector, enemies be warned and suitors take note: for no one would get too close to the Princess without both her permission and Rumplestiltskin’s knowledge.
At first, Rumplestiltskin had been cold and stiff, uncertain of how to act around the Princess. Then she’d broken the ice, cracking a joke at his expense one day. He’d shot her a crooked smile, and that was that. They were friends.
Then tough days came, and they relied on one another. It was plain as day that the Princess fancied her Knight, and…. Those who knew him, knew that Rumplestiltskin would give the Princess Belle anything. He could deny her nothing.
But around the time they’d come to realise perhaps the affections were not all on one side, the Ogres advanced. It was no longer safe in Avonlea for the Princess, nor the King. It was decided they would travel to Seawald, a neighboring village, with Rumplestiltskin accompanying them both, as well as King Maurice’s guard, Jefferson.
Which brings us to now.
“The Ogres are approaching at a rapid pace, milord.” A Knight by the name of Gaston looked crossly down at the King, being a full foot taller. “We need to encourage the men to join the army and fight.”
“I cannot condemn more of my men to a fruitless death, Sir Gaston. I do hope that is not what you’re suggesting.” King Maurice’s ruddy face reddened with his displeasure.
“Of course not, milord. Perhaps a contest should be held and a prize given to those who help us to win the war.” Gaston swept into a deep bow.
“It is an interesting thought.” the King acknowledged. “Belle? Sir Rumplestiltskin, what do you think?” He turned to the two who’d been previously conversing too quietly for anyone to hear.
“What, papa?” Belle asked brightly, looking up at her father.
“A prize for what, exactly? We cannot afford to reward each man who joins the army, sire.” Rumplestiltskin adjusted his sword on his hip, glancing uneasily at Gaston.
“Yes, Sir Gaston - what kind of prize would be worth enough to join a war possibly resulting in your death?” King Maurice raised his eyebrows in challenge.
“The Princess’ hand in marriage, sire.”
“Absolutely not!” Belle looked furious at the mere idea. Rumplestiltskin was not far behind, placing a hand on the Princess’ shoulder to calm her.
“It’s a promising idea.” Maurice admitted, running his hands over his face. “Belle, my girl. It could end the war.”
“Rumplestiltskin agrees with me, papa. It’s an absurd idea, is it not, Sir?” Belle looked up at Rumplestiltskin pleadingly.
The Knight felt the weight of the situation, the conversation making him uneasy - he’d hoped to propose to Belle one of these days after the war had ended. Perhaps that was a foolish thought, but he’d cherished the hope that she might say yes.
“I cannot see how it would harm the morale of the army, sir. But perhaps a solid marriage contract is a bit much - What if it were a lout or a drunk who were to win?” Rumplestiltskin pointed out meditatively. “I say we give the Princess final say of her husband, but the winner be considered fairly.”
He looked down at Belle. “Can you agree to that?”
Maurice turned pleading eyes at Belle, finding that what Rumplestiltskin had said a good bit, after all it was not only the happiness of his daughter on the line, but the future of the Kingdom.
“I will.” Belle sighed. “At least I shall have the final input.” She looked down forlornly. “When shall the announcement be made?”
“Before our trip to Seawald, I think.” Maurice responded. “Thank you, daughter. I know this will turn the war around.” He stood, beginning to dismiss the knights around the table, when Rumplestiltskin cleared his throat.
“Sire, with your permission, I would request that I stay home from Seawald.” Rumplestiltskin spoke seriously.
“Oh, Rumple, no. What will I do?”
The Princess and King spoke at once.
Rumplestiltskin moved his sword so that he could kneel at Belle’s side, taking a pretty white hand in his. “I want the chance. To win her hand. To win your hand.”
Maurice cleared his throat. “I grant your request, Sir Rumplestiltskin, on the condition you train another suitable Knight in the ways of guarding the Princess for this time.” He watched as Belle’s eyes filled with tears.
“And what if I should lose you on the battlefield? Did you think of that, Sir?” Belle swiped furiously at her tears.
Rumplestiltskin squeezed her hand, waiting as Maurice left the room awkwardly. The rest of the council had also left, leaving Belle alone with her Knight. “I have to try, Belle. It could be our only chance.” He wanted her to understand.
“You could die!” Belle shook her head miserably. “Rumple, please. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t.” Rumplestiltskin traced her jawline with a single finger, making her cry all the harder. “I promise. I’ll be with you, Belle. Please know that even if I have to die, I’ll die for you.” He whispered.
Belle launched herself into Rumplestiltskin’s arms, crying bitterly against his neck. “You infuriating man.” she sobbed. “Can’t I just choose you when the Ogre War is over?” she pleaded, her voice thick.
“That wouldn’t be fair to the winner.” Rumplestiltskin’s voice was gravelly, running his hands over her back. “You know this has to be done.”
“I don’t care!” Belle cried out, shaking her head miserably. “I don’t know what I’ll do without you beside me, watching me and guarding me.” She whispered.
“With the Gods on our side, Princess, I’ll be back.” Rumplestiltskin pulled her closer, not caring a whit for propriety in that moment. He thought only of comforting his love. “I’ll be back.” He repeated, framing her face with his hands to stare into her eyes earnestly.
“Oh, Rumple… promise me that.” She pleaded, her eyes still red with tears, yet he distinctly felt her gaze lower to his lips.
“I promise.” He whispered.
Belle pressed her forehead against his. “I’m holding you to that.” she whispered. “Now,” she pulled back to look at him with an unspoken request.
“Belle…” He wanted to. Gods, did he want to. But he didn’t know if that was the wisest decision to make.
“Oh, do be quiet.” Belle scolded him. “I will have this moment with you alone. Please.” She whispered. “Please kiss me.”
Rumplestiltskin’s hands moved from circling over her back in comfort to gripping her waist. She looked up at him trustingly.
“I want this with you, Rum.” She whispered, her breath hot against his lips.
“I cannot deny you.” The Knight swallowed, then tilted his head just so in order to grant her wish. He lowered his lips to hers, slowly.
He felt her arms go around his neck, and he instinctively pulled her closer, holding her tight to him before pulling back.
“We can’t.” He looked wretched.
She nodded, biting her lip as she looked up at him again, a smile playing on her lips now. “It was perfect like that.” She whispered reassuringly, pressing a kiss to his cheek before standing, pulling him up with her.
“Come, I’ll help you pack for your trip.” Rumplestiltskin cleared his throat.
She shot him another smile, nodding as she tucked herself into his side.
They made their way over to her side of the castle in silence.